I’ve just returned from a two-week family beach vacation and have now resumed my hectic schedule and preparation for the fall Board of Directors meeting of the General Board of Church & Society. It has been my custom to take only one week of vacation at a time, and even then I would often take or make several phone calls a day.
This year I made a particular effort to experience Sabbath rest. Now that I have returned, I have had the chance to reflect on taking this much time off in one stretch.
I made a particular effort to experience Sabbath rest.
Because we stayed in a remote area of North Carolina, I was reminded daily of how easily one can tune out national and international affairs. Even though I read several newspapers each day during my time away, the events of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., felt distant and removed in comparison to the tides tables, golf outings and dinner menus.
I suspect this is how many people feel when they are busy just leading their lives.
Reality not missing
That is not to say keen interest in social concerns is absent outside of Washington, D.C. Billboards and bumper stickers advertising various political viewpoints were everywhere. Nor was reality missing or hidden either. Immigration, poverty and the prevalence of low-wage jobs is omnipresent. And, just 170 miles away United Methodists and others were participating in “Moral Mondays” protests at the state capitol in Raleigh against cuts to programs that assist poor, needy people.
I know many people are apathetic about social concerns.
Still, I know many people are apathetic about social concerns. I fear there is little or no mention of social justice in most local churches — often in an attempt not to offend someone. While the planet experiences climate change, wars rage and billions live in poverty, too many of our churches are seemingly unaware that their church is actively involved in combating these evils. While I applaud the occasional food pounding Sunday, potato drop or trash pickup, we must do more if we are to help it be on earth as it is in heaven.
We are followers of a Christ who in no way collaborated with the Roman imperial occupation forces or counseled subservience to the powers that be. We are also students of John Wesley who believed there was no personal holiness without social holiness and vice-versa.
Part of the problem perhaps
Perhaps part of the problem is a belief held by many that they just don’t know where to find the truth and the facts. Others believe their reality is normative: They see their gender, religion, network of friends, educational background, and geographical location as being the way it is and have a difficult time putting themselves in the shoes of another.
When our assumptions and views are fundamentally challenged and we begin thinking about the other, it is daunting to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong. This process of opening up can be, paradoxically, a paralyzing experience.
It took me many years to understand that news sources, preachers, politicians, historians, scientists, parents, and everyone else around me hold subjective views and have experiences that inform their grasp of reality. This understanding led me to realize that I had to find my own way forward as best I could.
Proud to be United Methodist
I am proud to be United Methodist because our denomination claims ownership to its views through our Social Principles and Book of Resolutions. We stand as followers of Jesus against war even though many support the efficacy of war and violence. We stand against poverty even when many believe poverty is acceptable. We stand against racism even when there are those who fail to understand their complicity in racist systems.
We stand up to be counted as being against the ills of the world. This is as it should be.