Op-Ed: Pastor’s Plea for Re-Opening Was Disheartening, Divisive, a Betrayal of History

On June 11, San Jose Inside published an open letter from Keith Crosby, the lead pastor of Hillside Church, to several local and state officials regarding the continued moratorium on religious gatherings in light of COVID-10. While Pastor Crosby raised important and difficult questions regarding the state and county’s handling of the pandemic and the subsequent shelter-in-place order, his letter reflects a stance that is, to say the least, unbecoming of a faith leader with influence in our community.

In the published piece, as well as a more inflammatory version of the letter dated June 9, which cc’d a slew of local and state politicians and news outlets, Pastor Crosby began by decrying the “killing (some would say murder) of George Floyd.”

“Events such as these,” Crosby argued, “have collateral effects.”

While one might assume Crosby was preparing to follow suit with faith leader across the country and use the horror of Floyd’s murder as a salvo for a much-needed conversation about systemic racism in the modern U.S., his letter took a disconcerting turn.

Addressing public officials, Crosby wrote, “Due to circumstances beyond your control, the protest gathering and riots in California, San Jose, and across the nation have nullified the efficacy of the various COVID-19 countermeasures … I suppose it is not your fault. It is the result of the situation on the ground.”

Crosby went on to say that “the legitimate protestors” and “rioters” (he closely associates the two) have rendered the COVID-19 countermeasure “irretrievably compromised.”

The remainder of the letter offered a plea for officials to lift restrictions on religious gatherings by July 1 so that the pastor and other institutions may return to in-person interactions with their congregations.

There are several alarming elements in the pastor’s letter (both the June 11 and June 9 versions) including his use of scare quotes to refer to “science” (see the June 9 letter), a selective invocation of biblical quotes to justify his critique of a secular office, a cavalier conflation of “the legitimate protestors” and “rioters” (again, see the June 9 letter), his failure to recognize that it was the militarized SJPD who shirked social distancing protocols and mask-wearing (not protestors), his complete omission of well-documented excessive use of force by officer’s against peaceful protestors, and so on.

While I leave it to others to address these issues, I would like to narrow in on the pastor’s primary justification for the reopening of his church for public gatherings. In his impassion letter, Crosby states that his church (and many others like it) provides “essential, psychological, and spiritual grounding to people.”

As a lifelong San Josean, baptized at Saint Christopher Church and raised in the warm embrace of the nondenominational Cornerstone Community Church, I would not question the value of the services that the pastor provides—not just his for congregation—but the community at large.

That being said, the South Bay possess a rich history of faith leaders using their positions of influence to bring communities together and champion causes for social justice. Consider the well-known case of Father Donald McDonnell of Our Lady of Guadalupe and his work with Cesar Chavez on San Jose’s East Side.

I found Crosby’s opportunistic reference to Floyd’s murder and his description of protestors to be a betrayal of this history. Pastor Crosby’s use of the pulpit (albeit it a virtual one) is disheartening at best and divisive at worst.

Dr. Nicholas Barron teaches anthropology at Mission College and Gavilan College. He was born and raised in San Jose. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches and letters to [email protected].

22 Comments

  1. Mr. Barron, thank you for this piece. Pastor’s Crosby description of protestors and the killing of George were very concerning to me. The most concerning part was his claim he was representing all congregations of faith. This is why Christian as a whole have a bad reputation. Some of these leaders of faith politizase their faith title and office and claim others support them. Once again pastor Crosby, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!

    • > Once again pastor Crosby, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!

      FEXXY:

      You really are a fake Christian.

      Pastor Crosby is an authentic Christian, You are — if nothing else — a Nancy Pelosi Democrat.

      If the Catholic Church still existed, it would have excommunicated Pelosi a long, long time ago.

  2. I’m sorry you use vitriol and ad hominem attacks rather than addressing the points of my plea. I suppose it’s easier to attack the person than the problem. Just for the record these draconian policies are harming the poor:

    1) 40% of low-income workers have lost their jobs
    2) Minority and black communities most affected by job loss and business closures
    3) Gov. Newsom has struck a thoughtful balance with Reopening plan Dr. Cody has largely ignored.
    4) Dr. Cody and those supervisors who are ducking responsibility are hurting most vulnerable

    While we don’t brag about our social justice work to be seen by others. We’ve worked quietly in distressed communities for over two decades, receiving multiple citations from the Mayor and City Council:

    https://www.hillside.org/farmdrive

    No need to reply.

    • I am sorry you are an hereje pastor Crosby. Speak for yourself and your congregations not for all congregations of faith. I became a Christian missionary early in my life. I am a professional mental health provider and a faith leader too. We serve the same people per your claims, but we are obviously on opposite understanding and actions. George Floyd was killed by criminal police elements, existing cultures of injustice, and by those who justify these injustices. Mind your own business and let other do the same. We do not need your voice to express our opinions and beliefs! Respect each faith community actions on reopening or not their communities of faith services and activities. You have the same rights! MIND YOU OWN BUSINESS!

