By Kristina Gonzalez
The killing of Black people in Buffalo, NY, fueled by a conspiracy theory that purports that people of color are actively working to replace white people – ‘the great replacement theory.’ Really?
Children…children killed by needless gun violence in Uvalde, TX, with no hope of public policy to stop access to assault-style weapons.
The second anniversary of the murder of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer while others in power looked on.
I want to wail! I feel better when I wail. It is natural to wail in the light of these events and all that surrounds them.
But my wailing does nothing to solve the issues associated with the racism and anti-Blackness in our society. It does nothing to solve the political impasse that sucks away our will to protect even our children from assault and death. It does nothing to address the implicit biases that, at a very deep level, unjustly justify the disproportionate death of Black and Brown males at the hands of law enforcement. Wailing makes me feel better, but that is not enough.
I am a Methodist because I saw in my young adulthood a religious tradition that links our faith and our actions. I had the opportunity during Holy Week to be reminded of this linkage.
I attended the ‘table turning’ event that has been a Valley & Mountain UMC tradition since its inception. This year’s ‘table turning’ was at the privately-operated immigration detention center in Tacoma, confronting the treatment of undocumented immigrants and the complex political and economic weavings that place detention in the private sector.
This ‘table turning’ ministry of V&M reminds us that Jesus confronted power and privilege openly and with a force of will. John Wesley reminded us that ‘the world is our parish.’
Change Theory: If we practice inclusion, then we listen with ears open to perspectives different from our own, bringing new insight and creativity to our work in church and community. If we practice innovation, then we find the energy that comes at the intersection of difference to create new solutions for issues that seem unsolvable. If we practice multiplication, then we grow in our relationships, partnerships and ministries with our neighbors, intersecting new people and an expanding circle of partners with which to be Jesus in the world.
If the ‘world is our parish,’ then are we not called to be active in the places where our ‘temple’ is violated? Are we not called to confront the machinery that advances false narratives that play on fear and stereotypes, to confront the political forces that place detention in the hands of for-profit businesses, to confront the gun lobby that prevents meaningful gun legislation from being enacted?
To that point, I grew up in Nevada. Some of my earliest memories are of family hunting trips in the high desert. I remember skinning a deer in my grandparents’ garage, sitting in the back of my grandfather’s truck petting a goose that someone in the family had shot. I have no argument with these uses of firearms.
I have trouble with a lack of appropriate restrictions on acquiring firearms designed for quick carnage, the carnage that we’ve witnessed in grocery stores, schools, houses of worship, on the streets, in homes, and on playgrounds. Your list is undoubtedly longer.
Friends, if the ‘world is our parish,’ we must not characterize conversations addressing racism, gun violence, police overreach, and private jails, to name a few, as taboo in our churches. Those conversations are Wesleyan.
Many of you lean into community issues already. Can you lean further? Can our United Methodist churches become catalysts for or partners in hard conversations in community? Can the church be central to analysis and solutions to complex societal issues?
Wail, yes. Then what follows for the people called United Methodists?
Kristina Gonzalez serves as Executive Director for Innovation and Vitality for the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area.