That headline made the Ames Tribune on Tuesday, March 9, 2010 (see article below). At the time I thought it odd that it was given a fair amount of space in the paper. It seemed like it wasn't really all that big of a deal. Nothing made it out of the building. No one was hurt. Nothing much was damaged except for some food items that had to be thrown away, and all the things scattered about the church that had to be picked up and put away. It was a nuisance, to be sure. But in the grand scheme of things, it didn't seem worth mentioning to people, except those in leadership to make sure they stay informed.
Since the Tribune article was published, however, this bizarre, but seemingly inconsequential event has taken on a life of it's own in the news media and on the internet. This little local news story has spread from central Iowa (Tribune, Des Moines Register, WOI TV News) to Omaha to Cedar Rapids, but it doesn't stop there. Coverage goes from New York to San Francisco, but it doesn't stop there. This little local news story found it's way to England, the Philippines and even China! It is the source of interesting and very speculative comments on blogs and news sites. Why? Well because it brings together two things that aren't supposed to go together - porn and church. And that has captivated people's imaginations.
Amid all the questions about where the man got the porn in the first place, assumptions by some that it must have been a Catholic Church with deviant priests, a few negative comments about religion in general, and many pronouncements of where this man was heading in the afterlife, I found what to me was the most informed comment. Someone had actually taken the time to find us on the web, cut and paste our logo "Come as you are... you belong", and comment - "I think this guy misunderstood."
At First Christian Church, we try to follow the way of Jesus. Jesus ate with the wrong crowd. He was seen with the wrong people. He graciously received the gifts of ones considered unworthy. We want to let people know that we do want to welcome everyone and that there is a place at the table here for all kinds of people. Here we take hospitality and making people feel welcome seriously. This man would have been welcome to worship with us or break bread with us. But unfortunately, he entered the building after it had been locked up and there was no one there to hear his story or his struggles; no one to help him understand that welcome and hospitality and belonging don't mean "anything goes." We are a community of faith on a journey together. We are here to help one another when we need it, whether that be guidance, prayers, hugs, tears, affirmation or a listening ear. We are all trying to do our best to follow Jesus who shows us a better way of living and learning and loving, and serving a God who is bigger than anything we can think or imagine.
AMES, Iowa, March 11 (UPI) -- An Iowa man allegedly broke into a church and used electronic equipment belonging to the facility to watch pornographic films in the basement, police said.
Ames, Iowa, police said Charles Bentley, 55, was arrested Friday morning after employees of the Ames Community Preschool showed up for work at the First Christian Church and called 911 to report items missing and sounds coming from the basement, the Ames (Iowa) Tribune reported Thursday.
Investigators said Bentley, who may have spent the night at the church, entered the facility and brought items from around the church into the basement and set up a camp site with church-owned items including food, kitchen utensils, clothes, electronic equipment and a 26-inch flat-screen television.
"He kind of made himself at home," said Cmdr. Mike Brennan of the Ames Police Department.
Police said they believe Bentley used the church's equipment to watch pornographic films he was carrying at the time of his arrest. He was charged with second-degree burglary and booked into the Story County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bond