I have had this post floating in my head for a few days, and my brother was talking about something related on facebook today…so I thought I should add to his conversation a little.
So, Daniel posted about taking what people say out of context. Particularly politicians. short version: If you hear some politician said something that sounds crazy/extreme/etc. the comment may very well be (probably is…) not being presented in context. It probably was not a lot more to it then what he said, you should probably understand the context before you react. (that is a very loose paraphrase…so uh…he can correct me if i have mischaracterized his words).
Here is a corollary: when you hear some absurd story there is probably more to it then the 20 seconds the guy on TV is giving you.
This is a bit old in Internet time (i mean, last week, come on!), but Im sure some of you read about the bible study teacher who was put in jail.
Ill try to give you the summer of this particular article, which was how I saw most people referencing the story:
Bible study leader Michael Salman is sitting in jail today after his home was raided earlier this week by more than a dozen Phoenix, Ariz. police officers and city officials. His offense? The city says people aren’t allowed to hold private Bible studies on their own property.
The story (and video) goes on with his wife saying that “the city told her that her husband was essentially arrested because the Bible study was at a private house .. and that essentially, it’s a church. Since they weren’t zoned for church, they were told they were breaking the rules.” The video goes on to assert that this was simply a private bible study held in a private home, much like happens in thousands of homes across america all the time, and much like a Tupperware party, and for that he was arrested.
Now, whenever I hear something like this I always figure there is more going on then is in this short story. Its sort of this internal “rest of the story” alarm I have. So I did a bit of reading, and there is for sure more to the story. Ill give you a few quotes from two articles, one at tucsoncitizen.com and one at www.phoenixnewtimes.com.
The crux of the other side of the story is that you can make a fair argument that its not just a bible study, but is a church, which should have to follow the laws of the land pertaining to church type buildings (zoning codes, building codes, etc). A few quotes:
Salman and his wife have not paid taxes on the property since an inspector from the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office approved Salman’s request to have the property classified as a church in 2008.
When the inspector visited the home, a sign outside the property included the name of the church, according to court documents, and the inspector found a podium, folding chairs and other items that allowed him to grant the property tax-exempt status.
From the beginning, neighbors say, the Salmans were upfront about their faith, explaining that Michael was a pastor and inviting neighbors to check out their church. One of the Juliuses’ neighbors, a local building contractor, even went to the church for a while.
But then Salman announced that he was planning to build a church right there in his backyard. He talked about not just Sunday services, but weeknight Bible studies, a workout room and basketball court, even a Christian day care center.
As it turned out, though, Salman didn’t have a permit to build a church. His permit gave him the right to build a garage-like structure, a shell of a building without electricity or plumbing. When neighbors complained that Salman’s intentions were far different from what he’d officially indicated, City Hall shut down construction. Salman would have to submit detailed construction plans to the city, and go through formal review, before building anything.
So, there is more to this then somebody being arrested for having a few friends over for a bible study, and I don’t think it is fair to react to the story until you understand that. In the end, it may be that he was arrested unfairly, that he is being targeted because of his faith, that his constitutional rights have been violated, and that this amounts to religious persecution. The he said she said of the legal arguments are sort of hard to follow. But, you have to understand the whole context before you decide that.
This story is a great reminder to me that there is always another side of the story.
One last thing, if you post something in the comments or something like that about how he should or should not have been arrested you are missing the point. This is all about forcing yourself to dig a bit deeper, to understand a bit deeper before you make up your mind about something. If you can’t get over the fact that this is a person who shares your faith who was arrested perhaps for his faith just go back and read the original news story again but replace church with something that will let you see it in a different light.