News and Views

UMC: We need you again

Posted by Guest Author on

A young woman holds a sign at a protest march in Washington DC to bring attention to the recent shooting deaths of several unarmed black men by police. Source: iStockPhoto.

Dear Church:

Just in case no one has ever told you, allow me to be the one. We need you more than our egos, pride, and “church-hurt” inflected mindsets and experiences will allow us to admit.

I’m sure that by this point you’ve heard #TerenceCrutcher, who I intentionally inserted into this piece as a hashtag because that’s the age we’re living in. We’re in the age where the goal is to survive the epidemic of becoming another hashtag, and the fact that you’re reading this means that so far you have survived….so far.

Here’s the thing. As resourceful, revolutionary, brilliant, engaged, saved, supported, educated, and Methodist as one may be, our blackness still poses an actual threat to society. It’s a real thing. This is where find ourselves, and this is where we need you. We don’t need much, but maybe these few things will suffice.

1. We need you to stop invalidating our struggle by redirecting it to another struggle that isn’t relevant. Black lives don’t matter enough to be safe or protected in any space we know of. Police brutality, is a REAL issue. When we are hurting from this, this is not the time to bring up “STD-awareness,” or the interracial-conflict known as “Black-On-Black” crime. Black-on-black crime shouldn’t even be a term in your vocabulary. No one declares “White-On-White” crime to be a term. It’s called murder, and that’s what happening to our black brothers and sisters every day.

This is not your time to talk about all of the “good” police officers either. If the ratio of bad to good is still heavily outweighed, then the good ones cannot compensate or eradicate the amount of corrupted ones we have. Police brutality is an issue. It’s a real thing. It isn’t something we are making up. As we saw in with #TerenceCrutcher, it cannot be cured by “appropriate behavior.” It’s a real thing.

Look at it like this. One of the issues the UMC has been trying to proactively address is global warming. Why would one do such a thing? Well, on planet Earth, where we currently reside, it’s an issue. We want to have a planet where our loved ones can breathe and not suffocate to death by simple not having enough oxygen.

Someone says, “but don’t all planets matter?” I’m sure you are looking at them foolishly because Earth is the one we’re on and it’s the one that’s experiencing this epidemic at deadly cost. Are you with me now? Good. Let’s move on.

2. We need you to actively preach, teach, and advocate on behalf of the God of justice, peace, and love, whether you are black or not. In true Wesleyan spirit and “table-flipping” Jesus fashion, some of the greatest comfort and conviction one can receive is knowing when they’re not alone. Silence on these issues makes one feel alone. We’re not asking for you to have the answer or the solution. We just need you to not be okay with this, and when you don’t say anything and remain silent, the assumption is that you’re okay with this.

SAY SOMETHING.

If you rub some tithe-paying members the wrong way, is that notconviction? If you upset some authority figures in the process, is that not conviction? One cannot be selective of what’s important to talk about and not to talk about based on their congregational context.

If the funds are that important to you, or being liked is that important to you, then I guess we have to understand. However, if you want to be prophetic, as John Wesley was, and as Jesus was and calls us to be, then I need you to put on your big-girl/big-boy boots, stand tall and boldly on the word of God, and SAY SOMETHING.

3. We need you not to tell us how to feel. We have to figure out a way that hope can be offered, without being force-fed. We dare not compare ourselves to the likes of our forefathers and foremothers, who have survived WWII, the Civil War, slavery, the Great Depression, early onsets of the Civil Rights movement, the War on Drugs, or the likes.

However, as millennials, we have survived 9-11, gentrification, the War on Black Institutions, the public verbal persecution of our Nations’ president, #TamirRice, #PhilandoCastile, #SandraBland, #AltonSterling, #MikeEvans, #TravonMartin, #TerenceCrutcher, and many others.

PTSD is real. Anxiety and fear is real. Depression is real. These are not things we are making up. There are those of us who have yet to watch some of these videos because we are not mentally and emotionally stable enough, and we are hurting.

Let us hurt. Let us experience how we feel.

You OFFER joy, peace, hope, peace and the like. However, it is God’s job to give it.

We need the space to feel EVERYTHING we’re feeling, safely. And suppressing it is not the same as it being healed. Don’t force us to sweep these dangerous feelings under the rug of “hope,” leaving our heartache buried and collecting dust that accidentally spills over into every other part of our life, when we could’ve just openly laid our feelings on the altar and been honest about our heart so that we may truly experience the one who heals. Truth is, we see in the biblical witness that God does amazing work with folks who are honest about their hurt.

4. We need you to care longer than three news cycles. Here’s the thing. We ride and thrive on the climax of life’s stories, but when the climax has passed and gone, when the hashtags have stopped being shared, when photo-ops and protest are done, when the big-name preachers have stopped outing it on the Word Network, when it is no longer relevant to the mainstream media, we’ll still need you to care. There will still be another black body dead and gone. There will still be anxiety every time a police officer is seen. There will still be hurting and confused individuals in need of hope. There will still need to be a gospel that needs to be preached, and who better than a Methodist to do it?! Who better than a technologically advanced, loving, grace-filled, Wesleyan tradition of prophetic -oriented voices, Jesus loving group of people, should be the ones to speak to this matter?!?! One could venture to say that the UMC have been called for such a time as this, and we don’t disagree.

We need you. We need the space to wrestle and disagree. We need the space to discern and figure out what God wants us to do and how to respond. We need the light in the darkness, the life in dead spaces, and the calmness upon the stormy see to be represented at the table. We can’t always articulate what we need to say.

As millennials, we do have a VERY different understanding of the role of the church than our parents do, but we’re honest. We tell the truth, and the truth is we can’t make it, and won’t make it, without you. We are family. We are kindred. We are Sankofa. We are The United Methodist Church. Let’s journey together, onward and upward, toward a better day where our children and generations to come will be able to say, “Look what the Lord has done in our lives, because of the vessel that is the UMC.”

Thank you for always being there when we needed you before. Let’s continue to be there even now, because we need you again.

Signed by Valerie, a black UMC millennial who fears becoming the next hashtag

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