Transformation Northfield and the election campaigns of Rhonda Pownell, Jeff Quinnell, and Dan Cupersmith

In Feb. of 2011, I published a post titled What is Transformation Northfield’s public agenda? that detailed my concerns about the local public officials who were involved with the group.

Two of the local political leaders I featured in that piece were At-large Northfield City Councilor Rhonda Pownell and Northfield School board member Jeff Quinnell.  Rhonda is running for mayor of Northfield; if she loses, she’ll retain her At-Large seat. Jeff has decided to not run again for the School Board and instead, is running for Rice County Commissioner, District 2.

New on the local political scene is Dan Cupersmith who’s running for Northfield School Board. Dan is a member of Transformation Northfield and Rejoice! Church.

1. Rhonda Pownell

Rhonda Pownell (2)I spoke with Rhonda after one of the election forums at the Cow and told her that while I was initially concerned about her connection to Transformation Northfield (TN) and Rejoice!, I was no longer worried.  Yes, she abstained on the marriage amendment vote and was the only council member to vote against the domestic partner registry ordinance this summer and I disagree with her on those issues. But those votes in my mind have been outweighed by her overall performance as a councilor and to my knowledge, she’s never spoken or acted in a way that would convey she believes God or Pastor Dan Clites are telling her what’s best for Northfield.

Am I voting for Rhonda or Dana Graham for mayor? I’m still undecided.

2. Jeff Quinnell

Jeff Quinnell (2)I haven’t followed the School Board very closely in the past four years and I have no specifics, pro or con, to say about Jeff’s performance.

It does bother me, however, that on one of his campaign websites he links to his personal Facebook profile where, if you become his ‘friend,’ you’ll see that he regularly posts Bible verses to his Wall, as well as, at times, questionable quotes for a school board member, for example:

"Education is useless without the Bible." — Noah Webster

So Jeff is still a concern to me. I’ll be voting for Galen Malecha.

3. Dan Cupersmith

Dan CupersmithDan and his wife Karianne just returned from the 23rd annual Harvest Evangelism conference in Hawaii with Dan Clites, Brett Reese (co-leaders of Transformation Northfield) and a dozen or more other Northfielders.  You can hear their testimonies in the Oct. 14, 2012 "Aloha to Transformation!" podcast, listed on the Rejoice! Weekly Sermon/Podcast page. A partial quote from Dan Cupersmith:

This is starting with the youth. One of the examples/testimonies that we saw was Valley Christian School in California, a school that was really on the down and out [garbled] and possibly being closed and now has turned around to be one of the top schools in the nation and it was all led through prayer evangelism.

Dan ClitesBrett ReeseThat may not seem like much but it’s worrisome to me, especially when you hear Brett Reese predicting that "Northfield will become a city of God" and Dan Clites proclaiming, "If you really want to change the world, you have to change the marketplace. You gotta change the atmosphere of the government, you gotta change the atmosphere of the education system…"

I will not be voting for Dan Cupersmith for Northfield School Board. I will be voting for Rob Hardy, Ellen Iverson, and Anne Maple.


  1. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: can you explain why, given your statements in the last paragraph:

    “That may not seem like much but it’s worrisome to me, especially when you hear Brett Reese predicting that “Northfield will become a city of God” and Dan Clites proclaiming, “If you really want to change the world, you have to change the marketplace. You gotta change the atmosphere of the government, you gotta change the atmosphere of the education system…”

    and then your statement:
    “I will not be voting for Dan Cupersmith for Northfield School Board.”

    Why do you feel the sentiments expressed by Brett Reese , Dan Clites, and Dan Cupersmith are all equally negative, in your POV, But Councilor Pownell is exempt from inclusion in that group-think?

    After all, if these are statements that you find troubling, presumably because they are not sentiments that you agree with, I don’t understand how you can leave Councilor Pownell out of that group?
    Do you think her adherence to the philosphical/religious basis of Rejoice! is any less committed?

    Is it possible that her ‘strategy’ is to be less open in statements like these made by the three men you name, is indeed just that, i.e. a ‘strategy’ ?

    November 4, 2012
  2. john george said:

    This is interesting. When Jon Denison ran for the City Council, there was an uproar about his facebook links to various pornography sites. What if some of the candidates posted links to Islaamic or Jewish or Mormon web sites. Would this be a problem? Are we really going to be a city of “tolerance” and “inclusion”, or are we going to be a city that shuns any group who does not affiliate itself with the Democratic Party or Progressivism? Just wondering.

    November 4, 2012
  3. I’m unbothered by Christian candidates. I’m quite bothered by dominionists. There’s a lot of middle ground between full-on dominionist theology and people whose morals are informed by their religion but who don’t feel they are obliged to force all of those beliefs on others.

    Unfortunately, in modern America, there are enough people whose views of what it means to be Christian involve stuff I find highly objectionable and outright dangerous that I frequently end up voting against the people who nominally share my religion, because their ways of going about it are a threat to my safety and freedom.

    November 4, 2012
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, I can’t be sure but I don’t think Rhonda has said or written anything publicly that indicates a problem to me on this issue. She hasn’t said that she wants to transform Northfield to a ‘City of God.’ She’s evidently not a member of Transformation Northfield.

    She attends Rejoice! but that doesn’t necessarily mean she subscribes to all the practices/beliefs of Harvest Evangelism and its leaders, in somewhat the same way that many practicing Catholics don’t ascribe to all the practices/beliefs of their pastor, bishop, and pope.

    So I’m just going primarily by what the candidates say and do. Rhonda says a lot and does a lot that I agree with. And on the Safety Center issue, that’s true of you, too!

    November 4, 2012
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    John, you may have forgotten my public support in the past for Republicans Ray Cox and Tom Neuville.

