Speaking Out for Compassion: Transforming the Context of Hate in the United States

2016 Book of Resolutions, #3422

So justice is driven back, / and righteousness stands at a distance; / truth has stumbled in the streets, / honesty cannot enter. / Truth is nowhere to be found, / and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. / The Lord looked and was displeased / that there was no justice. / [God] saw that there was no one, / [God] was appalled that there was no one to intervene; / so [God’s] own arm achieved salvation … / and [God’s] own righteousness sustained him. —Isaiah 59:14-16 (NIV)

Therefore, put off falsehood and speak truthfully, for we are all members of one body. —Ephesians 4:25 (NIV paraphrased)

When Isaiah observed that “truth has stumbled in the streets” and “truth is nowhere to be found,” he said “God was appalled.” At a time of rising vitriol, racism, hate, and violence in the world born of deep economic crisis and global shifts, it is time for the church to speak out. If we do not, God will be appalled. We feel compelled to raise a prophetic voice challenging the climate of distrust, distortion of truth and fear, shifting the conversation to our common future. In many places, the level of anger has crossed a line in terms of civility. Whatever the disagreement about policy or program, this behavior is unacceptable. It represents a spiritual crisis that calls for us to respond by deepening our understanding of God’s call and filling our own deep yearnings for spiritual wholeness, that can empower us to love and compassion without giving up our responsibility to speak out for justice. The consequences of this climate of fear and hostility has been an increase in the number of reported hate crimes, particularly in the post-9/11 world. Reports of hate crimes or acts such as the following have become part of the daily lives of people in the United States:

  • A Muslim Arab-American woman receives a threat from a co-worker “You and your kids will pay;
  • A Catholic high school student is punched and kicked on a bus by a group of youth for looking “Chinese”;
  • A teenage boy is beaten with a baseball bat because of his perceived sexuality;
  • Anti-Semitic graffiti is spray painted on Jewish gravestones;
  • Four men attack and kill one of twelve undocumented immigrants.

These acts promote and are manifestations of bigotry based on religion, race, sexual orientation, and national origin.

If we look at these as acts of individuals or groups of individuals we will fail to recognize the systemic context of injustice that give rise to such acts.

In addition to the realities of the post-9/11 increase in hate and fear mongering, many parts of our nation are facing a deep economic crisis. More and more people in the United States are learning the harsh realities: job loss, reduction of work hours, bankruptcies, lack of affordable health care resource, resources, foreclosures, predatory lending, declining wages, budget cuts for education and critical social programs. In the United States, the overall unemployment rate in November 2014 was 5.8 percent but for Latinos and African Americans, the respective rates were 6.6 percent and 11.1 percent. We recognize that there is cause for anger among all economic and social groups. However, we are alarmed by the climate of hate in public discourse in the United States that has emerged in the wake of these difficult economic realities. We must challenge the misdirection of anger toward the most vulnerable for all are impacted by these crises.

As Christians we are called to be models of compassion. The United Methodist Social Principles affirm,

“We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God.

… We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation” (Social Principles, ¶ 162).

“The strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and pro- grams that are unjust” (Social Principles, ¶ 164B).

The Charter for Racial Justice states that all persons are equally valuable in the sight of God, that racism is a rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ, that we must work toward a world in which each person’s value is respected and nurtured. We remember our roots in speaking out for justice. Methodist women organized against lynching in the 1930s. The church spoke out boldly during the 1960s in support of the Civil Rights Movement. In South Africa and the United States, United Methodists were strong in the opposition to apartheid. We spoke boldly for peace and the reunification of Korea. In the 1980s we called for an end to US government funding of paramilitary groups in Central America. When the United States began bombing Afghanistan in 2003, we called for an end to the bombing as well as long term support for the United Nations and international human rights. We continue to speak out in support of migrants and immigrants who are demonized and criminalized in many countries.

We do not want God to be appalled. We confess that we have not always behaved well as a church. We have violated one another and acknowledge the need to reexamine our own behavior in following our impulse to first protect our own needs and our own security.

It is time to act boldly and, with God’s grace, truth will be found and we will know justice. We call for The United Methodist Church—individuals, congregations, conferences, boards and agencies, clergy, and laity—to:

  • Develop multigenerational educational resources to build understanding of the systemic nature of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of marginalization.
  • Provide biblically-based resources for young people and adults that address the historic and systemic roots of hate speech and all the manifestations of hate in our society;
  • Enter into dialogue and action, speaking out for compassion and against hate. A faithful dialogue requires the courage to speak up without misusing privilege and power. This will include:
    • Redefining compassion as the process of inviting and sustaining faith in full dialogue.
    • Acknowledging the wholeness of the human family means willingness to stay in community with those whom we disagree, by embracing both patience and humility.
    • Commitment to a lifelong journey of personal and collective discipline.
    • Commitment to listen attentively, respectfully and never using dialogue as an excuse for talk and no action or to mask dishonesty.
    • Encouraging United Methodists to end complicity with hate by speaking out when jokes, disparagements, and stereotypes are based on difference.
    • Creating opportunities to hear from excluded groups about the reality and impact of hate and partner with them to act for justice;
    • Encouraging law-enforcement personnel to maintain records on hate crimes and to bring to justice the perpetrators of such violence and intimidation.
  • We call upon the church at all levels to create sacred spaces for common prayer and community discussion as an invitation to reconciliation.
  • To convene conversations in family gatherings, churches, communities, and the political arena about current realities, fears, and the need for faith-filled compassionate response;
  • Work with ecumenical and interfaith partners to create workshop resources and develop community activities to unite religions in our work to end all manifestations of hate;
  • Engage in efforts to enable communities to unearth the truth about past and present hate-violence, to bring perpetrators (including state actors) to justice, and to heal wounds and seek reconciliation based on justice and more equitable power relationships.
  • Be active participants in civic or religious organizations that promote unity and diversity, and work to eradicate acts of hate as well as work with diverse grassroots and national organizations.
  • We call upon conferences, boards, and agencies to use resources in our global church to share models and strategies for faithful dialogue and to intentionally practice words and attitudes that will help us find common ground.

We call on all annual conferences to

  • Report on their work on undoing the culture of hate at their annual conference meeting;
  • Include hate crimes in their annual conference report to the General Commission on Religion and Race;
  • Work with the General Board of Church and Society, the General Board of Global Ministries, and United Methodist Women on this concern.


See Social Principles, ¶ 162A, H, J .

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Copyright © 2016, The United Methodist Publishing House, used by permission