This still-frame image taken from video shows Martin Barrett, who is currently running for Burien City Council Position No. 1 against fellow candidate Hugo Garcia, in a March 1 Facebook video promoting a seminar Barrett taught as part of Hope Christian Community church’s school of supernatural ministry.
City council candidate Martin Barrett says he wants to establish God’s kingdom in Burien by discipling, or mentoring, city government to follow the example of Jesus.
The 26-year Burien resident, business owner and first-time city council candidate said as much in March – less than three months before filing to run for Position No. 1 – in a Facebook video (UPDATE: the video appears to have been removed) promoting a “Heaven in Government” seminar he taught two weeks later as part of Hope Christian Community Church’s School of Supernatural Ministry.
“God is very interested in government,” Barrett says in the video after referencing Matthew 28:18-20. “There’s a DNA and there is a destiny for this city, Burien. And we’re going to spend some time together talking about what does it look like to disciple not just the people of Burien but actually the authority of Burien so that the kingdom of God comes down just like Jesus wanted us [it] to. There is a perfect alignment between Burien here on Earth and Burien, God’s idea for it, up in heaven.
“We’re going to spend a couple hours talking about what does it look like to disciple our city to be an ecclesia that’s bringing down God’s government to this place.”
In a recent conversation with The B-Town Blog, Barrett explained what he was talking about, saying that he was glad to have the opportunity as he expects many people who have already seen the video – which had been viewed more than 900 times as of Sunday – might have misunderstood his meaning, hearing his message in “the language of power” rather than “the language of servant-hood.
“We’re talking about bringing an other-centered honor culture into the center of government,” Barrett said, “where the standard of leadership is serving, where a leader does not make decisions based on what’s best for them but on what’s best for the people. I happen to believe that that’s what God is going to hold me accountable to in leadership.”
Unlike Burien’s current “self-serving” city council, God’s kingdom is defined by values such as love, service, honor, selflessness, humility, grace, kindness, honesty and integrity, Barrett said.
“The kingdom is really about caring and loving for people and putting their interests first,” he said. “It has no concern of moving up to a higher level of politics. It has no concern about becoming wealthier through the instrument of politics.”
Dismayed by DESC project
Barrett said he was partly motivated to run for office because he felt the current city council – like the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus – was more concerned with exerting its power over the people than serving them, as Jesus describes in Mark 10:42-45.
“I saw that the authority felt like it was trying to rule over the people of Burien,” Barrett said, citing as his primary example the council’s support for a permanent supportive housing project – in spite of opposition from many downtown-area business owners – proposed by Seattle-based nonprofit Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC).
“We have a city council that has the attitude that I’m going to lord it over you,” Barrett said. “That’s not the attitude that I think is supposed to be in leadership. That’s not the kind of attitude that someone who proclaims to follow Jesus and wants to bring the peace of Jesus to a city would ever do. But that’s what they’re doing.”
Barrett is running against fellow first-time city council candidate Hugo Garcia, an economic development program manager for King County and a current member of the city’s planning commission, which Barrett said shares responsibility for siting the future DESC permanent supportive housing project near downtown businesses.
“As a city council, there’s a responsibility to care for all these small-business people,” Barrett said. “Putting it where it’s going to have a huge impact on all of these small businesses, that’s an abuse of authority.”
Restoring the homeless
Not only would DESC’s permanent supportive housing project hurt downtown businesses, Barrett said, it would serve as “a place where they [previously homeless tenants] can slowly kill themselves.”
That, Barrett said, is because DESC employs a harm-reduction approach to its tenants’ substance-use disorders instead of taking the tough-love approach of requiring that people in the grip of addiction abstain from drug and alcohol use entirely in order to receive housing and treatment.
“It’s like a parent who has a kid who’s just sitting down in the basement playing video games and using their meth, and [the parent] saying, ‘I love you so much that I’m just going to let you continue to kill yourself down there,’” Barrett said of the harm-reduction approach. “This idea that it’s compassion, I just utterly, completely reject.”
Instead, restoring those who congregate around the Burien Library, for example, “with their aluminum foil, snorting their drugs, vaping their drugs” requires outreach by professionals who can suss out each person’s story – how they ended up on the streets and what their unique needs are – in order to effectively set them up with services, Barrett said.
“They may say, ‘I don’t want to do that,’” he said. “That’s fine. They may leave and go someplace else. If I were homeless, I would move to San Diego, that’s for sure.”
Either way, they would not be allowed to continue living on the streets of Burien, Barrett said, “because we care too much.
“Every other city eventually will do this,” he said, “so that people are literally being moved into the place of saying, ‘I’m going to get healed; there’s no place for me to run.’”
Doing what’s best for Burien
The housing-first model, which is foundational to DESC’s supportive housing programs for people experiencing chronic homelessness, does not appear to be alleviating Seattle’s homelessness crisis, Barrett said.
“What leadership would look at that and say, “we’re going to import that policy into Burien,’ unless they had an agenda other than what’s best for Burien?” Barrett said. “That’s exactly what I see with the city council and with the planning commission.”
While Barrett acknowledges that the homelessness crisis is bigger than Burien, he said his job, if elected, would be to do what’s best for the city of Burien alone, which he called “God’s favorite city.
“In God’s kingdom, a woman can walk down the street without feeling fear,” he said, arguing that Burien voters are, above all, concerned about crime and safety, and that establishing the culture of God in Burien would help to address those concerns.
“I want to baptize our city in an honor culture – the same selfless, absolute love culture of God,” Barrett said. “If the idea of bringing God’s kingdom to Earth is understood as an honor culture, I don’t know why anybody would not want that.”
Nicholas Johnson (he/him) is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who grew up in Boulevard Park, graduated from Highline High School and studied journalism at Western Washington University. Send news tips, story ideas and positive vibes to [email protected].