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Dallastown church's 's*!*holes' sign turns heads
St. Paul's United Church of Christ Pastor Chris Rodkey makes a statement with postings on the church signs. Bill Kalina
When St. Paul’s United Church of Christ Pastor Christopher Rodkey plans messages for his church signs, he has to keep three things in mind: length, connection to the Bible and thought-provoking value, though that hasn’t always been the case.
“I think the sign said ‘Happy New Year’ for the last two weeks,” he said.
But the sign put up Sunday, Jan 14, at the Dallastown church checked all three boxes and then some.
The sign, still up as of Wednesday, Jan. 17, reads, “Blessed are those from the s*!*holes.”
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Rodkey said he installed the message himself as a result of the conversation surrounding a vulgarity used by President Donald Trump last week.
In a meeting on immigration with lawmakers in the Oval Office on Thursday, Jan. 11, Trump reportedly asked why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “sh—hole countries” in Africa, according to The Associated Press.
“I was sort of horrified by the discourse around it,” Rodkey said.
He said the profanity Trump reportedly used wasn’t the sticking point for him; it was those around the president who defended its underlying message.
“What I find racially problematic was the way in which those that (were there) defended it,” he said of the remarks that targeted majority-black countries. “Elected leaders actually justified the use of the language.”
Along with the short church sign statement, Rodkey included a biblical passage from the Gospel of Luke, 17:11-19, which tells of Jesus healing lepers.
Rodkey said the president's remarks about African countries reminded him of the passage he attached on the church sign because it related to those seen as most disposable in society in Jerusalem.
“Lepers were literally the most abject people in that culture,” Rodkey said, and Jesus showed compassion.
Sign: This is not the first time a sign at St. Paul’s UCC has turned heads.
In June 2016, Rodkey approved a message on the church’s sign that read “Wishing a blessed Ramadan to our Muslim neighbors.”
The statement caught the eye of then-Spring Grove school board member Matthew Jansen, who left a strongly worded voicemail message for Rodkey.
In the message, released by Rodkey, Jansen called the sign “despicable” and “unbelievable” and called Islam a “godless,” and “pagan” religion.
Jansen later apologized for the remarks on in a since-deleted tweet.
“I was out of line,” he tweeted in June 2016.
Jansen has since resigned from the Spring Grove school board after moving out of the district to Dallastown.
Positive reception ... so far: So far, Rodkey said he has gotten no complaints about the church sign.
“I’ve gotten couple of emails and messages on Facebook saying ‘Hey, I like the sign,’ and ‘Keep it up,’ but we’ll see what happens by the end of the week,” he said, anticipating a response from news media reports.
Although the "s*!*holes" message is posted on the church sign and was reviewed by several church leaders, Rodkey said the message does not speak for the congregation.
“My politics are my politics,” he said.
If anything, the message will spur discussion on ethnocentrism, he said.
“It is just a consistent message (from politicians) to speak about two-thirds of the world in this way,” Rodkey said, and he’d like to see that dialogue change.