Offering Christ to A Hurting World

The events in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend took me back to my childhood in Mississippi where the history of racial violence is too well known. I remember waking up one morning as a high school student in New Albany, MS, to find a cross planted squarely in our front yard because my brother and I regularly gave David Fitzpatrick and R.C. Smith rides home from football practice. R.C. and David were black teammates on our football team. It was a shocking reminder that not everyone appreciated the act of grace we were offering.

My father was a pastor who stood for racial equality in the turbulent 60’s and worked for the merger of the Upper Mississippi Conference and the North Mississippi Conference at a time when it was incredibly unpopular.  He modeled for me a style of leadership which was brave and prophetic. It was not always easy. I am grateful for the ways in which my parents taught me to do the right thing.

When I observe the hatred and violence and evil that is unleashed in our country today my heart grieves.

There is no place in America in the 21st Century for White supremacists, Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan. Bishop Mike McKee writes: “The carrying of the Nazi flag is evil. The flag is a symbol of an evil, failed state that brutally killed more than six million Jews and countless Romani people, homosexuals and others judged to be inferior.  Those who sacrificed their lives in World War II defeated that evil.  It is truly un-American to carry the flag for an evil dictatorship that our country defeated.”

When we baptize persons in the United Methodist Church, part of the vow we take comes in the form of a series of questions:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
   reject the evil powers of this world,
   and repent of your sin?

 Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
   to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
   in whatever forms they present themselves?

 Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior,
put your whole trust in his grace,
and promise to serve him as your Lord, 

in union with the Church which Christ has opened
to people of all ages, nations, and races?

 Every person I have ever baptized has answered “I do” when answering the baptismal covenant vow. It is instructive that at the very outset of our Christian walk, right at the beginning, we affirm that evil exists. We also affirm that the Church through the power of the Gospel is called to stand against such evil.

Now is the time, as United Methodists, to live our Baptismal Vows in the most visible way.

Much has been said in the media about the travesty of this tragic event. There is little I can offer that enlightens our tribe called United Methodist.

However, I do appeal to you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for the victims of this senseless and tragic event.  Pray for the those harmed by the senseless attack on the protesters and their families. More than that, pray that we in this country will respond to violence with peace. Pray that we begin now, today, seeking a loving path toward peace and reconciliation among all people of our great country.

As a white male in a culture of privilege, I have no idea how it feels to be a black person experiencing hatred and violence that grips our land. I pray today that God will show me how I unknowingly contribute to racism and injustice. I invite you to do the same. Let the United Methodists of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences work toward a just and loving world so that those who live in fear and anxiety because of these evils will no longer be afraid.

Pastors, I call upon you to speak God’s truth into this moment of chaos and violence. Let it be said of the United Methodists in our communities that we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.

May we break the silence by joining our voices with the brave and prophetic who call out evil and injustice in our land.

Let us come together to find unity in the midst of diversity.

Let us offer Christ to those who are broken by this chaotic moment in time.

Let the peace of Christ dwell richly in you.

Grace and Deep Peace,

Bishop Bill McAlilly