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From the Congregants
In the 2006 New York Times article, the reporter gathered a variety of reactions from the congregants.1
- “‘Most of my friends are believers,’ said Shannon Staiger, a psychotherapist and church member, ‘and they think if you’re a believer, you’ll vote for Bush. And it’s scary to go against that.’”
- “”When we joined years ago, Greg was a conservative speaker,’ said William Berggren, a lawyer who joined the church with his wife six years ago. ‘But we totally disagreed with him on this. You can’t be a Christian and ignore actions that you feel are wrong. A case in point is the abortion issue. If the church were awake when abortion was passed in the 70’s, it wouldn’t have happened. But the church was asleep.’”
- “David Churchill, a truck driver for U.P.S. and a Teamster for 26 years, said he had been ‘raised in a religious-right home’ but was torn between the Republican expectations of faith and family and the Democratic expectations of his union. When Mr. Boyd preached his sermons, 'it was liberating to me,' Mr. Churchill said.”
Laurie Goodstein, “Disowning Conservative Politics, Evangelical Pastor Rattles Flock,” New York Times, September 30, 2006. ↩
Twelve years after these sermons were delivered, their messages are still on people's minds.
Two congregants describe Boyd’s unique theological views and bold style as part of their motivations for joining the church. Fred says, “I’ve always thought that politics and religion don’t mix very well, and that’s what I liked about it.” When asked to elaborate, he said that churches that he sees mixing politics and religion too much “have a very interesting perspective on Christianity. It appears to me that it’s very judgemental and critical. It’s also supposed to be Republican, and I don’t believe that to be true. I believe Jesus was probably a democrat, actually.” He elaborated that this was because to him, Jesus’ “core teachings are more about reaching out and helping other people up rather than keeping people in their place and having them be grateful for the little drippings from the table of plenty.”2Whether this actually fits with Boyd’s doctrine of not mixing politics with religion, it’s clear that Fred felt comfortable expressing this view in the Woodland Hills community.
I believe Jesus was probably a democrat, actually.
Marcia, a longtime member, also describes how closely connected she feels to Boyd’s theology. She lists Boyd’s teaching as a main reason she joined Woodland Hills, and when asked if her personal beliefs diverge from his in anyway, she said, “No, I really do think it aligns really well with my values and I think it has helped to shape my values even more.”3
By contrast, Ivana, a twenty-something, outspoken young woman, emphasizes that she does not agree with everything Boyd says. To her, the most important aspect of his theology is the openness, and his willingness to allow for disagreement. This is a marked contrast from 1000 congregants who felt in 2004 that their disagreements with Pastor Boyd were too fundamental to be overlooked.
if you agreed with everything that your pastor said, you wouldn’t be thinking on your own.
She says, “I think that he’s very open about the fact that he’s very opinionated and a lot of the times he will say it like, this is my opinion. You guys can take of this what you would like, take of this what you feel disturbed to take, but this is my opinion.” When asked if she ever disagrees with Boyd, she answered a firm “yes” before I had even finished the question. She later elaborates, “I feel like if you agreed with everything that your pastor said you wouldn’t be thinking on your own.”4
Another younger member, Hannah, expresses the same sentiment: "I’ve found a lot of freedom and life in not looking to this church as having all the answers, final authority. They are not God, and they’re honest about that, and I really appreciate that they’re just willing to wrestle with religion as a whole, especially the things that are just hard to understand... There are still questions, and I just feel like that’s very life-giving."5
Fred Dahm, interview by Lillie Schneyer, May 15, 2016. ↩
Marcia Loween, interveiw by Lillie Schneyer, May 15, 2016. ↩
Ivana Cooper, interveiw by Lillie Schneyer, May 15, 2016. ↩
Hanna, interveiw by Lillie Schneyer, May 15, 2016. ↩