". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13

Commentary

Portland Church Uses Mob Attack for Gospel Witness, Calls for Prayer

June 30, 2022

They came in force, armed with spray paint and rocks. They shielded their identity from security cameras with umbrellas and masks. After assembling in a park, as many as 100 people marched two blocks to the office building of Hinson Baptist Church, which also houses a community coffee shop and office space for First Image, a Christian pro-life group that operates pregnancy centers in the Portland, Ore. area.

An online flyer for the march called to “Abolish SCOTUS” — an acronym for the Supreme Court. It announced the march “to continue applying pressure and building momentum” would “be passing the main office of a ‘crisis pregnancy center.’” With only a few hours’ warning, the church hired contractors to hurriedly board up the windows, but the rush job was only partially completed when the mob approached.

“The crowd marched around the entire city block, chanting the sort of slogans you’ve heard on the news since Roe was overturned,” wrote Michael Lawrence, a pastor of Hinson Baptist Church. “After circling the block, a group of well-prepared and fully masked individuals broke off. … They smashed almost every ground-floor window on the side of the building that hadn’t yet been boarded up and covered the building in vile graffiti aimed specifically at Christians.”

“The damage was done in just moments. With the rest of the marchers, whose [size] largely shielded the vandals from view, they then marched back to the park, shedding their black Antifa-style clothing on the way,” Lawrence continued. “The level of organization and coordination was striking, including sending a ‘scout’ 30 minutes before the rally to photograph the security cameras and note how to avoid being identified.”

The attack took place in broad daylight. Lawrence reported that the crowd began their march about 7:00 p.m., and “by 8:00 p.m., police tape cordoned off the entire building.” The sun set in Portland at 9:05 p.m. on Monday. The incident marked the third straight night of destructive marches in the city, with groups of activists creating havoc on Saturday and Sunday nights as well.

Portland police were severely outnumbered on each occasion. “Officers were monitoring the crowd, but did not have resources to intervene in the moment,” they said of Saturday’s destruction. On Sunday, “when officers responded, the crowd began throwing projectiles at officers, including commercial-grade fireworks, paint balloons and large rocks.” When officers attempted a traffic stop, “a group rushed toward officers, throwing fireworks and rocks at them and their vehicles.” They could not gain control of the situation because of “the limited number of officers available citywide.” On Monday, officers at the scene could do nothing but observe and swallow the crowd’s insults.

A female photojournalist on the scene documented (reader discretion advised at this link) the attack as well as she could, but the crowd obstructed her view with umbrellas. She “recalled her phone getting knocked out of her hands at least three more times, being hit in the head by a screen window that had been removed from the building, and being pepper sprayed in the face” — which she reported to the police as assault.

The damage could have been much worse. First Image had already sustained attacks at two of its three locations. One location had its windows smashed out and vile graffiti spray-painted on the building on May 4. Another location was firebombed on June 11. In light of those attacks, Lawrence said, “in answer to the prayers of many, there was no fire, no serious injuries, and no further attempts to damage the building. We don’t take this for granted.”

But what the vandals meant for evil God meant for good (Genesis 50:20). That night, one pastor’s backyard “was filled with non-Christian neighbors who were shaken up by the event. He and his wife were comforting them and using the opportunity to explain our hope in Christ,” wrote Lawrence.

The next morning, “our community coffee shop was able to open,” he continued. He and the manager had “thought together of what she and her staff could say in response that would make clear that while we’re not surprised — Jesus warned us of the world’s hatred — we’re not filled with hatred in return.”

Hinson Baptist Church’s “staff is praying for gospel conversations and gospel opportunities to come out of what can only be described as persecution — especially with our neighbors who do not share our politics, our ethics, or our faith.” Lawrence shared what his church is praying for, so that other believers can pray along with them:

  • That our staff and members would seize every opportunity for the gospel. Many people are asking us this morning how we’re doing, and every one of those conversations is an opportunity to explain our hope in Christ.
  • For the physical safety of our staff and members, as well as the staff of First Image, who were the primary target of the violence.
  • That we’d have wisdom as we cooperate with the police in their investigation. The desire for temporal justice and the desire for gospel mercy for the guilty are not incompatible.
  • That our members and staff, especially our coffee shop workers, would continue to have an open, welcoming, hospitable attitude toward our neighborhood. As persecution goes, this was mild, and we’re not surprised because Jesus warned us of it (John 15:20). But we don’t want this to be an opportunity for the enemy to sow seeds of fear, bitterness, or suspicion that would cause us to pull back. We want to be those who demonstrate the truth and power of the gospel as we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).

To that list, I’d add one more, which is really an extension of those: pray that God would convict and convert many of those who participated in the attack, to the praise of his glorious grace (Ephesians 1:6).

Paul wrote from prison, “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12), and Lawrence and his fellow pastors likely think the same.

Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.