Last week, I wrote an article for an online magazine called Provoketive titled “You Just Don’t Understand“. It was about how people of my generation don’t understand the Occupy movement. In it, I related something that happened in a Sunday school class I attended. The class leader mentioned the protests going on and one of the class members said “Those kids aren’t poor. They’re sitting around, drinking Starbucks, talking on their iPhones, playing with their Macbooks and not working.” Someone else responded by saying “Yeah, if they really wanted to help the poor, they could go volunteer at a shelter or
soup kitchen.” Don’t get me wrong, volunteering in a shelter is a good thing, but the people involved in the Occupy movement are looking beyond meeting someone’s immediate needs and are want to fix a broken system that ensures poverty is a part of the American experience. In other words, they are working for economic justice, something that (along with social justice) is part and parcel of being a Methodist.
Economic and social justice can be defined in a lot of ways. According to Glenn Beck and the Tea Party, it’s socialism in action. In reality, these concepts are about creating a society based on equality, one that values basic human rights and the dignity of all people. The ideas of social and economic justice were part of the foundation of Methodism. John
Wesley, the founder of the denomination, spoke about “holiness” a lot; according
to him there exists “no holiness without social holiness”. As Bishop Sally Dyck said in a commentary in the UM Reporter, “Personal holiness, or the means of grace, put us in the position of loving God. Social holiness puts us in the position of loving our neighbor, especially our poor, enslaved and economically oppressed neighbors.” Because of this, UMC is heavily involved with issues of justice, from calling for boycotts to promoting Fair
Trade certified goods through Equal Exchange. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Don’t be deceived, my friends. There is a problem in Methodistland and it’s rather glaring. The United Methodist Church, a religious organization founded on the principles justice practices institutionalized discrimination. According to the Book of Discipline (basically the UMC’s rule book), “Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God’s grace is
available to all. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.” However, it also says, “Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals* are not to be accepted as candidates,
ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” In other words, “You can come here, but you’ll never be fully included”. This is not language befitting an organization dedicated to justice.
As followers of Christ, it is not our place to pass judgment on people, to find fault with them or push them aside because we don’t understand them. It is our place to love them and work to see that they are not oppressed, marginalized or persecuted by anyone and that includes us. By doing anything less, we disrespect the memory of John Wesley, we disrespect the Gospel and we disrespect what Jesus said and did during His time here on earth