A pastor in Palo Alto, California, has resigned after criticizing the city’s wealthy progressive residents on Twitter, but he isn’t apologizing for calling it an “elitist sh__ den of hate.”
The Rev. Gregory Stevens — a 28-year-old associate pastor with the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto — sparked an online controversy when he used his Twitter account to call the city disgusting and criticize the city’s “social justice’ on Earth Day,” calling it a “f_____ joke.”
He later deleted the tweets, but they were posted on a public document along with other items from a city council meeting, including a conditional use permit which would allow the church to lease space to community groups for dance troupes and mental health counselors, the Palo Alto Daily News reported.
The city, after some contention, approved the permit at the May 14 meeting in a 7-2 vote.
Stevens said in a statement that he resigned to “help minimize the negativity focused on the good community work being done at the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto,” SFGate reported.
“I tweeted to vent my frustration, and I acknowledge that I did so in an unprofessional and often hurtful way. My Twitter community has always been a small group of progressive ministers and Leftist political activists to whom my rants were geared,” Stevens said.
He underscored in the statement why he was critical of Palo Alto, a city where home prices now average in the millions thanks to the booming tech industry.
“In my experience of trying to work with this community for almost 3 years, I believe Palo Alto is a ghetto of wealth, power, and elitist liberalism by proxy, meaning that many community members claim to want to fight for social justice issues, but that desire doesn’t translate into action,” Stevens wrote. “If the same energies used to organize neighbors around minor parking issues, a young girls choirs, and ‘nasty tweets’ were honed to fight actual injustices, Palo Alto would be a very different city. Palo Alto needs more action, less lip service.”
On social media, Stevens’ tweets received a mixed response.
“Pastor Gregory Stevens is an actual hero, and 100 percent correct. If Jesus was here today, he wouldn't be turning over the tables of money changers in the temple, but instead be taking an axe to Silicon Valley,” tweeted Matthew Hughes, a reporter for NextWeb in the UK.
“I'm not religious, but if I was a man of faith, I'd want someone like Gregory Stevens guiding me,” another Twitter user said.
Palo Alto Vice Mayor Eric Filseth called the tweets “vile,” the Daily News reported.
Stevens told KQED: "I'm making a moral claim against Palo Alto, and so for those people who think buying Teslas is going to save the world, [and they] want to make a moral claim to me because I used the wrong word? I mean this is exactly what I mean by elitist Palo Alto liberalism. In a liberal’s mind in Palo Alto, it's civility that you're supposed to have, and not a passion and a fire for equality, for equity and for justice,"
According to the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto website, Stevens has been an associate pastor for faith formation and public life since August 2015. A graduate of the University of South Florida, Stevens completed his Master of Divinity degree at Claremont School of Theology in southern California in May 2015. He has a background in pastoral leadership and community organizing, and has received “outstanding recommendations and references for his creativity, vision, hard work, and ability to relate to people.”
Besides bashing Palo Alto, he also ranted about bathroom lines, Beyonce and “car scents” in his tweets.
Stevens also tweeted that he plans to move to San Francisco once his lease was up in Palo Alto.
"I can't figure out how to grow a church," Stevens wrote on March 20. "I can't even get 3 people around a table of free food to talk about compost as a metaphor for social/personal change. #bye."
Pastor Gregory Stevens is an actual hero, and 100 percent correct. If Jesus was here today, he wouldn't be turning over the tables of money changers in the temple, but instead be taking an axe to Silicon Valley.https://t.co/neEzzEjVzK
— Matthew Hughes (@matthewhughes) May 22, 2018