Sixteen years ago today (March 20) the United States illegally invaded Iraq, committed torture and other war crimes (under direction from the Bush administration), and as a result, hundreds of thousands of people died, trillions of dollars were wasted, and the world has never been the same since
So, if progressives do not want to follow the same hypocrisy of conservatives who claim to want to biblical holiness while ignoring vast passages in Scripture (especially those passages that show that justice is personally contextual in nature), then we will do well to stop saying we want full inclusion. Instead, we want to highlight and follow the voices of people who have been systematically ostracized by this current structure, namely LGBTQ people, people of color, people who have left the UMC (or were forced out in some way), and lay people.
Providing access entails sacrifice to those in power and with affluence, but this sacrifice gives life and benefit to all. Denying it, as the moneyed political classes were doing in Amos’ time, and as they continue to do it in our time, only brings about destruction. And this is why we must pursue justice like our nation and our world depends on it. Because it does.
The one thing that kept coming back to me though - haunting me, really - is remembering something a professor named Bob Lyons said in his Poor in Scripture class in seminary that has shaped me so much in my life. We were talking about pacifism and he was saying that claiming to be pacifist is easy and requires no sacrifice. Then he said, “I don’t believe you can be a pacifist unless you drive like a pacifist.”
But for too long progressives in the church have wrongly believed, as many did with President Obama, that having someone who at least uses the same progressive rhetoric meant that full inclusion and egalitarian structures were right around the corner. I have been hearing that for years. And you know what? It hasn’t happened. You know what else? It won’t happen. We don’t need progressive bishops or agency heads. We need structural change.
The Bible has historically been the source for seeding dreams and imaginations among oppressed and marginalized peoples. These seeds often sprouted into movements for liberation and justice. What will a Bible in the hands of those who forcibly teach it on behalf of the state do but to ensure social and political control? The Bible in the hands of those seeking liberation is wild and unchained, but for those charged with maintaining order, the Bible preserves stasis.
Thus, I am incredibly restless. Whatever is next for any kind of Methodist rebirth HAS to come from those directly impacted by the injustices committed at this General Conference and that means the amazing LGBTQ leaders who led the charge at General Conference for health and wholeness for the church universal. Sadly, they were rejected and that is why they need to lead whoever wants to follow next. My struggle right now is how to be an ally. To follow and faithfully respond. And as to how to do that, I really do not know.
This is what compassion is and this is what Gregg Taylor shows us in his book. This is a powerful and heart-piercing read and I cannot recommend it strongly enough. I hope you will not only get it for yourself (because I have a feeling you need compassion almost as much as I do), but I also hope your church or Sunday school class or college ministry will devote time to study it.
My yearly group is not perfect, but it’s the group I have... and I am thankful that amidst our differences, it helps me continue to realize who the real Jesus is, and how I can faithfully live so that others might experience peace with God, access to all the blessings that God desires for all God’s children, hope that cannot be taken away, and the knowledge of the love of God that has been poured out for us all.
And Ralph Northam is now saying he wants to use taxpayer money to go on a three year-long short-term mission trip when what he needs is an extended poverty simulation. The problem is you can’t do a poverty simulation when you are the governor. To fully experience the transformation that comes with racial healing he must and foremost give up control and learn; he must shut up and listen.
Thus, our calls for Northam should, I believe, be as focused on what he needs to do to address his racism as they are about simply getting him out of the headlines. I want to stress this does not mean Northam should stay in office; I honestly do not believe he should. But I think there is something more than his ousting that liberationists should care about. We should care about his liberation.
With so much news swirling day in and day out concerning the latest trump administration or campaign executive being arrested or indicted, it is not surprising that so many of us know little of what is happening in the rest of the world. One of those events happening in the rest of the world that is having devastating results in the civil war in Yemen.
In the latest move by this administration’s efforts to “protect” Christians from having to be inclusive in who they serve, HHS has issued an exemption that allows all foster care agencies in South Carolina to disregard an Obama-era regulation barring religious discrimination in federally-funded foster care programs. Essentially, this gives permission to a “Christian” agency called Miracle Hill to discriminate in choosing families to provide loving homes to children in need of adoption or foster care.
Nick Sandmann, in stepping up to Mr. Phillips and refusing to step aside, smirking as his classmates chanted school pep rally cheers, fawned Native American cries, and did “tomahawk chop” motions, reflected what he has been taught to be as an American Christian. American Christianity is based on a hyper-individualized understanding that Jesus died entirely for your sins, making you unique, but not requiring you to be a change agent to your culture, nor to the economic or political status.
I begin with this because when we are looking at the various plans that have been put forward for the future of the United Methodist Church as they get ready to meet in February for an emergency General Conference I believe we must first ask of these plans, which of these moves us towards God’s sanctification; a sanctification that is entirely focused on loving others and loving more perfectly. As a decision which I will explain, I believe wholeheartedly that the choice for this General Conference is clear: the delegates to General Conference in 2019 must choose Simple Plan.
So, with a new Democratic majority in the House, let me offer a “friendly” note of advice: forget the evangelicals. Seriously. If evangelicals want to join progressive religious people then they are welcome - ALL people are welcome to join, but you gotta be on the same page policy-wise and you gotta keep up.
Too often we dismiss smart-asses and comics because they seem only able to deconstruct. Even more, we also are so tied to the political, economic, and especially social status quo. We sometimes get our identity from the status quo just as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day did. But we should listen to the smart-ass or the clown who repeatedly makes fun of the current state of affairs because of its inherent unfairness.
The last thing I know any of us want to think about is the man in the Oval Office (I am trying to not even mention his name anymore if I can help it). But this morning I read Mary’s Magnificat and I could not help but think of this outlaw and oppressive administration. Let me remind us how Mary sang her praise of God, and I will provide some timely interpretation during her song.