      • > George Floyd was killed by criminal police elements, existing cultures of injustice, and by those who justify these injustices.

        Check your Ten Commandments, FEXXY.

        This is “bearing false witness”.

        There has been NO trial or finding of facts yet. At best, we can suspect that there may have been a “bad cop”, but to make a BLANKET accusation against “criminal police elements” and smear all cops is – – – – sinful.

        You DO understand the concept of sinfulness, FEXXY, don’t you?

        You might want to get ahead of the game and schedule about ten confessions for your self, and stock up on rosaries and get started on your “Hail Mary’s”..

    • On another note pastor Crosby, you work so quietly that you are using your title for political reasons. Our missionaries have also been arrested here in San Jose and elsewhere, be killed by Narco lords, and Maras in Mexico and Central America. Jesus never claimed the path of the faithful will be easy. On the contrary. Are you ready for the challenge!?

  3. Mr. Baron thank you for your piece. I believe it is illustrative of the problems that plague our divided society. It’s easier to attack a person rather than address an idea. Ad hominem attacks are the common fare these days. You’ve largely failed to address the substance of my argument.

    But worse than that, you conveniently neglect to address or admit that these draconian policies are harming the poor:

    1) 40% of low-income workers have lost their jobs
    2) Minority and black communities most affected by job loss and business closures
    3) Gov. Newsom has struck a thoughtful balance with the reopening plan an approach that Dr. Cody has largely ignored.
    4) Dr. Cody and those supervisors who are ducking responsibility are hurting most vulnerable.

    Thank you for your reference to the work on the east side and Cesar Chavez’s son. While we don’t make it a point to brag about our social justice work rather than do single events, we have spent decades in distressed neighborhoods helping those who are largely disenfranchised, undocumented, and distressed. We tutor from 6th grade through high school, we provide school supplies… we get involved in their lives. We help them apply for college, junior college, university, etc. We advocate for them:

    https://www.hillside.org/farmdrive

    I don’t know about Guadalupe… that was a while ago… but good for them.

    • You are playing the victim now pastor Crosby and re-repeating you failed sermon. It appears the one having a hard time with opposing views and opinions is you not Mr. Barron.

      • > You are playing the victim now pastor Crosby and re-repeating you failed sermon.

        Religious people really offend you, don’t they, Fexxy.

        Frankly, your brand of religious “piety” sounds like a mish-mash of social justice virtue signaling, “liberation theology” and “Pharisees ringing the bell in the temple after dropping a shekel in the charity box.”

        You more resemble the priest or the Levite than the good Samaritan.

        • Bubble, I know pastor Crosby and you are pro-reopening and saving the economy over saving lives. Others think the contrary. To fear God, is to hate evil; to love God is to obey his law. I do not have to prove to anyone my Christianity, Jewish, so on. He knows mankind hearts. Trump brags about he and the Christians, but we all know he is a sexual predator, adulterous behavior, and how he brags grabbing women by their pussies. You will know them by their fruits says the word. I know I am sinful. I have never engaged on those graveyard sins. Those that involve the flesh, fornication, adultery, so on. The foolishness of some conservatives, Trump monkeys, is way too easy to spot. Their words and actions are incongruent! You cannot serve God and Trump, Clinton, or any other clown of this world. There is only one God, lord, and kind. You cannot have other. This is the first commandment.

        • I am religious Bubble, this is why I have only had one sexual partner in my entire life’ have never engaged in substances use, honor my father and mother…I have God’s laws written in the tablet of my heart. Those who brag about being religious are not. They behave one way when they are in public and in a different way when they are alone. GENERACIÓN DE SERPIENTES! God asks for a private relationship with him that is intimate and truthful, not to brag about it! Pastor Crosby is a fool!

          • > I am religious Bubble,

            And the Pharisees believed they were “religious”, too.

            > I have God’s laws written in the tablet of my heart.

            You should probably double check to see if you have the complete list.

            > I know I am sinful. I have never engaged on those graveyard sins.

            I think Catholics refer to this as being a “cafeteria Catholic”. I can’t avoid ALL sins, so I’ll just avoid heresy and apostasy, but hey, no one’s perfect so a few sins of the flesh now and then are “normal”.

            > God asks for a private relationship with him that is intimate and truthful, not to brag about it! Pastor Crosby is a fool!

            “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

  4. I probably disagree with Pastor Crosby on reopening religious services, but I didn’t find his letter offensive in the way that Mr. Barron and Fexxnist do. I feel like you are focusing too much on tone policing and maximizing outrage instead of focusing on the heart of your disagreement, which is how reopening would affect the public. For example, you say that the Pastor conflates rioters and peaceful protesters, but as far as I can tell he does not do that. He uses them together as a compound subject when he says they weren’t observing social distancing – if he was conflating them, he would be using the two terms interchangeably, but he simply said they did the same thing, which is fair considering that the so-called rioters and the protesters were in the same location and, in terms of social distancing, following similar behavior.

