A pastor in Silicon Valley stepped down from his church on Monday after locals spiraled into a frenzy over some of his tweets. The truth hurts.
“Palo Alto is an elitist shit den of hate,” Gregory Stevens, former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, wrote in a tweet, which was included in the dossier presented at a council hearing mid-May. The document also included tweets in which Stevens makes anti-capitalism, anti-police violence, and anti-Beyonce sentiments (of which only the latter is objectively incorrect and offensive).
“Gregory Stevens comments should concern our community,” Palo Alto city clerk Beth Minor wrote in the council hearing document. “Should this type of person and the organization he represents oversee a Palo Alto Community Center? Should a person that hates the City of Palo Alto, hates the Palo Alto Police Dept, hates Palo Alto residents, makes fun of our older citizens and ridicules another faith, be running a Palo Alto Community Center? A facility that would cater to the elderly, children and residents of our town?”
Stevens does lightly mock older community members in his tweets—i.e. “In our church council meeting the old people always fall asleep. Always. ALWAYS. FALL ASLEEP.” But the prevailing sentiment of Stevens’ tweets included in the document simply point out the frustrating hypocrisy of a city positioning itself as progressive while failing to fight back against the systems of oppression.
Palo Alto Vice Mayor Eric Filseth reportedly characterized Stevens’ tweets as “vile.” Stevens told SFGate that his resignation from the church was to “help minimize the negativity focused on the good community work being done at the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto.” He pointed out that he has a small Twitter following—his account has since been deleted—which included the likes of “progressive ministers and Leftist political activists.”
The city council hearing, which took place on May 14, was to vote on whether to permit the church to operate as a community center, but those opposed wanted to “severely restrict” any activities taking place at the church that weren’t church-related. The First Baptist Church is an LGBT-inclusive congregation that has also hosted a number of community organizations and events on a semi-regular basis. These included the Benefit Concert for Iran’s Quake Victims, the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, Cities for CEDAW, the UN, and Women’s Activism Globally, Justice in Palo Alto, and Senior Book Club.
“In my experience of trying to work with this community for almost 3 years, I believe Palo Alto is a ghetto of wealth, power, and elitist liberalism by proxy, meaning that many community members claim to want to fight for social justice issues, but that desire doesn’t translate into action,” Stevens said in a 623-word statement, SFGate reported. “If the same energies used to organize neighbors around minor parking issues, a young girls choirs, and ‘nasty tweets’ were honed to fight actual injustices, Palo Alto would be a very different city. Palo Alto needs more action, less lip service.”