Gregory Stevens isn’t your run-of-the-mill Baptist minister.
“A quick note,” he said in a recent email to Baptist News Global. “I prefer to use ‘Gxd’ or ‘Gxddess’ when writing God to represent trans, feminist, queer, and gender-bending struggles.”
He also isn’t, for the moment, an employed Baptist minister, either. Stevens’ equally progressive take on social justice issues led to his May 15 resignation as associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Palo Alto, California.
Tweets Stevens had posted months before, including one slamming the ultra-rich community as “an elitist s— den of hate,” were introduced during a city council meeting the night before. The congregation was seeking a permit needed to rent space to other organizations.
News of the Florida native’s tweets have gone viral.
Stevens, who is gay, agreed to answer questions via email about the experience and about his Baptist faith. His comments have been edited for clarity.
Where in Florida are you from, and what kinds of churches did you attend growing up?
I am from Tampa. I first started going to church in middle school at the First Baptist Church of Lutz, a Southern Baptist church. I went with a neighbor, not my family. I then moved on to Grace Family Church, a non-denominational megachurch. I was an intern. I left the internship for theological reasons and took my first youth ministry position at Bay Hope Church (back then it was called Van Dyke United Methodist Church). I again left for theological reasons and moved to the more progressive Missio Dei Community (an emergent church) and worked on the staff as an associate minister. And then I moved to California for seminary at the Claremont School of Theology. Continue reading Baptist News Global: Unconventional Silicon Valley Baptist Minister
This article was originally published by Eva Schram on Knack. Some of the article has been copy/pasted below – there was a longer introduction that can be found on their website.
Knack spoke with Stevens about how he sees Silicon Valley as a hypocritical symptom of a corrupt, capitalist system.
Do you feel that the events that led up to your resignation are indicative of the pseudo-liberalism of Palo Alto that you object to?
GREGORY STEVENS: I think you are right on with this question. Yes, this entire viral-debacle has been rooted in the very elitist liberalism I was so dissatisfied with in my three years of working in Palo Alto. Rather than address the social justice issues I raised, they chose to attack me through an elitist morality claim about language. Rather than feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the houseless (Matthew 25), these exuberantly wealthy neighbors attempted to ruin my reputation by taking my Tweets out of their larger critical context and without actual engagement with my activism in the community. Continue reading This pastor is tired of the rich elite in Silicon Valley
His conservative Christian family in Florida disdainfully called California the “Left Coast,” but Gregory Stevens was eager to embrace the Golden State. He’d grown up queer in a town where he believed everyone looked the same, where people referred to the non-Christian woman in the neighborhood as “the Jew,” where the khaki pants and polo shirts recently co-opted by white supremacists were an unofficial uniform. California, he imagined, would be different—a place where liberal ideas flourished and where people were willing to rally against inequality and injustice.
But Stevens, now 28, did not end up in the liberal den of San Francisco, the stoner paradise of Humboldt County, or the alternative-living community of Slab City, in the Sonoran Desert. After finishing seminary at the progressive Claremont School of Theology, in Southern California, Stevens got a job as a pastor in Palo Alto, one of the wealthiest communities in the country, where the median family income is around $163,000 and the median home price is over $3 million. He settled into his job at the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, a historic church located in a neighborhood that’s also home to Google co-founder Larry Page and Laurene Powell Jobs, who founded the Emerson Collective (which owns a majority stake in The Atlantic).
Read the rest of the story here.
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace?” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” – John 2:13-19 (NRSV)
Gathering a following of working class fishermen and people with disabilities the Middle Eastern God-peasant the Gospel of John portrays just a few stories into the narrative heads to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and starts a riot. With his homemade whip, Jesus aggressively threatens the money changers, flips over their tables of sellable goods, throws their coins all over the Temple, and releases the commodified animals from their cages.
Fast forward 2000 years and we have a similar story with a very different reaction from the supposed followers of Jesus today. In the early hours of the morning before their Sunday service on the fourth of September 2016 Christian Anarchists smashed the windows of a Starbucks inside 12 Stone Church in Atlanta Georgia (for the second time that year), leaving hundreds of signed letters of resistance to their absurd mixture of Capitalism and Christianity. “We acted this way in accordance with Jesus’ example of driving the businessmen out of the temple…We implore you to reject buying and selling in our places of worship, and to ‘take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a pace of business!’ as Jesus commanded.” (Anonymous 2016) Continue reading Anarchism: The Jesus Way
Evangelicals running around with book tours and t-shirts promoting their blogs about how they once were straight but saw the light and are now queer, make me want to vomit…but only because they do so parading God and their new found theology as if it’s any better than the one before. I hate to break it to you but it’s not. It sucks. It’s just imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchal theology, to borrow some of Bell Hooks’ words.
Here’s an example: a female pastor from San Francisco at City Church named Laura Turner wrote this article for Esquire. It’s got a catchy title, I‘m Evangelical, My Church Welcomes Gays, and I’m Not Voting for Trump, and some great points so it’s been going viral.
Continue reading Leave Your Evangelical LGBT Welcoming Church
This essay is from a larger draft I am working on.
On February 14, 1990 NASA engineers turned the Voyager 1 spacecraft back toward our home planet for one last look. Approximately 4 billion miles away and 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane, Earth can be seen floating off in the distance as an infinitesimal point of light, a crescent only 0.12 pixels in size. It was this picture that astrophysicist Carl Sagan made famous, he saw the pale blue dot and reminded us,
Continue reading Make Every Day Earth Day
I’ve been obsessed with the subject of religion for about 8 years now and have committed myself to studying not only the Christian faith but also other Wisdom Traditions that offer a glimpse into the Great Mystery. I will soon be working on my PhD in Process Philosophy and will continue this geeky journey of religious studies for the rest of my adult life.
I’ve been enamored with the study of entheogens (psychedelic drugs often used in Shamanistic rituals), higher states of consciousness, Gaia theory, the ecological crisis, and other strange hippy-sounding ideas that are best discussed over marijuana.
Continue reading Just Be Kind