Here in Abilene, we are not under any physical threat, so I do not want to respond to the events in the capitol today in haste or anger. And right now, I am grieving the sad state of American democracy, and my grief is producing a lot of anger. All I know to do is to pray. Please join me. We’ll pray together at the communion service tonight at 6 p.m. Visit abilenefirstumc.org/zoom-meetings/ for more information.
On June 8, 2020, the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church issued a “statement on the scourge of racism.” Somehow I missed it then but stumbled across it today. I want to share an excerpt.
“As bishops of the United Methodist Church, we ask every United Methodist to reclaim their baptismal vows to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. We ask every United Methodist to name the egregious sin of racism and white supremacy and join together to take a stand against the oppression and injustice that is killing persons of color.”
Racism and white supremacy are sinful. We must resist them in whatever forms they present themselves. The bishops rightly suggest using “our voices, our pens, our feet and our heart[s] for change.”
Note: 2019-2020 has been a difficult year for the United States, but I still love America as an adult child loves a parent. For that reason I’m reposting these thoughts from 2015.
Warning: what follows is a post in the vein of the Old Testament prophets. You may want to skip it and for that I do not blame you, but I feel compelled to write it.
I have heard our love of country compared to our love of our parents. When we are children, we love our parents as only children can. We love them without being aware of their flaws and shortcomings.* As adults, we recognize that our parents are fallen human beings, and yet we love them still. (This is Christ-like in that it is also the nature of God’s love for us.) I believe that the love we have for our country should be like the love of an adult child for his or her parents. This means that we have to acknowledge that our country, however much we love it, is not perfect.
To that end, I want to share two links. The first is a historic address by Frederick Douglas titled The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro. The following passage is considered one of Douglas’ most moving:
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”
The second is a contemporary blog post by a Native American titled The Dilemma of the Fourth of July. It’s author, Mark Charles, highlights the reference to Native Americans as savages in The Declaration of Independence and then writes:
“This is the dilemma that Native ‘Americans’ face every day. The foundations of the United States of America are blatantly unjust. This land was stolen. Native peoples, Africans and many other minority communities have long been recipients of systemic racism. And the roots of it are right there for the entire world to see, printed in many of our founding documents; like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and United States Supreme Court case rulings.”
My hope is that by confessing the sins of our nation’s past, we might move forward to a better, holier future.** Like the hymn America the Beautiful, I want to extol our nation’s virtues and ask God to “mend [our] every flaw.” Mark Charles feels the same way, writing:
“You can still light your fireworks and eat your BBQ, but please remember God’s incredible mercy upon our violent and unjust nation. And at the end of the day, I humbly ask you to conclude your celebrations with the following prayer.
‘May God have mercy on the United States of America and give us the courage necessary to create a common memory.'”
I understand “common memory” to mean an accurate understanding of our past that is shared by enough people that it helps to shape a more just future. I will pray that prayer.
*My apologies to my own parents for the use of this comparison. I should note that my mother has very few shortcomings, and I share all my father’s flaws.
**Credit where credit is due: In 2009 Sam Brownback helped lead a successful effort to get a formal apology to Native Americans approved by Congress and signed by the President. Sadly, he could not get it passed as a stand-alone bill and it had to be slipped into an appropriations measure.
Jenny and I have been asked to pray at a flashlight/headlights Vigil for Justice prompted by the death of George Floyd, and we’re inviting you to join us. The vigil is sponsored by the Salina Branch of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). It will take place on Saturday, May 30, 2020, from 8 p.m. – 9 p.m. at Caldwell Plaza, 300 Ash Street, Salina Kansas (Caldwell Plaza is between the Salina City-County building and Salina Public Library).
The Vigil for Justice will begin with the reading of the names of those women and men killed over the last several years and invite any clergy or concerned citizens to lift up prayers focused on eradicating the injustices in our communities, towns, and cities, nationally and globally.
Because we are in a pandemic, the Salina NAACP encourages the practice of the appropriate protocols of social distancing and the wearing of protective masks. Alternatively, participants can stay in their vehicles and take whatever additional precautions they need to stay safe. Before 9 p.m., we will all turn on our flashlights and car headlights in solidarity and prayer. Jenny and I plan to stay in the car except when we’re leading prayer.
I’ll admit that, after watching the news from Minneapolis, I’m nervous and moving out of my comfort zone. But this is important enough for me to push my boundaries. My Christian faith compels me to non-violent action in the face of evil. This is intended to be a peaceful vigil, at the first sign that it’s not going to remain so, I will leave.
