An interloper in District Six


Republican Karen Handel, left, and Democrat Jon Ossoff are currently vying for the congressional seat in Georgia's Sixth District, a race that has garnered attention nationwide. Screen grab/

Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff are in a slugfest as they come down to the wire in their effort to win the congressional seat for Georgia’s Sixth District. Their recent debate was worth seeing, but the most interesting point in the debate came when Karen Handel, former Georgia secretary of state, asked her Democratic opponent: “Exactly, who are you going to vote for in this election?”

It was a pertinent and penetrating question, because Ossoff lives outside the Sixth Congressional District and cannot vote for himself. In other words, the law apparently permits a candidate to live outside a district he wishes to represent, but the law does not permit him to vote if he lives outside that district.

That is like shopping at Home Depot, but wanting to be on the board of directors at Lowe’s or a student at The Georgia Institute of Technology while running for president of the student government at the University of Georgia.

Having someone outside your district representing you in Congress is like having your next door neighbors planning your budget, your purchases, your vacations, your health care, buying your groceries, and decorating your house.

However, it could also be like the person who wants to represent the interests of Holy Hills Baptist Church, but never goes to that church.

In the church I pastored during my seminary days (1964-1967) there were some men in the church who were staunch segregationists. There was going to be a wedding at the church on a Saturday and the bride asked me if she could invite a dear African American lady who had worked for their family for years. I did not see how in the world that could be a problem, so I told her, “Yes!”

I conducted the wedding ceremony with delight and during the reception in the fellowship hall I met the friend who had been invited by the bride’s family to come to the wedding. She was a sweet Christian lady who obviously loved the Lord.

The next day was Sunday and I was immediately accosted by a self-appointed committee of three men who were obviously incensed that a black woman had been inside the four walls of our church and they proceeded to call me everything but a child of God.

Those men said they were calling for a business meeting to discuss the issue and my future as pastor of the church. The meeting was to be on the following Wednesday night and I was shocked when I saw the large number of people that showed up.

We generally had 25-30 people on Wednesday night, but that number had nearly tripled by the time the meeting was to start. I was promptly informed that everyone present was a member of the church with the right to vote in the business meeting.

The majority of those men and women present may have had their names on the church roll, but they had not been to the church in the 18 months I had been there. I had begged some of them to come and they were resistant to the idea of being present for Sunday School or worship.

It was not long until it was obvious the majority of people were present to vote me out as pastor of the church. A discussion ensued and it seemed apparent that the segregationist contingent had the votes necessary to accomplish their purpose.

Fifteen minutes into the discussion there was a man by the name of Curtis Finch who stood to speak. He was the most respected man in the church and the community. I don’t remember all he said, but he read several passages of Scripture and made a plaintive appeal for peace in the flock and support for the pastor. I do remember that he reminded everyone present that it was a black man who carried Jesus’ cross up Golgotha and asked, “Would you dare prevent Simon of Cyrene from coming into the doors of this church?”

He essentially took matters into his own hands as he said, “Now, I am going to pronounce the benediction for this meeting and after I finish I suggest you all go home and get on your knees and ask God to forgive you for becoming interlopers in the house of God.”

At that time I didn’t know what an “interloper” was, but I soon found out that an interloper is “an intruder, an encroacher, a trespasser, a person who enters a place without a legitimate or ethical reason for being there.”

I am not accusing Jon Ossoff of being an interloper, but it is very strange indeed that a person can represent a congressional district without actually living in that district. It’s like a church member trying to represent the interests of a holy God without ever going to His house for those spiritual blessings that nurture the soul.

District Six, election, Jon Ossoff, Karen Handel, politics