    I’m not saying that Jeff Quinnell shouldn’t link to his personal Facebook profile. I’m saying that some of what he posts there reveals some thinking/beliefs that I find to be problematic for a school board member, eg, his use of a Noah Webster quote, “Education is useless without the Bible.”

    November 4, 2012
  6. kiffi summa said:

    I would agree that Councilor Pownell has been ‘cautious’; but I cannot help remembering her participation with the Prayer Ladies… and she has said she was not in Al Roder’s office for that incredible breach of propriety.
    But she was in the audience with the Prayer ladies,and that is perfectly OK in principle, whether you agree with the goals or not. It is absolutely their right to be there in the audience; prayers aside, they’re becoming more informed citizens!

    Everyone must decide for themselves if the Rejoice! connection is important or not, given their dominionist views, non-acceptance of homosexuality, and general wish to have all belief coincide with theirs, i.e.”transformation” …

    Do not all ‘God’s children’ build “Cities of God” according to their interpretation of that concept?
    Isn’t Northfield, with all its churches already a ‘City of God’ ?
    What about Chartres, Mecca, and Rome?

    November 5, 2012
  7. rob hardy said:

    I appreciate your support, Griff, but I hope that people will support me based on my experience and record of service to the community rather than on my church affiliation or lack thereof. I first served Northfield as a member of the library board from 1995 to 2000, and have years of experience in education as a teacher, volunteer, and charter school founding board member.

    I have seen no evidence that Jeff Quinnell’s votes as a member of the school board have been overtly influenced by his religious faith. In another related comment thread, I asked:

    [H]ow do we listen to, and engage in civil discourse with, people who have beliefs so different from our own? Do we refuse to hear them? Do we deny the very real force (to them) of their beliefs? Or do we tell them that it’s inappropriate to talk about those beliefs in public?

    For my own part, I am committed to listening to and working with people of diverse views to achieve the common good. I believe this is what we have to do in a pluralistic society. It’s a difficult and lofty ideal, but one our educational leaders should be especially careful to cultivate.

    The Noah Webster quote does point to the fact that in Webster’s time, in the first half of the nineteenth century, the Bible was a standard text in American education. I don’t think we can ignore the influence of Christianity on our history as a nation, any more than we can ignore the fact that we are an increasingly diverse nation with an increasingly diverse set of religious beliefs (including non-belief).

    One of my teaching experiences was leading a poetry group for homeschoolers that met at Brett Reese’s house. What I remember most vividly was the older children’s amazing ability to recite large passages of Shakespeare from memory. What I saw was not religious indoctrination. What I saw was good parenting and a remarkable enthusiasm for learning. That enthusiasm is something I share, and something that should be the basis of our common efforts to provide our children with the best and most meaningful education.

    November 5, 2012
  8. David Beimers said:

    Is there any connection between Transformation Northfield and the group, Transform Minnesota? Their CEO and one of their board members wrote an editorial in the Strib on Sunday encouraging folks to vote Yes on the marriage amendment.

    November 5, 2012
  9. David Roberts said:

    Would Rhonda Pownell : Says if she is elected Mayor she will work to promote business for Northfield : My question is that would a possible Mayor Pownell would work with a business that would be owned or operated by Gay or Transgender People : God tells us to Love all (That is why stay away from Rejoice Church) : I would hope most business would be welcome site in Northfield we need Jobs

    November 5, 2012
  10. john george said:

    Rob- As usual, a very well stated position on plurality and understanding. I highly respect people of your caliber, and it is encouraging to me to know there are people like you on, what I call, the “other side of the fence” from where I am. No matter what our particular convictions are, we all have a benefit in working together for the common good. Your type of understanding is highly comendable.

    November 5, 2012
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Excellent comment, Rob. You, too, John.

    November 5, 2012
  12. Heather Rataj said:

    Why are you so against the transformation concept if you care so much about this community? The core principles benefit the whole community. When these individuals speak of transformation in the schools or businesses, their agenda is not to run in and plaster the walls with Bible verses and drag people to church. The point is to live out our faith by doing what Jesus did and what He commands His followers to do. We are not to judge others, but to love our neighbors, bless people, spread joy and peace, etc. Even if you don’t believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you can’t argue that these things are bad. Unfortunately, there are extremists on both sides of every issue. I understand that many Christians seem judgemental and unloving, which is too bad because there are many of us that take our responsibility seriously in a loving way. Of course, I would love to see everyone I know have a relationship with Jesus our savior. But, why would they want to, if what they see through me isn’t appealing.

    My part in transformation is showing Jesus to people by the way I treat them. The rest is between each individual and God. Some of the key principles of transformation are: bless and speak peace, fellowship, and minister to felt needs. Who wouldn’t want more kids and adults blessing others? Speaking peace? Making friends and spending time with them? Helping when others have a need?

    Having leaders in our community modeling these principles shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing, it should be praised and caught. What if kindness and peace were the norm? What a “transformed” Northfield/Dundas community we would be!

    November 5, 2012
  13. David Roberts said:

    I care about the community : But I do not like to see some people of different life styles be marginalized : Live and let Live : But if one who claims to be proclaiming the Love of Jesus and judges one because they might be Gay is wrong : I do not wave the Jesus Banner : I am not perfect but either are the People who Judge othyers on account the Bible may say that it is wrong to be Gay : Show me where Jesus preaches to us to treat our Gay friends as second class citizens :

    November 6, 2012
  14. Heather Rataj said:

    I normally don’t get involved in these types of discussions, but I really had the desire to try and shed some light on the misconception that everyone from Rejoice hates gay people. For me personally, I have never treated gay people as second class citizens. I have family members that are gay and I love them just as much as I love the rest of my family. Just because I don’t agree with some of their choices doesn’t mean I should hold back the love I am supposed to show to everyone. There are plenty of other choices people make that I don’t agree with besides that and likewise, choices I make that others don’t agree with. That doesn’t mean we should go around slandering each other.

