Editor’s note: This opinion piece by Roxanna Zalesny was in response to writer Joe Mathews’ March 17 opinion piece about Bethel Church – “Redding church practices what it preaches – it helps address community needs” – published in the San Francisco Chronicle. Zalesny’s opinion piece was also published on March 22 in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Open Forum: Bethel is why I chose to leave Redding”.
Zalesny granted aNewsCafe.com permission to publish her letter to the editor, which contains additional words that were not included in the S.F. Chronicle version.
If Joe Mathews is going to report on issues in and around other communities, it would seem reasonable to take the time to understand the topic more in depth. His column highlights many of the things Bethel has done and is doing in Redding, but it begs the question: “Why?” Many Redding residents are not so thrilled about Bethel’s ever-increasing presence in the community.
Redding’s population is largely hardworking Christian people living in a city that has lost its identity and any hope that its leadership will address the very real social issues that plague their daily lives.
Nearly anyone can be manipulated by the promise of a better tomorrow or simple answers to complex problems. The people of Redding’s focus on what Bethel is doing for them is unfortunately preventing them from asking what they might be doing to them.
Journalism’s goal should be to assist with providing a more comprehensive view of the facts so those unable or unwilling to question or investigate issues will have a clearer picture.
I recently chose to leave Redding after nearly 50 years in this community, where I raised my family and where many I love remain. I left almost entirely because of Bethel and the city’s passive complicity in the real factors that ail Redding.
Did you wonder why Bethel gave $500,000 for law enforcement but not homeless shelters, drug programs or LBGTQ programs? Have you considered the damage of Bethel’s view that homosexuality is a sin and should be cured through conversion therapy causes? Have you reviewed the view on this issue of professional boards that govern mental health practices?
Did anyone ask what happens to the hundreds of people who come from all over the world to have their serious mental or medical illness “healed”? When they don’t believe “strongly enough” to be healed, they end up on the streets of Redding, sick, alone and far from home. Please do some research.
Begin with the “seven mountain mandate,” which teaches that the church should take control of seven important aspects of society, and the New Apostolic Reformation (a growing movement in the U.S.). Review Bethel’s history in the nearby community of Weaverville (Trinity County). Look at the net worth of Bethel’s leader, Bill Johnson. Ask some questions. Find the answers.
I hope the people of Redding wake up and hold Bethel’s leadership and the city’s leadership accountable before it’s too late. Responsible journalism could help them. I am one who has joined many who have the option to leave. Someone should look at that trend as well.
Other concerns I have are that Bethel attracts uneducated, unskilled people, for low pay; driving down pay and edging out Redding youth from entry-level jobs.
They’re buying and renting much of the available housing, driving up housing costs. My recent sale is a perfect example. I had two offers on my home initially. One was from a professional woman who had just moved here after accepting a position at Shasta Community Health Center. Bethel bots came along and offered $15,000 over asking price. If I were wealthy or I wasn’t moving out of the area, I would never have engaged with Bethel at all. But I had no choice. I’ll probably always feel awful about it.
Roxanna Zalesny is a licensed clinical social worker, formerly of Redding.