My friend and ex-pastor Jerry DeWitt runs a monthly secular gathering in Lake Charles, Louisiana called Community Mission Chapel. It’s one of the more successful “atheist churches,” drawing in a sizable number of atheists who appreciate the camaraderie.
This week, however, the following notes were placed in the mailbox of one of the families that attends the gatherings:
We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work. You’re little group of devil worshippers isn’t welcome here. Let the love and message of the Lord filter through you and may you escape from the eternal damnation that you have condemned you and you’re innocent children to. Repent you’re Satanistic ways or you will find that the Lord works in VERY mysterious ways. You are against God and are not welcome in this area and we WILL spread his message to the hearts and minds of your innocent children. To deny His word to your children is abuse, and if you do not learn to love Him and His word then we will have no choice but to take action to protect your children from your devil-enabling ways. Do not even try to report this to the police — we are every where and His work will be done in His name thru us, the true beleivers.
You could not keep away from it, could you? You and your group are infecting this area and driving THE ONE TRUE GOD out. We have warned you before. We are warning you again. We will stop you any way we have too. He has misterious ways. Keep you’re family close.
Jon Jeffels, whose family received the anonymous notes, is handling this as well as he possible can. He reported the messages to the police and moved the other members of his family to an undisclosed location for the time being. Jeffels also wants to reiterate that this appears to be the work of one or two people, certainly not representative of the religious population at large.
He posted an open letter on Facebook last night and it’s a clear reflection of the kind of guy he is. I would highlight certain parts, but the whole thing is worth reading:
An open letter.
To whoever is leaving us these hateful notes in our mailbox, I implore you to contact me directly and allow us to have a reasoned discussion over what has happened up to this point. If the group that I am part of is offending you and your beliefs, then let’s talk about why that is, and how we can move beyond it.Despite the obvious threats that you have made against me and my family, I have done nothing but encourage people to try to co-exist with the local communities. It hasn’t been easy because my family is my world and they have been threatened, but I also understand that your beliefs are your world to you and you feel that those are just as threatened by us in some way.
I want to understand why you are threatening us like this, and why you didn’t just message me directly in an interactive fashion – that’s perhaps the most frustrating part of all of this. There is no need to terrorize us and make us feel unsafe and unwelcome in our own home, not to mention in our own community. Why do you feel the need to follow that path? Threats won’t make us change our beliefs, nor would we wish to try and change yours, but through reasoned discussion I hope that we stand a chance of understanding one another better and co-existing on common ground that we can discover together.
I don’t want for anyone to get hurt, lose their job, or even worse over all of this if we can work this all out as reasonably and amicably as possible. Let’s set a positive example and use this as an opportunity to bridge a gap in understanding on both sides of this issue. Despite all of the stress, concern, and paranoia that you have generated, I want us to be able to produce something good from it all. We may not be able to agree on a lot of things, but I hope that we can cement home that instigating fear is not the best way forward for anyone and that everyone benefits from reasoned discussion.
Yours in anticipation,
So brave and so well put.
DeWitt is also reaching out to believers in the area, asking them to do a handful of things:
You may not agree with our lack of belief in the supernatural but I’m hopeful that you do believe in our right to assemble peacefully and to proclaim a message of community, tolerance and love without fear of physical harm.
So I’m asking each of you to take the following four actions:
1. Publicly condemn this kind of behavior.
2. Extend a hand of friendship and encouragement to the Jeffels family.
3. Help us identify the author(s) of these letters so that they can be helped.
4. Share this message with everyone that you know.
For Jeffels’ sake, I hope these are just some idiot teenagers who think this is funny and not actual Christians who believe these messages will change his ways. Either way, it’s reprehensible, and I hope his family remains safe and sound.
I’ll provide updates when I know more.