    My concern is that the gay agendas(among other things) are being pushed on the rest of us and we’re called haters if we don’t agree. As a Bible believing Christian, I want to strive to abide by its teachings and raise my kids as such. Therefore, myself and my kids shouldn’t be scrutinized because we want to follow the teachings of our savior. Just the same, we shouldn’t be judging others for not following those ways. If we are truly believing God, He is the only authority to judge anyhow. Like I said before, it is my responsibility to show Jesus to the world by my actions and to pray. The rest is between each individual and God.
    I hope that people would stop generalizing people from Rejoice as gay haters. Its just not true.

    November 6, 2012
  15. Griff Wigley said:

    Heather, I’m really glad you’ve chimed in here and I hope you’ll continue… on other issues, too.

    I’ve got no problem with the ‘transformation concept’ as you describe it and as I see many practicing it. See my blog post from a year ago, Northfield’s faith community is a force for enormous good. Yes, even Rejoice!.

    My objection is when the members take an approach to public policy problem-solving and decision-making that conveys they know what’s best because of their connection to God. Dan Clites has cited Elk River, MN as a model for Northfield. That city’s former mayor Stephanie Klinzing has said:

    We have also discovered that I have spiritual authority in the city as well as civic authority. I have stood, in the spirit, against things that I believe God does not want in my city, and I have also opened, in the spirit, the city gates to things that I believe God wants in the city. This has had powerful results.

    This view is shared by Dan Clites and I really object to it. As I’ve said, it seems to me that for a public official to assume that he or she knows what God wants and doesn’t want for a city, it makes it less likely that they’ll be open to other points of view, be willing to negotiate, be willing to admit mistakes.

    So it’s not at all about modeling principles taught or espoused by Jesus. We’re all flawed beings and as soon as someone in a public leadership position thinks that they have a direct communication pipeline to God, I get very worried.

    Hope that helps explain my position. I’m eager to hear your reaction. I’ll respond to the issue about gays in a separate commment.

    November 6, 2012
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    Heather, I don’t consider those who disagree with my position about the marriage amendment as ‘gay haters’ or that they necessarily consider gays as second class citizens. It’s a complicated issue and one that reasonable and caring people can disagree about.

    As I’ve said, I think Transformation Northfield and Rejoice! Church’s affiliation with Ed Silvoso and his International Transformation organization (guided by Dan Clites and Brett Reese) is ominous because their beliefs get brought into the public sphere.

    Any message, direct or indirect, that homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals are somehow under the influence of demonic forces, is not only hurtful and destructive but dangerous. It can have a corrosive effect on the morale of LGBT employees who work for the city and school district.

    And for any LGBT youth in our schools who are struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity, it can exacerbate their pain, lead to depression, or worse.

    It concerns me that some teachers and coaches who are members of TN and Rejoice! might convey this belief to the youth they work with. And it concerns me that some of the youth involved with TN, who are urged to live their calling in the marketplace of school, could fall into demonizing other youth.

    No one at TN or Rejoice! is deliberately being hurtful about this. Everyone I’ve met has good intentions. So I’m hoping that the disagreements can remain civil and that we can all keep working together to make Northfield a great place for all of us to live.

    November 6, 2012
  17. David Roberts said:

    In that case you call it the Gay Agenda : I am equally offended by the God or Jesus Agenda of the Right Wing : So There

    November 6, 2012
  18. David Roberts said:

    Congraulations to Dana Graham our New Mayor : Congratulations to our School Board with the New addition of Rob Hardy : Congraulations to Galen Malecha : These people will serve us very good all will do a fantastic job in this down economy :

    November 7, 2012
  19. I don’t really believe in the notion of the “gay agenda”, except for the way that gay people would like the same basic human dignity that everyone else has.

    Here’s the thing. The way religious freedom works is, we each get to have our own beliefs and live by them, and we don’t get to force other people to live by them.

    If gay marriage is legal, then people who believe gay marriage is okay can live by their religion, and people who don’t can live by theirs. We have religious freedom. If gay marriage is illegal, then people who believe gay marriage is legal are being prevented from living the way they think they should, because other people don’t want to allow them to live that way. We don’t have religious freedom.

    Being required to treat people with basic, normal, human decency is not a horrible or unreasonable imposition, but that’s all that’s ever been on offer.

    I totally agree that the accusations of “hatred” are thrown about far too casually.

    November 7, 2012
  20. Heather Rataj said:

    I just want to offer a different perspective on “transformation”. Of course I can’t speak for my fellow Rejoicers, but here is some of what this concept stirs up in me.
    First, I need a transforming in my own mind and heart.
    I should try to be an example of Jesus. (of course I fall short, but striving for it should be my goal)
    I steer away from selfish prayers and instead pray for neighbors, schools, businesses, govt., friends, family, charities, etc.
    I recognize that shaking The Bible in peoples faces is not going to win them over, so I shouldn’t be doing it.
    I should instead, spread the grace, mercy and joy that I have recieved undeservingly.
    The hope and prayer is that people would see something in me that puts a hunger in their heart for something more. And if I’ve built a relationship with them, they know that when I share the “good news of Jesus” with them, its because I care about them.
    So, I believe transformation starts with each individual and goes on from there. And as Christians, we should transform our approach to dicipleship. I believe that part of the reason so many people reject Christianity, is from well meaning Christians being too “in your face” and negative.
    Being a Christian is actually really exciting and life-changing and I want people to see that!

    November 8, 2012
  21. Heather Rataj said:

    Ok Griff, I think I understand your position a little better now.
    I’m pressed for time, so won’t go any further at the moment. But, I will be back. 🙂

    November 9, 2012
  22. Griff Wigley said:

    Heather, you wrote:

    I steer away from selfish prayers and instead pray for neighbors, schools, businesses, govt., friends, family, charities, etc.

