A local pastor is recovering after he was mugged just a half a block from his home, but while most people would be angry at the assault, the St. Paul victim is preaching a message of hope.
Pastor Oby Ballinger is looking forward, not back. While delivering his Sunday sermon at Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul Park, he told his congregation that violence will not win.
"Longing for revenge is like drinking a poison and waiting for someone else to die," Ballinger said.
Ballinger was walking home in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood after going out for eggs at about 10 a.m. on the morning after Christmas. Two men began yelling profanity at him and then came after the pastor at the intersection of Sherburn Avenue and Asbury Street in St. Paul, punching him in the face as well as the side and the back of his head.
"They attacked me, punched me, drove me to the ground," he told his congregation.
The men were scared away by a witness, and when Ballinger returned home, he told his husband he was going to use the opportunity to unite the community by insisting that the violence won't stop him from enjoying his neighborhood.
"It gives power to those who perpetrate violence," Ballinger explained. "What we are trying to do is say, 'Violence is not the last word,' and we are going to change our community in ways that are more peaceful and that build relationships rather than tear them down."
Ballinger wanted to make it clear he did not believe the assault was a hate crime, and said he and his husband of 4 years plan to use the incident to improve their community.
"Violence begets violence and fear begets fear," Javen Swanson explained. "What I want to see is people who say, 'No, enough. We're going to take back this community. We are going to get to know one another. We are going to have relationships and look out for one another. This is our neighborhood and we're going to claim it.'"
Police are looking for the two men, but no arrests have been made. Ballinger does want the two to be caught and prosecuted, but he says he would also welcome the opportunity to help them turn their lives around.
"This story only has one ending," he preached. "God is going to win."