    I may agree with you, but I have a bit of an issue with your hyperbole (and I’m probably someone who is guilty of the very same thing and just doesn’t realize it most of the time): when we have an honest dialogue where we say what we believe and try to understand what the other person believes, we can more easily arrive at consensuses about what is best for society. My fear here is that instead of tackling differences of opinion head-on, we’re trying to beat the other side by shaming them. That relies on people already agreeing with us, discourages people who disagree with us from feeling they can be honest about what they believe, and precludes the possibility that there is some truth to the other side’s beliefs that we haven’t recognized (because you don’t know what you don’t know).

    In case you’re not clear what I see as hyperbolic or shaming, the words and phrases that I see as kind of unnecessarily loaded are:
    – “unbecoming” to describe his stance that religious institutions should open (some differences of opinion do reflect badly on people, such as believing in racist ideology, but I don’t think this is such an opinion)
    – “inflammatory” and “alarming” to describe his letter (I simply disagree after reading both letters)
    – “selective” to describe his quotes from the Bible (I don’t know what else reference to Biblical scripture could be, but if you mean he only uses them to argue for one side, that’s untrue – he uses Romans and Peter as justification for following county social distancing orders, but cites Hebrews against the county social distancing orders)
    – your focus on scare quotes around the word “science” seem intended to suggest that the pastor doesn’t believe in science in general, rather than the specific science behind the pandemic response
    – I agree with you that the police shirked mask regulations and social distancing, and I think the right to peaceably assemble is more important than the responsibility to stay home, but it’s just false to say that the protesters were socially distancing and the police weren’t – many of the protesters were wearing masks, but neither the protesters nor the police were social distancing
    – I agree with you that the police used excessive force and even that they sparked the ‘riot’, but the letter was about social distancing and only referenced the protests as it relates to social distancing, not the use of force by police, and so it seems odd for you to use the failure to mention this as a criticism against the pastor

    Again, perhaps I’m probably being a bit hypocritical here, because I’m sure there are times in the heat of an emotional discussion where I have certainly done this, but it’s easier to recognize it in others and point it out than it is to see it in yourself.

  5. Unbaptized, people who write opinions have to be aware not only of the words but also of the message and intentions of their writings. They should not assume others won’t pick on them. Pastor Crosby pretended to be righteous, but his messages were: If the government allowed protesters to protest, they should allow us open too. He even used the word ALLOW. Thus he implies the government is not treating communities of faith fairly. No one allowed the protesters to protest. They decided to do this what whatever the consequences and assumed the risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. His most concerning message is when he says some believe George was killed by police, but other disagree. I saw the video! I saw a man slowly died as a emotionless police officer kept his knee on the man’s neck. I saw a man pleading for his life. When he said Mama, I cried. I could not even imagine the pain of that mother when she would learn…I am a mother too. He claims public official are causing more harm than good by not reopening. This is his opinion; others dissent. He tried to force his views by brushing his pastor…

    • “Unbaptized, people who write opinions have to be aware not only of the words but also of the message and intentions of their writings… He even used the word ALLOW.”

      You have insanely high standards for other people, and yet almost no standards for yourself. You have written comments on SJI in the past that were tinged with almost blatant racism. You once insinuated that one of SJI’s journalism interns was unqualified to cover local politics because he was Asian. It seems to me as if your interest here is merely attacking someone else to elevate yourself as being better than them, going so far to use George Floyd as a tool to do so, and I find it incredibly offensive.

      • Exactly Unbaptized, this is why I am FEXXNIST here. This way people know my opinions and thoughts are mine not those of my faith community or employer. Pastor Crosby not only pretended to be the voice of his own faith community but also to be the voice of all other communities of faith in Santa Clara County. HE IS NOT!

    • I did a quick social media search on pastor Crosby, he appears to be what I suspected, an attention and power seeking pastor. The faithful pastors are busy now taking care of themselves and others. The attention and power seeker pastor is here attempting to achieve his political agenda. aren’t your blogs enough pastor Crosby?

  6. Bubble, if there is a Pharisee here that is Trump. Those were the ones that were preaching in public places and claiming they were the only religious authority in earth. Those were the ones that were against JESUS and their disciples. Those were the ones who denied having any sins at all. This is why when they were encouraging the people to stone the adulterous woman, JESUS asked to throw the first stone if they had no sin. Everyone left. The word says that there is no just man in earth that has never engaged in sin. The Christian path and transformation is ongoing. This is why the lord says we have to persevere until the end. We never know when Jesus will come to judge us. By admitting I am sinful, I am admitting I am not perfect and my transformation is ongoing. There are differences in sinful behavior. God recognizes the difference in misdemeanor and felony sins so you would better understand me. I have engaged in some minor infractions through my life time, never misdemeanors or felony sins. The same for crimes. I have received a fine for inadvertently crossing the Golden Bridge without paying and once for parking on the wrong spot here in San José. I have no misdemeanor or felony offenses of any kind. At my faith community I had been called out for my spiritual infractions. Trump’s criminal and immoral behavior is well known. I am glad the majority of republicans are starting to see this with the exception of the Trump’s monkeys which you are one of them. Truly yours darling, FEXXNIST.

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