    What might your prayers for Northfield City Hall or the Northfield Schools be? I ask because public prayer by Transformation Northfield has been an issue here in Northfield (e.g., praying in the city administrator’s office, a prayer walk around the high school). And I objected to Dan Cupersmith’s statement while he was running for School Board about how prayer transformed a school in California.

    November 9, 2012
  23. David Roberts said:

    Great point Griff : Hold their feet to the fire yes it goes both ways if you have strong feelings either way you should stick with them and try to respect the other differing thought (sometimes hard to do when emotions come in to play) Don’t force Jesus on me and I will not force my standards on you

    November 9, 2012
  24. David Henson said:

    Griff,a bunch of people meet at the Cow for policy and pint, they hold many common beliefs and likely vote in common so why does religious association bother you? Did you object to Martin Luther King’s involvement in election politics? Everyone in a democracy is free to vote under whatever influences or guidance they choose … you seem to outright object to Transformations’ beliefs but present that in a manner that somehow suggests their ideas are being wrongly uttered the public sphere. I am taking away the message from your posts that since; ‘I am an atheist my ides are valid in the public space but since their ideas are based in faith they are not valid in the public space.’ Is this your meaning?

    November 12, 2012
  25. I don’t get that from him at all. There are lots of religious folks and organizations he’s pretty happy with.

    But the fact is, in the US at least, there is a very noticeable subset of religious groups who are pretty hostile to others. The obvious starting point would be the Dominionists, for instance. And there are a lot of people whose “religious” values include pretty blatant bullying of others.

    I don’t know much about this specific group. I do know that some of the buzzwords and language I see in commentary relating to them is uncomfortably similar to buzzwords and language that I’ve seen from some really, really, nasty people.

    It bothers me more than a little that I tend to be nervous around people who very loudly profess my religion, but the fact is, it’s statistically justified. The vast majority of Christians just go around being nice to people because they think God wants them to love their neighbors.

    Thing is, a fair number of Christians have the presupposition that anyone who is Christian will be honest and fair, so a lot of con artists go out of their way to tell everyone that they’re Christian. If you get a business proposal that starts out with an assertion that the person making the proposal is Christian, it’s very very likely to be a scam. The only reason to mention it is to try to bypass the defenses of people who habitually trust anyone they believe to be Christian.

    Similarly, in politics, the people who make the most noise about their religion are usually the ones who are hostile to everyone outside their religion. Since I strongly disapprove of that, I tend to reflexively distrust politicians who make a big deal about their religious beliefs, or who associate a lot with certain sorts of people.

    There’s lots of Christians I like just fine. Heck, I voted for a Christian in the last Presidential election (not that there were any alternatives on offer…). But there are also a lot of cases where something going out of its way to identify as “Christian” is a warning sign that it is a malicious entity which is trying to use Christianity as a cover for abuses.

    November 12, 2012
  26. David Henson said:

    Peter, I think you should be free to espouse your ideas even despite my thinking they are misguided and if adopted as policy would cause much physical and emotional pain for individuals. But silencing people with misguided beliefs leads to far greater harm. People promoting prayor seem like a non threat but I sense in Griff the desire to effectively censor ideas he finds objectionable.

    November 12, 2012
  27. Griff’s not silencing people, he’s opposing them politically. Which is perfectly reasonable. No silencing is on offer; just opposition to handing political power to people who have traits frequently associated with people who abuse it.

    And if promoting prayer seems like a non-threat, you have clearly never been one of the people being prayed at by people for whom prayer is a shallow cover for their gossip and malice.

    November 13, 2012
  28. David Henson said:

    “It concerns me that some teachers and coaches who are members of TN and Rejoice! might convey this belief to the youth they work with. ”
    Peter, the above quote sounds like silencing or thought police. I can see a scary future in the U S where to teach or coach one must not belong to a church. Socialism seems naturally to lead down this path.

    November 13, 2012
  29. kiffi summa said:

    David: Griff will confirm that there are several things I heartily disagree with him about … but , IMO, he has been fair and open in exploring the Transformation NF movement.
    If you recall he went to their breakfast meetings, met with some of the members F2F, and created another thread about that, some time ago.

    What is different with this most recent thread, is that he is commenting on the ‘movement’ qualities of T/NF. and that would be, IMO, putting a candidate sympathetic to that ‘movement’ in almost every open seat at every level, as if they were a political party, not a religious group, … and there’s the ‘rub’.

    If T/NF wants to do that it’s fine … anyone can run for office … but there is absolutely nothing wrong with commenting on the philosophical persuasion of any candidate.

    November 13, 2012
  30. kiffi summa said:

    WHAT ?

    Peter is only expressing a “concern”, which does not translate to the immediate instituting of “thought police”…. no one said anything about: “a scary future in the U S where to teach or coach one must not belong to a church.”

    The concern is only the ‘dissing’ of those who might not share a specific religious interpretation of right and wrong, i.e. sexual identity.

    November 13, 2012
  31. David Henson said:

    Kiffi, that was Griff’s quote not Peters and I do not think Graff is the thought police. But the issue as expressed is important can coaches express their view if it is disapproving of homosexuality?, can they belong to churches with religious convictions? Or will government create a party line that all employees must convey else they be seen as “dissing” someone.

    If you project forward you can see why socialist governments always end up in conflict with religion because to keep a huge government functioning one really needs to control peoples thoughts to gain conformity.

    November 13, 2012
  32. Heather Rataj said:

    My reply to your question is far too long for this format. But I do want to point out that many of us probably agree on things we’d like to see better in our community. For example: unity, less poverty, less bullying, less crime, more people working, drug problems gone, broken relationships mended, health, safety, etc.
    So instead of complaining about the problems and wishing them away, I choose to pray.

    I’m just so curious why praying in the public sphere is such a problem for many people. A non-Christian doesn’t believe in the spiritual realms of good and evil anyway, so if they don’t believe in the power of prayer, why does it matter? Wouldn’t they just think the prayers don’t work, so who cares?

