Lately, the Strip's been ponderin' Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a graduate professional school that's turned out good and pure disciples of Jesus since the 1950s.
The seminary perches on 200 acres of rolling hills along North Oak Trafficway. Seminary leaders recently decided to sell 33 of those acres to developers, who plan to pave over God's green grass and put up a shopping center.
The Strip wonders whether, in their deal with developers, the Baptists made like the Pharisees, those cats J.C. tongue-lashed for appearing righteous but acting all greedy and self-indulgent.
A year ago, you see, seminary officials wailed when Kansas City considered exempting a piece of property from the ordinance that keeps liquor licenses from being issued to businesses within 300 feet of a church or school. The property in question at that time, a former Tippin's Restaurant & Pie Pantry, sits across the street from the seminary.
A developer wanted to be able to rent or sell the building to a restaurant that served alcohol -- like, say, Applebee's. But the Baptists wouldn't stand for it. Who would blame them? Everybody knows that "eatin' good in the neighborhood" played backward sounds like Shout at the Devil.
In spite of the Baptists' protests, the City Council went ahead and exempted the property from the liquor ban. (Alas, Applebee's did not end up slinging riblets at the site. The building is still empty. Take that, Satan!)
A few weeks ago, seminary leaders returned to City Hall, and this time they took home a victory. The Council rezoned a section of school property, permitting the sale of the green acres and the construction of the shopping center, which will receive tax incentives, to boot.
The shopping center, North Oak Village, will be anchored by a big-box store. The plan also proposes the construction of as many as five restaurants. And here's where the Strip detects an odoriferous whiff of hypocrisy: No one will tell this fact-finding filet whether the joints will sell booze.
The Strip asked Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Philip Roberts about the shopping center's future tenants. Roberts claimed ignorance. "All we're doing is selling the property," he said.
The Strip turned to the developers Hunt Midwest and the R.H. Johnson Company for more information. But they didn't return messages.
So this pestering porterhouse asked Roberts something he would know: If the seminary had made a ban on alcohol a condition of sale.
"I know what the city ordinance says," the president said. "I assume there's no other restriction on what the city ordinance is."
Funny thing about the city ordinance: It might not apply to part of the ground that the seminary sold.
According to the plans, three of the possible restaurant sites stand more than 300 feet from the seminary. (The city measures from the wall of the sinful business to the property line of the church or school.) And if there's no other restriction beyond what's on the books, what's to stop the bourbon and Boulevard from flowing?
Feeling sanctimonious, the Strip suggested to Roberts that it might be hypocritical for the seminary not to have put a liquor restriction on the land it sold.
"I didn't say that," Roberts replied.
So what are you saying, bub?
"I'm saying that we have an agreement with Hunt Midwest. It's a private, binding agreement. And that's it. It's not open for public discussion. And we expect the city to live by the ordinance. That's all we're asking them or anybody else to do."
But you could have put in a restriction, right?
"I'm not saying we didn't," Roberts said. "I'm not saying we did."
It seemed like a fairly simple question, but the Strip figures that Roberts must have had some reason for refusin' to say if they did or they didn't. But if he didn't want folks to know that devil water might soon be flowing on North Oak Trafficway, at least he found an artful way to avoid breaking any commandments about lying.
And for that, Phil, the first round's on the Strip.