I am one of thousands of folks who pour into these mountains for the summer, the same lovely blue ridges I grew up in as a child in Virginia. The worries back home and the destructive political banter that infects our lives now — all this disappears behind the mountains.

Imagine my disappointment — and I suspect the dismay of many — at being bombarded with political signs on sleepy corners that beg to be left in peace. “Love God and love each other and say ’no’ to hate.”

We recognize this as code words now. A particular agenda. Another attempt to weaponize God and “love” for one side of a perspective. Another insinuation that you’re a “hater” if you disagree with the progressive mantra, immigration and sexuality/gender being the two sticking points.

Does it occur to anyone that a person can actually believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, that homosexuality is not a life-giving path to follow and that gender is based on biological sex … and that person is not a “hater?”

We own two houses here that draw lots of visitors to this region. We pay taxes that support salaries in this city and county we love. And we are happy to make this a thriving place for everyone.

Must the folks who come here for a vacation be subjected to such force-fed indoctrination? Do these signs actually further the interests of the citizens of this county? Like whose idea was this?

Honestly, I can get bullied in Raleigh. I don’t come to Blowing Rock for that and I know I am not alone.

Those signs are inappropriate and they are patently unfair. If we are talking about “justice,” that is.

Paula Rinehart

Blowing Rock

(5) comments

rabbistephenroberts@gmail.com

An Open Letter from High Country Multi-faith Clergy and Leaders to Our Neighbors (Printed April 14, 2019)



Dear Neighbors--



We are blessed to live in a place where we know one another and the web of our relationships is strong. In June 2015, a group of clergy and leaders gathered together after the shootings at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston. We gathered in the wake of shootings in Orlando in June 2016, after the events in Charlottesville in August 2017, and again, after the shootings at a First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas in November 2017. We gathered with 500 of you last October in the wake of the death and violence unleashed at Tree of Life Synagogue on a Saturday morning as the faithful gathered for worship. We gathered two weeks ago after the shootings at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand.



Over the last four years, we have gathered as the High Country Multi-faith Clergy and Leaders to mourn and denounce racism, religious and ethnic hatred, and hate of “the other.” We have found strength in our shared grief and power in our shared witness. Each of us speaks rooted and grounded in our own faith tradition, but completely open and respectful of other traditions that are present. We have found common cause with our Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Baha’i brothers and sisters, as well as with those of other faith traditions and with those who claim no faith tradition but are human beings of good will.



In this week when Christians mark the depth of God’s solidarity with the suffering of humanity through Jesus’ outstretched arms on the cross and the power of life over death in his resurrection; in this week when Jews mark the Passover and the deep remembrance of God’s liberation of God’s people; in this week when Baha’is celebrate worldwide the First Day of Ridvan (Paradise), their most Holy Day, calling us to remembrance of the oneness of humanity, religion, and our Creator, we come together in the strongest way possible to say NO to hate in all its forms and YES to love. We ask all of you, our beloved neighbors in the High Country, to join us in this witness. We ask you to help us blanket the High Country in the love that surpasses understanding and to extend that love to our neighbor.



You will see this wording on yard signs and fliers throughout our community:



Say NO to hate

Say YES to love

Love God

Love Your Neighbor



Make a copy of this image, obtain a flier, put up a yard sign--however you are moved to respond--and join us in blanketing the High Country with LOVE. Ask your neighbor, ask a business to put the flier in their window. If you don’t adhere to a faith tradition, but do desire to convey love to your neighbor, we invite you to be creative and create a sign that expresses these sentiments in keeping with your deepest values.



We are a wonderful community with people of goodwill from every perspective. We are small enough and close enough that we can decide what kind of community we want to be. Join us this week, and in all the weeks to come, and help us weave the threads of love that bind us into the beloved community that is our deepest hope and longing.



For more information, contact any of the faith leaders below. Yard signs and fliers are available from your house of worship or from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church--170 Councill Street in Boone (back long drive behind Earth Fare). For more information, see the High Country Multi-faith Clergy and Leaders Facebook page.



It is our privilege to serve the High Country. We wish you peace and an abundance of blessing.



Rev. Wes Austin, Deerfield United Methodist Church

The Rev. Cynthia Banks, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

Rev. Kathy Beach, Rumple Memorial Presbyterian

The Rev. Thomas Brown, Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Rev. Laura Byrch, Boone United Methodist Church

Rev. Ben Carson, FaithBridge UMC

Rev. Melanie Childers

Dr. Tiffany Y. Christian

Rev. Roy Dobyns

Rev. Luke Edwards, King Street Church

The Rev. Deacon Greg Erickson, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

Jonathan and Jaleh Estes, Baha’is of Watauga County

The Rev. Tamara Franks, High Country United Church of Christ

The Rt. Rev. J. Gary Gloster

Rev. Stephanie Coble Hankins, Presbyterian Episcopal Campus Ministry

Rev. Lory Beth Huffman, Boone United Methodist Church

Mr. Corey Kundert, Presbyterian Episcopal Campus Ministry

Rev. Cindy Lunsford, Henson Chapel UMC and Mabel UMC

Rev. Warren Lunsford, Little Laurel UMC, Pleasant Valley UMC, and Sutherland UMC

Pastor Michael Mathes, Boone Mennonite Brethren Church

The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin, Holy Cross Episcopal Church

Rev. Jeff McClain, Boone United Methodist Church

Rev. Lance Perry

Rabbi Stephen Roberts, The Temple of the High Country

Mr. Ron Rognstad, Bahai's of Ashe County

The Rev. Anna Shine, Holy Cross Episcopal Church

Rev. Kyle Sigmon, FaithBridge UMC

Bishop Trent Spaulding, Boone Ward, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Rev. Michael Tanner

The Rev. Steve Troisi, Grace Lutheran Church

watsonwc3@gmail.com

Paula,

I have issues with your piece. While you may come to the mountains to escape “destructive political banter,” the people who live and work here have to deal with politics. While this may be a vacation destination for you and many others, this is home for many people as well. People who have to deal with the effects of policies in Washington D.C., people who have to deal with the destructive political banter, people who have to worry about ICE raids and hate speech. People like my family who have been in this county since my ancestor David Watson was deeded land for his valor in the Revolutionary War.

