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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Das Williams: pro-growth?


Our community has 3 free newspapers: the Montecito Journal, the Santa Barbara Independent and the Daily Sound. This morning, in the early morning darkness, before my New York Times arrived, I caught up on local events by reading the Montecito Journal and the Santa Barbara Independent. Both newspapers endorsed and chastised Santa Barbara City Council candidates. The Montecito Journal encourages voters to not vote for Das Williams, a member of MCC, because, among other things, he is "pro-growth". The Santa Barbara Independent encourages voters to vote for Das Williams because he is, among other things, "pro-growth." Huh? What's with that?
The Montecito Journal is a paper that is openly anti-growth. It regularly has editorials and articles bemoaning the clogged highways and streets. Property owners who have paid dearly for the privilege of living in this gorgeous environment basically want to close the doors on new development and new residents. Many have left the dense cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco to live in the more serene and quiet area of Montecito and Santa Barbara. I understand that. This place is pretty nice and sedate. It's pleasant to not have the glare of neon lights and bright signs at night. I can see the emotional logic to those who want to preserve what they have and not feel invaded by denser and denser housing.
But I began to reflect on the church. Can the church be no-growth? Can the Body of Christ ever say, "We are done growing. We are full enough. No more new people allowed?" The community of Montecito requires that we, the church, live under and abide by a Conditional Use Permit because we are in a residential area. Again, I understand that. We need to be good neighbors, not disturbing the community. But what about growth? In fact, we are growing at about 17% per/year. How do we grow and not violate the principles of a non-gowth community? How do we stay faithful to the Gospel mandate to reach out and grow the body and abide by the principles of good citizenship?
I'm not sure how my friend and church member Das will do in the elections. I need to always remain politically neutral in order to maintain my pastoral integrity. But on the issue of growth, it makes me wonder. How do we grow without being obnoxious? And when will there be a collision between church and state?

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