faith in action

Opportunities to renew a commitment to eliminating racism

Reflections on the President's racist comments about countries around the world.

As a young girl, it was the people (and the voices of the people) from countries of newly-forming governments in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America that fostered my attraction to life in the church and the world. When I was growing up, people did not travel very often or interact very directly with those living in different countries, cultures and communities as those of us do today. Reading books, hearing missionaries home from their assignments in schools, hospitals and community centers, occasionally meeting someone from countries in Central America or Africa opened my eyes to the world. My aunt was a deaconess and teacher in South America and later in Brownsville, Texas, bringing home accounts of the rich life in Brazil and Mexico. The stories, voices, music and poetry drew me into the larger world.

The vulgar, racist, and classist comments made by the President on Thursday are contrary to the teachings of Jesus. The lived-experience of many people – including multitudes of United Methodists from across the globe – is testimony to the vibrant values of faith, family, justice, and peace found around our world.

The United Methodist general secretaries of the Church’s agencies were meeting in El Paso, Texas when we learned of the President’s comments. We were spending time at Lydia Patterson School observing the amazing education of students in the 7-12th grades. It was particularly shocking to learn of these comments in this setting. For over 100 years, students from Juarez, Mexico and El Paso have been educated together, and are now themselves teachers, politicians, ministers and leaders in every walk of life living and working across the world. Most of the students come from conditions that are spoken of as “living in poverty.” But their hard working, dedicated, committed, respectful, aspiring lives are testimony to richness far beyond that which I have observed (or lived) among the most privileged in the US.

The “connectionalism” of United Methodism is our hallmark. The idea is that we are connected across countries, societies, and cultures through our shared faith. I have been blessed to travel to many communities and countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America during my life and work in The United Methodist Church. The comments made by President Trump could not be farther from the truth. And labeling white people (or predominantly white countries) as superior is racism. Plain and simple. These comments are indefensible.

As followers of Christ, we must reject racism, classism, discrimination, fight against fear and xenophobia of others, and embrace all people as children of the family of God.

Our churches gather this Sunday morning and we will celebrate Human Relations Day, one of the special Sundays in our denomination. On Monday, the United States will celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Let us use these days as opportunities to renew our commitment to caring for our neighbors, lifting up those who are oppressed, marginalized or ridiculed, and fighting with every fiber of our being against the racism that pervades our society today.