    For non-believers to put up such a fight about it, makes me wonder if they actually do have a sliver of belief! What are they afraid of? That it might actually work?
    Well, I’ll still be praying for the well-being of this community and the people in it, and I know it works!

    November 13, 2012
  33. john george said:

    Peter- See Matt. 7:15-25. There are ways to tell who is genuine.

    Here it is, for those who want a quick view:

    15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.

    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

    The Two Foundations

    24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.

    Hmmmm. So it appears that we can be judges of fruit?

    November 13, 2012
  34. kiffi summa said:

    sorry about the mis-attribution…

    but as to the meat of the matter…. No, of course coaches may NOT express their view within the school situation if it is dis-approving of homosexuality…

    and yes, of course they can belong to any church they want, even those with “religious convictions” 🙂

    Disagree entirely with your last projection; no one asks for conformity; the majority of the vote is what’s important, as long as it does not violate the law…

    November 13, 2012
  35. David Henson said:

    So coaches can speak their mind if their values are in line with ??? but cannot speak their mind if their values are only shared by 49% or less of the population? What if they were to simply convey facts like the New Yorker article saying gay men are now contracting an incurable gonorrhea at an alarming rate, would this be “dissing”? Was the New Yorker hating people by mentioning the health statistics in their article?

    November 14, 2012
  36. kiffi summa said:

    This is getting ridiculous… statistics quoted are not the same thing as religious beliefs which are not universal, and may discriminate against a segment of society.

    November 14, 2012
  37. William Siemers said:

    A coach or a teacher in a public school should stick to the subject or sport for which they were hired. Why would their views on homosexuality be part of that scope of work? It’s not part of the job to express those views, pro or con, and if they do, they deserve to be censured.

    A heath teacher might instruct about the chances of getting sexually transmitted diseases from the different kinds of sexual activity. But even this should not contain a ‘view’. It should just be a discussion of the facts regarding infection rates from the various kinds of human sexual activity.

    What teachers and coaches do off the job is another matter. They, like every other citizen, should be able to express their opinion as they see fit.

    November 14, 2012
  38. David Henson said:

    William, I agree with you that schools should stay true to subjects as much as possible and not indoctrinate students but I do not think that is the direction our society is headed. I think they are effectively being taught a humanist ‘religion’ that is (religion aside) not effective for leading a happy and healthy life.

    November 14, 2012
  39. Sure. But you don’t always have the time to fully investigate everyone you encounter. If I have to make a decision and I don’t have time to be extra careful, I’ll go with guesses.

    Right now, in the US, my guess is that a person who goes out of their way to talk about how they are Christian and uses buzzwords like “family values” is probably hostile, but a person who does other stuff and talks about other things, but who gets identified by others as being pretty religious is usually fine or even pretty awesome.

    Someone (I forget the name) said “If your highest priority is showing that your heart is in the right place, your heart isn’t in the right place.” I trust people who talk about compassion more than people who talk about Jesus instead of talking about compassion.

    Any heuristic will fail sometimes, and whenever I can, I take the time to get to know people better, because that’s more interesting by far.

    November 15, 2012
  40. As a quick first approxmation: See how you’d feel if they were expressing the same thoughts about blacks, since our culture has largely accepted that racism is Not Okay. If it would bother you for a coach, teacher, or whatever to express a given thought about blacks, it should probably bother you if they express it about gays.

    And I really, really, don’t buy the argument that our government is even remotely like a socialist government, or trying to produce any kind of militant conformity. The main issue is, as long as we’re talking about government employees, there are serious problems if they are promoting particular religious beliefs. (Note that, for these purposes, “there’s no God” would also count as a religious belief; it’s a stance on religion which is not a thing government employees should be teaching kids.)

    So are there restrictions on what people can do? Ultimately, there are things where we don’t care what any religion teaches, some things aren’t allowed. It doesn’t matter if your religion says to stone kids to death for disobedience; you aren’t allowed to do that in our country, period. The key here is that the rule isn’t “some religions are allowed, some aren’t”; it’s “some behaviors are allowed, some aren’t”. If only some religions advocate those prohibited behaviors, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re being discriminated against.

    The question is whether the basis for the rule is “we dislike this religion” or “this behavior is harmful”. And concerns about teaching kids anti-gay stuff are based on the observation that doing so seems to contribute very noticably to anti-gay violence and teen suicides.

    So there’s two things:
    1. People in general should not be telling kids that they are everything that’s wrong with the world and we would all be better off if they were dead.
    2. Most anti-gay propaganda turns out to communicate exactly that to gay kids.
    3. Furthermore, we don’t want to have government employees promoting any particular religious stance.

    Parents can decide what religion they want to raise their kids with. Once you get to public programs, though, we do have legitimate room for concern about what people are teaching.

    This isn’t thought policing, it’s protecting kids from abuse.

    November 15, 2012
  41. David Henson said:

    Peter, almost every reply you make is a straw man argument since the replies never address the comments but rather you create a situation vastly exaggerating the discussion and then refute your own exaggeration without addressing the actual comments. The suggestion becomes that even a rational discussion of this matter is the moral equivalent of taking a baseball bat out and whacking kittens to death.

    November 15, 2012
  42. I don’t see it.

    You said:

    But the issue as expressed is important can coaches express their view if it is disapproving of homosexuality?, can they belong to churches with religious convictions? Or will government create a party line that all employees must convey else they be seen as “dissing” someone.

    This is a very complex question with some very vague components, so I answered the whole thing. There are differences between what we allow for government employees and what we allow for other sorts of people, and there are many, many, degrees to which someone might express a view “disapproving of homosexuality”. Some of those would be obviously illegal, others not.

    But there’s no “party line” here. There is nothing anyone “must convey”.

