Category Archives: Justice

Voting No Can Also Be Faithful

An anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution is on the ballot on August 2, 2022. The Christian arguments for this amendment are well known. I believe, however, that faithful Christians can be found on both sides of this discussion. Some of my clergy colleagues have made the theological argument for voting no in an article in The Wichita Eagle. Here’s the link for those of you who are interested: https://bit.ly/3zHdTuZ.

Bishop Saenz Asks for Prayers for Ukraine

Below is a letter from our Bishop, Ruben Saenz:

Today, Russia launched an unprovoked military invasion against the people of Ukraine. United Methodist Church Bishop Christian Alsted – of the Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Area – is asking for United Methodists to stand with the United Methodists in Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in intercessory prayer for protection, reconciliation and peace.

We pray especially for Bishop Eduard Khegay, [United Methodist] bishop of Russia and Ukraine, for wisdom and grace as he shepherds congregations on both sides of the conflict.

Friends, the words of St. Paul encourages us to “suffer together with those that suffer.” (1 Corinthians 12:26a)

For the sake of your sorrowful passion, dear Lord, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Peace,
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.
Great Plains Conference

The letter above can be found at: https://bit.ly/3HnEa2j

A letter from Bishop Christian Alsted of the Baltic and Nordic Episcopal Area can be found here: https://bit.ly/358RgmI

Faith Voices for Medicaid Expansion

I’ve been invited to join a Zoom meeting to learn more about the group Faith Voices for Medicaid Expansion. This issue matters to me because the failure of Kansas to accept the federal medicaid expansion has hurt people in need and negatively impacted hospitals and health care in Kansas for everyone—insured and uninsured alike.

I’m extending the invitation I received to all of you. Here’s a brief introduction and a link if you’re interested in learning more: https://bit.ly/3n5j14Q. And here’s a link where you can register for the webinar: https://bit.ly/3aOSIKi.

They have a facebook page. Just type “Faith Voices for Medicaid Expansion – KS” into the search bar.

Please Pray

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.

Resist Racism and White Supremacy

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.”

Link: https://bit.ly/36lPDQO

A More Christian Love Of Country

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.

Links:
The Meaning of the Fourth for the Negroto.pbs.org/1M1bUQv
The Dilemma of the Fourth of Julybit.ly/1C9J93Q

*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.

Flashlight/Headlights Vigil

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.

We Have to Root Out Systemic Racism

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.

Racism is Alive and Well

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