A Gospel Story of Victory on the Fourth of July

Elbon Kilpatrick is a friend of Amos House and a bold prophet for the narrow path of the nonviolent Jesus.  Elbon speaks truth to power and publicly rebukes churches that have embraced Christian Nationalism and the false doctrine that equates American patriotism and war with Christianity.  Some of us at AH have stood shoulder to shoulder with our brother in protest outside of these houses of idolatry and look forward to the near future when we do so again.  Below is Elbon’s account of his witness on the Fourth of July.

On this July 4th Sunday I protested from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in front of Victory Worship Center at 333 Old Humboldt Road in Jackson, Tennessee.  A gentle breeze was blowing as the American flag unfurled on the flag pole in the center of the church lawn.

Soon after my arrival with my sign “LOVE YOUR ENEMIES.” – JESUS / KILL YOUR ENEMIES – MILITARY, Pastor J.P. Stovall and a delegation of three men came out and told me to go to the other side of the street and protest there.  Seeing that church members would not be focused on my sign when turning into the church parking lot, I told them I was staying in my location.  Pastor Stovall told me that my sign was offensive to him and the three men because they had served in the military.  They told me that they were Christians while fighting in war and have remained Christians after their military service.  Pastor Stovall and these men told me that God supports Christians in war but would only say I was crazy when I referred them to Jesus’ commands to resist not an evil person and love your enemies in Matthew 5.  Two of the men then got in my personal space and would not allow passing motorists see my sign.  The third man – seeing that this was a bad scene – pulled on the two men to move back away from me.  The youngest man, wearing a white polo shirt with a church logo, did not want to leave but eventually gave into the group’s petition for him to move back.  While this occurred Pastor Stovall called the police, who showed up in the church driveway shortly afterwards.

Officer Story got out of his car and waved for me to come speak with him.  Face to face, Officer Story told me that the church wants me to go to the other side of the street to hold my protest.  When I told him that I was on a public street and was not impeding traffic Officer Story told me that since there was no sidewalk that he was concerned that I might get hit by oncoming traffic.  When I pointed out that I see the traffic and I am not in the road he asked for my drivers license, confirmed my home address on the license, and then placed a call to his supervisor.  Upon receiving an affirmation from his supervisor that I could stay in my present location as long as I don’t impede traffic entering and exiting the church property, Officer Story told me he supported my right to protest and actually agreed with my sign because he served in the Persian Gulf War.  Before I could say anything he then told me he got a complaint from a Mr. Ramirez at such and such apartments that he did not like an American flag displayed outside by a neighbor.  Officer Story then said, “If the guy doesn’t like our flag he should get out of this country!”  He then turned around and went to the church delegation and told them the conditions of my remaining at my present protest location.

With no victory the pastor and church delegation went inside the church.  Officer Story left and I remained outside with my sign listening to an occasional car horn sounding off while a passing driver gives a “thumbs up” or seeing others shake their heads in disgust or give a scowling frown.  If only they would understand the victory is not about “winners and losers,” “thumbs up,” and “thumbs down”.  Instead, the victory story is found in the nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels and his followers who take up their crosses of rejection with the power of love for their enemies.

O, Victory in Jesus!

Elbon Kilpatrick

Jackson, Tennessee

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3 comments

  1. Our church staff fought a little of this battle this July 4th. As a worship leader, I don’t lead songs that point to anyone but God, and that is a source of consternation for many of the people in my church. But, I can’t in good conscience lead people in a song of praise to anything but the Father. So…yeah.

    Good post!

  2. Sorry, Mr. Kilpatrick, I didn’t see much love in your story. While you were so busy trying to be concerned about people being in your “personal space” you were not much concerned about being in theirs. Hands off, feet off, signs off people who only want to have a peaceful morning praising God in their house of worship. You cannot bring about peace, through tromping on what is sacred grounds to others. To truly love one another we must also show some respect for that other persons rights. I’m not saying you can’t protest … just show some respect and try to be a little more yielding …

  3. Hey Jesus, while you were so busy flipping over tables and chasing livestock and people out of the temple, maybe you didn’t notice that there are people who think God lives in this building. We’re here to praise God with our songs and prayers, and you cause all this ruckus. You need to figure out how to love people and quit fashioning whips and stuff. This is the temple, for crying out loud. Show a little respect.

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