    It’s funny, because you complain about straw men, but you’re the one misrepresenting policies against government employees preaching their religion to kids on the state’s dollar as “a party line that everyone must convey”.

    The key here is: What I’m doing is not, as you seem to think, failing to respond to what you say. No, it’s responding to what you say, rather than pretending you said something else. I’m just taking your words at face value. If this produces things you are uncomfortable admitting that you said, I urge you to think about that when you’re writing, not after the fact.

    November 15, 2012
  43. It doesn’t sound in any way like silencing or thought policing.

    Okay, thing one: There is no socialism here. None. Any representation of our country as remotely socialist is just plain laughable.

    Thing two: Silencing people doesn’t mean saying “you can’t use your position of authority over other people’s kids to induce them to accept a claim without adequate opportunity for their parents to be aware of what you’re teaching and offer a rebuttal”. It means saying no one can ever express these thoughts at all.

    Thing three: Thought policing is just what it sounds like — prohibiting people from thinking certain things.

    None of this is happening. The “scary future” you claim you can see is an over-the-top straw man. No one has a problem with people who belong to churches and teach classes or coach sports; the problem is with people who use those venues to promote their personal religious beliefs, which is something we’ve frowned on for a long time.

    The only threat we’re seeing is that Christians as a group have gotten so used to being the default and the norm in our culture that we feel like we are being persecuted when people suggest that maybe we shouldn’t be indoctrinating other people’s kids into our religion without their permission.

    Overall, freaky though it is to realize that I’ve been taking a position of extreme privilege for granted, I am obliged to conclude that it’s not actually a big problem.

    As Jon Stewart quipped some years back, there is still hope for Christians to escape persecution in the US. Why, someday perhaps we could even see a Christian president. Or perhaps forty-three of them. Consecutively. (It’s a bit hard to define the count; does Cleveland count as two consecutive presidents? In any event, by most counts, we’re now up to forty-four.)

    November 15, 2012
  44. David Henson said:

    Peter, you mention dead kids, slavery, etc all hugely different than relating a magazine article. You want to not deal with real negative consequences so you contrive positions that do not answer the issues.

    November 15, 2012
  45. David Henson said:

    Peter, nobody suggested coaches telling kids not to live except you (as an example of exaggeration)

    Here is a link to some data on how bad your position is for health. I know you promote non promiscuous relationships but the reality is quite different.

    November 15, 2012
  46. I wasn’t *suggesting* it, I was pointing out that it is a thing which people actually do. People have in fact said that to gay kids, and some of those kids then kill themselves.

    You just linked to a site that has an ongoing effort to remove the “liberal bias” from the Bible by editing the Gospels. I cannot take that site seriously, and I am done here.

    November 15, 2012
  47. Todd Amunrud said:

    This link is a joke and insult to scientific and objective inquiry David.

    November 15, 2012
  48. Conservapedia really is terrifying. But sort of hilarious. Thing is, if they knew they were an over the top parody of what happens when people insist that they are entitled not only to their own opinions, but their own facts, it’d be an amazing and funny site; it’d be like The Onion, or something.

    But underneath it all, there’s no humor, and no self-awareness. Just malice, venom, and a sort of pathological devotion to dishonesty for its own sake, not just in order to try to win points.

    Stuff’s sorta scary.

    And seeing it cited… well, basically, that’s when the conversation is over.

    November 15, 2012
  49. David Henson said:

    Peter, they list CDC statistics, I am afraid you are the one who wants his own statistics (but you offer theory bot facts), do you prefer a link to the MN CDC?

    November 16, 2012
  50. Todd Amunrud said:

    CDC statistics are a good source David, but the context of the site is not reliable. Also CDC statistics do not address the overall question at hand. They are picked by you, I assume, due to your lack of knowledge of what is means to be gay. You seem to be dead-focused on the act of sex, instead of the whole person. Might I suggest you take the time to learn more about human sexualty before you site overall unreliable sources here amongst intelligent people?

    November 16, 2012
  51. David Henson said:

    Todd, intelligent people often make very bad public policy choices.

    November 16, 2012
  52. As Twain said: Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Statistics can be used to make or support all sorts of claims.

    I have already explained why the statistics you so gleefully cite to do not support your case. Repeatedly. You have never, not once, shown the slightest interest in discussing the reasoning, though.

    I can just see you, if there’d been disease statistics available, gloating about how the manifest destiny of the whites was revealed in the very high rate of smallpox among the Native Americans. Does anyone deny that they suffered much more from smallpox than the colonists from Europe? Of course not.

    No one really disputes that promiscuous sex is dangerous. Of course, your response to that is to advocate loudly and at length to continue the prohibition against societal recognition for committed relationships for these people. Why’s that?

    I think you know why, though I doubt you’re yet ready to admit it even to yourself: Because you hate these people enough that you want this to be true, and you want it to stay true. You want them to suffer. And even when the statistics you yourself are presenting clearly show that many people would be safer and healthier if society’s social norms and financial inducements were encouraging them to form stable and committed relationships, that just makes you push all the harder for those things never to happen.

    Nope, you don’t want that to change. As long as the people you think you’re better than are dying, as long as they are separated from their loved ones at their deathbeds, things are just the way you want them.

    So either you are motivated by genuine malice, or you don’t really believe those statistics, or you haven’t got the reasoning skills we’d expect from a middle-school kid being asked to analyze statistics and talk about what they mean. I was really holding out for Option 2, but I’ve been forced to admit that I can’t support that one with the evidence in hand.

    November 17, 2012
  53. The main problem isn’t so much the raw numbers as the choice about how to spin them, although even then, raw numbers that aggregate dissimilar groups can be horribly misleading.

    (Trivia point: Most of the sex acts people think of as “gay sex” are performed substantially more often by heterosexual couples than by gay couples, simply because there’s something like 10-20 times as many het couples.)

