Sunday, November 15, 2009

Preaching Hatred: The Dove Church in Gainesville, FL

This past weekend, Beth and I made a trip to Florida for a wedding. Driving into Beth's mom's neighborhood, we came across the following signs on the grounds of a local church:

'Islam is of the Devil' proclaim the signs on the grounds of the Dove World Outreach CenterBeth's mom gave us the scoop; the local church--which I'd jokingly remarked on previous visits as being a "compound" and likely filled with some radical sect like Branch Davidians--have decided to express their particular brand of fundamentalist hatred by labeling all Muslims as devil-worshipers. This goes back to at least July (the date of this Gainesville Sun article on the original, one-sign display), and subsequently the church supplemented their Burma-Shave-esque trio of signs with an effigy of an Islamic person hanging a Christian. The latter, according to Beth's mom, was burned by outraged vandals (and not by the church itself).

I'm not making excuses for Islamist extremists and their terrorism, nor for the way women are treated in many basically-theocratic Muslim countries (though, to be fair, plenty of fundamentalist Christian sects are pretty misogynistic, too). However, the preaching of hatred by churches of any of the legs of the Abrahamic triangle of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity is equally despicable and indefensible. And for extremist Christians, whatever happened to Matthew 5:44 and Jesus' command to love and do good to one's enemies?

The Dove compound sign and another warning 'Fort Hood is only the beginning'
The church had added another sign to the grounds when we visited Gainesville this past weekend: "Fort Hood is only the beginning," it read. I'm not quite sure what to make of that one--what, exactly, do the church's leaders and members seem to think is the appropriate remedy to violence that they equate with an entire religion? Outlawing a religion has never had much success, and I can only imagine that conducting any sort of organized campaign against Muslims is only going to stir up such hatred and violence from extremists so as to leave us playing out all the bad events from bad movie Invasion: USA minus Chuck Norris to save the day--all while punishing countless innocents.

To top things off, according to the Gainesville Sun, the church faces accusations from former members that the pastor used parishioners to make furniture sold by the owners' for-profit business on eBay. If there's any substance to these accusations, it's possible that the owners/pastors could end up facing tax charges--like fellow Florida fundie pastor "Dr. Dino" Kent Hovind, currently in the federal pen. Even if no charges are forthcoming or warranted, taking personal profit from a church for one's worldly comfort seems just a tad bit un-Christian, don't you think?

Perhaps though the days of the Dove in the neighborhood are numbered; from the Gainesville Sun articles linked above, the 20 acre compound is up for sale, including the furniture factory, at the relative bargain price of $4 million.

Incidentally, am I the only one to see the irony in a church named for the bird symbolizing peace slandering an entire religion whose name translates as "peace?" The actions of this fundie church do no justice to doves everywhere; perhaps vulture would have been the better mascot for Gainesville's preachers of hate.

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