Watauga County is a vacation destination for many but it is home for ~18,000 full time residents, the median household income is only $17,424, making the median hourly wage of a fulltime worked $17,424. Thriving is not when 60% of the population in the county is at or below the poverty line. Thriving is not when people have to hold down multiple jobs to make rent. Thriving is not working in a seasonal tourist industry that is dependent on the whims of wealthy visitors. In 2016, Watauga County’s portion of Blowing Rock alone generated over “$150 million in tourism expenditures,” according to a recent article in the Watauga Democrat written by Jeff Eason. The economic stimulus produced by tourism not only fails to trickle down to most workers, but, in fact, ensures the existence of an underpaid labor class. Tourism is an extraction based industry

I do not understand how the signs to “Love God, Love each other, and Say no to hate” are political. Or militarize God? In my view the only way the statements “Love God, Love your neighbor, say no to hate” is political and progressive is if you align conservativism with hating your neighbor and hating God. Nothing on those signs is progressive. If it is progressive to love God and say no to Hate I don’t ever want to be lumped into a conservative camp. Nowhere on the sign does it say ANYTHING about immigration, sexuality/gender. In my reading of the Bible God IS LOVE – therefore Loving God and Loving your neighbor cannot be political because they are part of God’s teaching. One of those “sleepy corners that begs to be left in peace” belongs to the Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church, are you accusing this church of militarizing God? Or politicizing God?

My father’s side of the family has been in Watauga County since the Revolutionary War, but my mother’s family has only been in the US for 3 generations. As the grandchild of Mexican immigrants I want to share with you some Bible verses about immigrants:

You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:19

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:34

‘Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.’ Then all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

Leviticus 27:19

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.

Matthew 25:35

Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me.

Matthew 25:40

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

Luke 10:27

Paula, if you want to talk about justice, allow people who live in an area year round to express their political views just as a seasonal resident like yourself has. I pray that there is a day when all people can live together peacefully as Americans, as children of the world, as children of God.



Sincerely, Willard C. Watson III

watsonwc3@gmail.com

I also take issue with the lack of formatting this comment section allows.

watsonwc3@gmail.com

Paula,



I have issues with your piece. While you may come to the mountains to escape “destructive political banter,” the people who live and work here have to deal with politics. Watauga County may be a vacation destination for you and many others, this place is also home for many people. People who have to deal with the effects of policies in Washington D.C., people who have to deal with destructive political banter, people who have to worry about ICE raids and hate speech. People like my family who have been in this county since my ancestor David Watson was deeded land for his valor in the Revolutionary War.



Watauga County is a vacation destination for many but it is home for ~18,000 full time residents, the median household income is only $17,424, making the median hourly wage of a fulltime worker $17,424. When 60% of the county population is at or below the poverty line, that county is not "thriving." Thriving is not people holding down multiple jobs to make rent. Thriving is not working in a seasonal tourist industry that is dependent on the generosity of wealthy visitors. In 2016, Watauga County’s portion of Blowing Rock alone generated over “$150 million in tourism expenditures,” according to a recent article in the Watauga Democrat written by Jeff Eason. The economic stimulus produced by tourism not only fails to trickle down to most workers, but, in fact, ensures the existence of an underpaid labor class. Tourism is an extraction based industry.



I do not understand how the signs to “Love God, Love each other, and Say no to hate” are political. Or militarize God? In my view the only way the statements “Love God, Love your neighbor, say no to hate” is political and progressive is if you align conservatism with hating your neighbor and hating God. Nowhere on the sign does it say ANYTHING about immigration or sexuality/gender. Nothing on those signs is progressive. If it is progressive to love God and say no to Hate I don’t ever want to be lumped into a conservative camp. In my reading of the Bible God IS LOVE – therefore loving God and loving your neighbor cannot be political because they are part of God’s word. One of those “sleepy corners that begs to be left in peace” belongs to the Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church, are you accusing this church of politicizing or militarizing God?



My father’s side of the family has been in Watauga County since the Revolutionary War, but my mother’s family has only been in the US for 3 generations. As the grandchild of Mexican immigrants I want to share with you some Bible verses about immigrants:



You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:19



The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:34



‘Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.’ Then all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

Leviticus 27:19



I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.

Matthew 25:35



Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me.

Matthew 25:40



You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

Luke 10:27



Paula, if you want to talk about justice, allow people who live in an area year round to express their political views just as a seasonal resident like yourself has. I pray that there is a day when all people can live together peacefully as Americans, as children of the world, as children of God. I pray for a day when loving your neighbor, and loving all people from all walks of life is no longer viewed as progressive, but the status quo.



Sincerely,



Willard C. Watson III

Ta2Lule

I’m not a hater, I believe everyone has the right to their own choices. Religion, sexuality and political . When I first

saw those signs along the roadside I instantly thought there had been an act of violence in that spot, now I see it is signage put up by members of possibly a religious organization of which I may not be a member. The signs have no place in the beauty of the mountainside, they should remain on private property only. I do not need to be reminded to love, I do so of my own free will. Nothing is worse than seeing a barrage of signs cluttering up the scenery . I don’t care for the message, although I do mind being told to “Love God”. This signage is insulting to me, it doesn’t belong on public property, and I really do “hate” the clutter, Thank you.

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