    November 17, 2012
  54. David Henson said:

    Peter, your hater comments are old news, you insult people to avoid rational debate, encouraging more people to engage in what only a fool could not see is high risk behavior is my definition of hating.

    These are not “my statistics” and you have done nothing to answer them.

    You have lots of energy so I will leave you make another long repetitive post that buries the above link so readers are less likely to see what you are really promoting.

    November 17, 2012
  55. kiffi summa said:

    While David and Peter are accusing each other of everything under the sun, and using everything from Conservapedia (UGH!), CDC,etc to prove their points which they will never agree upon, since Peter wants tolerance (as I certainly do) for individual choices, and David is equally rabid about condemnation of practices he does not agree with….

    Could we please get back to the influence of Transformation Northfield… or rather the setback of their influence since their candidates all lost ?

    Heather speaks above of all blissful blessings and good will, but what is the other side of this movement, which has now, in Northfield, acted as a political party by putting candidates up for virtually all open seats up through the County level.

    Very difficult to discuss, as it is based in a religious philosophy: if one says, ‘fine, have your religion any way you like it, but do not try to make others conform to your personal religious beliefs’ … then those on that side will say, and have… even here on LG … ‘by tolerating behaviors we do not tolerate, you are denying us our religious freedom’ .

    Then the first side says: ‘No, we’re not, believe whatever you please , just please quit evaluating others on your religious standards’…
    Second side says,’ but we are committed to evangelize, and believe the community will benefit if it conforms to what we believe is God’s plan’…

    And so it goes, on and on… each proclaiming their need to operate on what they consider their own basic truths.

    But buried under all the sunshiny rhetoric of the Transformation movement is the link to the economic success of the community. One only needs to look at the Elk River example and the writings of their former Mayor to see the core, rather that core.

    How do “Christian ” behavior and economic success relate when operating in the social/business community?
    Are those who differ in either direction likely to ‘shun’ the other side?
    How do we successfully discuss this when we are sensitive to religious differences?

    *** I would like someone to explain to me the connection/differences between Northfield today and the “City of God” Brett (see above in Griff’s original post) proclaims Northfield will become … and
    I don’t want what I would call ‘platitudes’: I want quantifiable differences. ***

    November 17, 2012
  56. David Henson said:

    Kiffi, two things
    1) I have almost no knowledge about Transformation but I see no harm in religion in politics … in fact it has been fundamental in politics since time began … I believe the separation of church and state (which was to protect churches not the state and certainly not to promote worship of the state) is being misused intentionally to suggest a separation of church and voting decisions.
    2) Tolerance and promotion are two entirely separate concepts

    November 17, 2012
  57. kiffi summa said:

    Davd: I disagree with you so intensely on the views you have been expressing here, that in respect for the number of years I have known you, I don’t wish to comment further, in reply.

    November 17, 2012
  58. john george said:

    Kiffi- Since I have some first hand knowledge of Transformstion Northfield, I will try to answer into your questions.

    1) TN is based upon Ed Silvoso’s vision to see whole nations be discipled. The Great Commission in Matt. 28:18-20 states

    Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations(emphasis mine), baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you

    This is the commandment given to Jesus’ followers at His ascension into Heaven. TN’s intent is to accomplish this through Prayer Evangelism.

    2) Prayer Evangelism is asking God to move upon a city/state/nation by His Holy Spirit to bring change to the hearts of people of that area.

    3) God’s intention is to bring a “transformation” to those areas, eventually the whole world, through the renewing of peoples’ minds ( See Romans 12:2)

    2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

    My friend, Peter, really helped me articulate this over coffee today. In the Old Testament, when an Israelite came in contact with something unclean, he had to go to the priest and perform a “religious rite” to become pure again. In the New Testament, the purification that the Blood of Jesus brings does not have to be redone, so to speak, so that when we come into contact with something “impure”, the purity of the Holy Spirit is to renew what/whom we come into contact. At least, that is what is supposed to happen. We, the Church, have, IMO, fallen from that vision and have allowed the world to taint us through compromising things which we should not allow to be compromised.

    One thing, IMO, of course, is the reliance upon any system to bring change that is not God directed. Putting our hope in a political system to bring change is going at it from the wrong direction. Being willing to enter the political areana with a heart to be used by God there is not. In possibly too simplistic terms, it is our own motivations that get in the way of seeing the Kingdom of God released in our particular realm of influence (marketplace). That is why this scripture in Matt 7:21-27 is sobering:

    “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

    Now, this doesn’t mean that we are not to do these things, but we must be sure we are walking in relationship with and obedience to God and not trying to bring attention to ourselves, or in some way “earn” our way into Heaven. A good scriptural example of this is in Acts 3:11-13

    11 While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. 12 But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? (emphasis mine) 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus…

    and in Acts 19:13-16:

    13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

    The Kingdom of God is “…righteousnes, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…” according to Romans 14:17. It is not a set of “magical” talismans to get through life more easily.

    We know from 1 Tim.6:3-10 that our focus is not to be upon the wealth of this world.

    3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

    I think it should be pretty clear from this where our focus should not be. This does not mean that God does not empower some to create wealth, but there is a great responsibility placed upon those who amass it.

    I hope this helps further your understanding a little bit. I’m not looking for agreement, just understanding.

    November 19, 2012
  59. kiffi summa said:

    John: I truly appreciate your extensive reply; all can say is that I find it even more troublesome now than I did before.

    November 20, 2012
  60. john george said:

    Oh! Sorry! I didn’t mean to trouble you. I just wanted to try to be as transparent as possible. I always fear I do not fully understand the question when I try to answer.

    November 20, 2012
  61. David Henson said:

    I do think the “God’s intention” is troubling wording. I am sure that John probably does not mean this (but it is a slippery slope)- when humans suggest I respect God therefore I can approach life from the perspective that I am God (or know what He is thinking, which is the same thing) things can get messy.

