Mock whipping sparks protests
The Seattle Times/May 21, 1992, by Constantine Angelos
The dramatic portrayal of a Roman Soldier whipping a blood-dressed Christ who carried a cross during a parade in Ballard is drawing angry protests.
As a result, Jim Vatn, chairman of the annual Norwegian 17th of May parade, said parade officials are rethinking their entry guidelines.
“Next year, we’ll certainly screen (entries),” Vatn said, “and if it is not what we think is appropriate, we will eliminate them.”
The portrayal of Jesus’ pain, entered in the parade by members of the Potter’s House Christian Center in Ballard, has brought more than 50 protests, mainly by parents and others who complained children were frightened by what was termed an inappropriate display.
Vatn said one father told him his son hid behind a mailbox during the parade because he was afraid he might also be whipped.
Vatn agreed the portrayal was lifelike. “The makeup artist was the best,” he said. “The white robe (that the Christ character wore) was just covered in blood.”
The church member portraying the Roman wielded a costume whip, while the member portraying Christ wore two layers of foam rubber under his robe for protection, church leaders said.
“Never in the three years I’ve been here have we received as many calls on a situation, good or bad,” said Stacie Hearst, executive director of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce.
She said mothers complained that they “try to raise kids to know that God is all-knowing and all-caring and all-loving and that he died on the cross is something you deal with when they are older.”
And at the Nordic Heritage Museum, director Marianne Forsblad, speaking for herself, said the parade is a happy event commemorating Norwegian Constitution Day, and not the place to bring in religious issues.
The pastor of Potter’s House Christian Center, the Rev. Kevin Hannston, said he was surprised by the public reaction. The make-believe presentation, he said, was intended as an opportunity for parents and other adults to discuss or explain what happened to Jesus, “like they had to explain the injustice of the Rodney King thing in Los Angeles.”
“We want people to examine those issues,” he said.
Hansston and his wife, Joan, said that for most of the parade, the reaction was silence.
At one point, one adult yelled, “Whip him again!” Joan Hansston said, and at another, “a little boy did say, ‘Shoot him in the head.'”
In front of a tavern, some onlookers cheered the Roman, she added.
Church members accompanying the church’s entry carried banners that read: “Jesus said: Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” and Jesus took your burdens to the cross.”
Church leaders said that for about the past three months, the congregation has been the object of a graffiti campaign on neighborhood lamp poles, bus stops and grocery walls, accusing members of being involved in Satan worship and other improprieties.
Joan Hansston said they assume some unstable person who is angry or “doesn’t like Jesus” is scrawling the messages and “is using us as the object of their complaints.”
The Hansstons opened the church in a former store at 5810 24th Ave., NW almost four years ago after moving from Arizona.
In last year’s parade, the church used a pickup carrying “fishers of men” holding fishing poles attached to Bibles.
Pastor Hansston said the congregation would be willing to follow any future parade entry guidelines.
“We’re more than willing to flow with the community,” he said.