From my friend and colleague, Rev. Laura Guy, in response to the death of George Floyd:
“I planted a garden this year. And I have to go out every damn day and pull the weeds because they are determined to take over and kill off my flowers. America, we have to root out systemic racism every damn day because it’s killing us.”
Systemic racism is killing us, it’s killing some of us quickly and some of us slowly, but it’s killing all of us.
Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was shot and killed while out for a run in Georgia on February 23, 2020. It took 74 days, a damning video, and a national outcry for the two white men chased him down in a truck to be arrested. This is still further evidence that racism, both individual and systemic, is alive well in the United States of America. It is not enough to change hearts and minds; the whole systematic edifice of racial prejudice must be dismantled. Racism is sinful. Racism is evil. And so God calls the church to oppose it.
I’m overwhelmed, and I’m not sure how to respond, and so I’m going to pray. I would ask and encourage you to pray also. Pray for Ahmaud’s family, pray for his friends, pray for the heart and soul of this country, that we might repent, individually and collectively, of our racism and then go forth to sin no more.
The New York Times timeline of the case: nyti.ms/3bhsn5B
Yesterday, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) put up a webpage dedicated to the ways that United Methodists can help address the crisis at the border.
This Fourth of July, I want to highlight the poem, “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. It was written in 1883 and can be found at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 
The phrase “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” is one of the best parts of our national canon and a very Christian one. Over and over again, the Bible tells us that we are to welcome the stranger and treat the alien among us as a neighbor.
If you want some examples of what the Bible says about welcoming huddled masses, here are a few highlighted in The United Methodist Book of Resolutions: Leviticus 19:33-34; Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Deuteronomy 10:19; 24:18-22; Matthew 2:13-18 (in which the child Jesus himself is the one seeking asylum); and perhaps most importantly Matthew 25:31-46 (in which the nations of the world are judged).
 “The New Colossus,” National Parks Service (U.S. Department of the Interior), accessed July 4, 2019, https://bit.ly/2c1YAmH.
Yesterday, I spoke about the crisis concerning this country’s treatment of migrant children. Today I learned that the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society has a form to help you make your voice heard. Will this solve the problem? No. Will it make a difference? Yes.
Things have gone south for migrant children in Border Patrol custody. According to Rolling Stone:
The government is not required to provide migrant children in custody on the border with soap, toothbrushes, or adequate bedding, a lawyer for the Trump Justice Department insisted in court Tuesday [June 18, 2019]. A consent decree guaranteeing “safe and sanitary” conditions, the government argued, is too vague to be enforceable. The assertions left a panel of three judges for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals incredulous, with one stating plainly: “I find that inconceivable that the government would say that.” 
I’m glad the judges were “incredulous.” God’s concern for immigrants and refugees is clear throughout the Bible. An example (among many) can be found in Deuteronomy 10:17-19:
17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 18 who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. 19 You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (NRSV)
“You shall also love the stranger” echoes through the demands of the law, the proclamations of the prophets, and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ who gave his life that we who were strangers might be made part of the people of God. We should not be satisfied with our country’s treatment of migrant children until it reaches the level of care and kindness we would want for our beloved children and grandchildren.
 Tim Dickenson, “Trump Administration Argues Migrant Children Don’t Need Soap” Rolling Stone, June 20, 2019. https://bit.ly/2XYfCqy. Rolling Stone is by no means my favorite source, but they had an article that was less political than many others and they provided source video at the end of the article.
We have been overwhelmed by the response to John’s resolution. We expected 300 supporters total not more than 300 supporters in less than 24 hours. We are unable to keep up. I thank those who have already responded, but we would please ask you to respond again through this Google Form which will automatically tabulate the results. If you cannot, we’ll migrate your information for you. I apologize for the inconvenience. Please feel free to share the link below.
Blessings, John Collins
In response to the 2019 General Conference, I’ve written a Resolution for the Great Plains Annual Conference. You can find it here: https://revcollins.com/gpac-petition/. Clergy and any members of any local church in the Great Plains Annual Conference (that’s us) can sign it. Just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m doing this manually instead of on a site to try and make sure that everyone who signs up is in the Great Plains Annual Conference. But with over 300 responses already we’re a little bogged down. You can help by clearly listing which of the following applies to you: 1. Clergy Member of the Conference; 2. Lay Member of the Conference; 3. Member of a Local United Methodist Church (if so please include the name of the church, and the town/city and state). Thank you for your support.