Dick Bernal, pastor of Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose, Calif., wasbombarded with complaints after hosting former President Clinton at a galaprogram at the church earlier this month. He was then criticized by one ofthe fund-raiser organizers for apologizing for upsetting people.
Clinton spoke just briefly at the March 2 evening, which also featured NewAge guru Deepak Chopra and rap singer M.C. Hammer, who is a member of the5,000-strong church, the largest in the Silicon Valley area. Clinton'spresence helped draw 2,500 high-paying attendees--but also promptedhundreds of "hate mail" messages, Bernal told "The (San Jose) Mercury News."
He said that he was shocked by the response. "Dear God, has the church ofJesus Christ been reduced to the Republican Party? I've got 3,000 blackpeople in my church, and 95 percent of them are Democrats. Bill Clintonisn't welcome in my church? I mean, come on, give me a break. To me, Clintonis a guy who needs redemption, like anybody else."
Hammer said that the event had unified Hindus and Christians in thecommunity "on behalf of humanity." He told the "News": "I was taken aback bycriticism from some of the people who claim to be, quote-unquote,'Christians.' Because how can you say you're a lover of Christ and then becritical of an event that's helping people who can't help themselves?"
But that didn't end the bad feeling. Kailash Joshi, president of the IndUSEntrepreneurs, a local Indo-American business association coordinating the$25 million fund-raising effort to which the March 2 event contributed, saidthat Bernal should not have apologized. "We are insulted, because Clintonwas our honored guest," he told the newspaper.
Bernal said that he did not want to offend Joshi. "He's a nice man. Buthe's not the one who got the e-mails." He said: "I just caught so much flakfrom the evangelical right wing--of which I'm a proud member...I got 600e-mails from Christian people telling me I was going to hell." Bernal saidit was not as though Clinton had spoken about morality. "He spent fourminutes talking only about India and the need."
One of those who opposed Clinton's appearance was Galen Call, seniorpastor of Los Gatos Christian Church. He said Clinton could be forgiven forhis wrongs, but "setting him in a place of honor and leadership is anotherquestion." Joshi said that the event had not been church-sponsored. "It'sjust like you allow me to have a party in your house," he said. "That's allit is."
Last August, Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Church in suburbanChicago, was criticized for inviting then-President Clinton to speak at aleadership conference at the church.