    November 20, 2012
  62. john george said:

    David- I suppose what I said could be interpreted to mean that a person can know all things that God has planned and you are correct, I do not believe we are to “…approach life from the perspective that I am God…” I do believe, though, that we can have a personal relationship with Him in which He speaks to us. By “God’s intention,” I’m only refering to 2 Peter 3:9

    The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

    I’m not sure this needs any further interpretation. There is further admonition in verse 10

    10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

    We have an opportunity to align ourselves with God’s Kingdom in this life, as it is written in Hebrews 9:27

    And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…

    That is why I put my hope in Him and not in a political process.

    November 20, 2012
  63. kiffi summa said:

    Don’t mean to be rude, but people who do not agree with all your biblical interpretation might believe that your verse 10, as quoted above:
    “10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up”
    refers to the eventual intensifying and shrinking of our sun so that in its life journey to becoming a black hole, it swallows/consumes the planets which surround it …

    According to science… a certain eventuality … so maybe the Bible prophesies a scientific certainty which has nothing to do with the actions of homo sapiens.

    November 20, 2012
  64. john george said:

    Kiffi- Yep. That eventuality is why no one knows of His return, and, that being the case, I choose to be prepared. I don’t believe our brief (in eternal terms) injustices and disobedience contribute to a sooner eventuality. I believe (which is subject to examination) that event was set into motion at the fall. I do, though, believe our disobediences have personal implications. And, I do not receive what you say as “rude.”

    November 20, 2012
  65. I am curious as to why. I have had plenty of very negative experiences with people who use language similar to this, but I also know John, and I have no worries about him. Of course, some of the riff-raff he hangs around with might be another story. I hear he’s been known to hang out with some lunatic who goes biking without a helmet. 🙂

    Heuristics are great, but I try to remember that real data trumps even a really nice heuristic. Of course, what I ought to do is see what I make of some of the other folks, but I am a little wary; a lot of people who use language like that aren’t super receptive to me. But John’s pretty awesome.

    November 20, 2012
  66. David Henson said:

    Peter, I was reading that the Amish will not serve in a government office and will not become police officers. Being a police officer violates their Christian ethics against violence. But they appreciate police officers and do not assume to know how God will judge them. Relating this has two points 1) one you can be against human activities or practices without being hateful and 2)there is a deep Christian ethic against presuming to think like God or know what God is thinking or what his intentions are (but this one is easy to slip out of)

    November 21, 2012
  67. No one disputes that it is possible to be opposed to something and not hateful. Look at David Blankenhorn’s writings in opposition to legal recognition for gay marriages; there’s nothing in there that looks like hostility. On the other hand, he was atypical, and when he abandoned that position, one of the reasons he cited was that working with anti-gay-marriage people had revealed to him that much of the motive of the movement as a whole was animosity towards gays, and that all the language about “traditional” marriage was mostly a cover for people’s real intent.

    I do not in general infer that people are hostile to gays simply because they oppose legal recognition of gay people’s families. I do tend to infer that they believe gays to be in some very significant way inferior and not deserving of the basic rights we regard as natural to all other humans, however. This belief is not necessarily a consciously-held one, but any time you are okay with a class of people suffering deprivation of basic rights, there is going to be a suspicion that you don’t think they are as important as the people you think should have those rights.

    As I’ve said before: When I see people advancing the position that we must ensure that gays have all the legal rights and protections everyone else gets, and only once those legal rights are in place, pushing to distinguish between “marriage” and “the relationship legally equivalent to marriage which is available for same-sex couples”, then I will be a lot more willing to take their claims about motives at face value. As long as the course of action people follow is to first fight to prevent people from getting legal rights, and then to worry about maybe granting them some, I will tend to draw inferences from that choice.

    The tricky part in evaluating a large set of people with propaganda is distinguishing between the propagandists and the people they’ve tricked. And, past that, distinguishing between the propagandists and the people or forces which tricked them…

    November 22, 2012
  68. John: Makes sense to me. Much better than the fairly frequent variant I see in modern Christianity, which I summarize roughly as “Jesus is coming! Look busy!”

    November 22, 2012
  69. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Two ads

    Did anyone see the “Vote Yes on Marriage Amendment” ad at bottom of page 3A of Oct.. 31 NNews alongside the Pownell for Mayor ad? There is a long list of churches and religious groups who allegedly support the yes vote, ending with “all Lutherans except the ELCA.”

    A footnote indicates “The ELCA is no longer Lutheran and should not defile and function as a Lutheran church.” It is my understanding that Rejoice! is a breakaway Lutheran (split off over gay issue). Does Rev. Clites support this ad? Do church members, including Rhonda Pownell, support it?

    November 26, 2012
  70. You know, there are a lot of people out there that I think are in a good place to criticize other religious groups about disagreeing with their established teachings, etcetera.

    But MHO, the people who started the Protestant Reformation are really in a bad place to be complaining that other people have concluded that an existing belief is in error and needs to be changed. The ELCA people have about as much right to claim to be Lutherans as anyone else does, so far as I can tell.

    At least it’s not as silly as the Anglican Church (aka the church of “Henry VIII can remarry now”) complaining about changes to the definition of marriage.

    November 27, 2012
  71. kiffi summa said:

    Maybe this is the right place to put this… maybe not, but it ‘s what I found in the search box …

    Just wanted to make sure that everyone heard the news that the National Cathedral, Washington D.C., announced today that they will begin performing same-sex marriage ceremonies.

    The announcement quoted the official as saying that these committed couples had been denied their equal rights for too long …

    January 10, 2013
  72. kiffi summa said:

    the video not available until tomorrow, it says.. and I will look at it.
    But I am wondering: what if the immigrant(s) is a gay person with a partner they wish to marry?

    January 13, 2013
  73. David Henson said:

    That depends, does your immigrant own any assault weapons?

    January 13, 2013

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