I felt compelled to write another letter to the U.S. Methodist Bishops. My friend Glenda chastised me, saying I was going to cause them to just start deleting my messages. Indeed, at least two already do that (I request a read receipt). But as I told her, I can’t stop them from doing that, but I feel an obligation to try to move them. I can only do what I can do, and they will only do what they feel compelled to do.
I’d like to call to your attention two items that are, while seemingly unrelated, actually are very much related in an important way to Christians.
First is another report by members of the FBI about torture at Guantanamo Bay Prison and delivered on the Senate Floor by Sen. Durbin:
When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]–I almost hesitate to put them in the [Congressional] Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:
“On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.”
In a different story the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that, Fred Phelps and members of the congregation of his Westboro Baptist Church will picket the funeral of an Idaho National Guard soldier killed in Iraq. The church has been picketing the funerals of other soldiers as well.
According to a flier on the Church’s website, they are picketing to point out that God killed Cpl. Carrie French with an improvised explosive device in retaliation against the United States for a bombing at Phelps’ church six years ago. “Our attitude toward what’s happening with the war is the Lord is punishing this evil nation for abandoning all moral imperatives that are worth a dime,” Phelps said.
So how are these two stories related? Both stories are receiving a decent amount of media coverage. Notice how the second story refers over and over again to “Church.” People, this is the face of Christianity that is being presented to us and the World. At the same time, Christian Leaders, and this includes you all, are standing by while the first story unfolds with nary a peep. Only one of your number has the courage to contact me and tell that he will write the President and remind him of the Methodist stance on torture. Another of you wants to have a committee consider it, and others of you insist on referring me to one of our Boards. Like it or not, Wesley demands that we be involved in our world as it is, and that we defend the “least of these” among us. And he was not referring to committees. John Wesley expected each of us to be part of the world.
Our Church has indeed spoken on this topic in fairly clear terms. A professed Methodist is the person in charge of the government committing these crimes against humanity, and you all stand quietly on the sidelines. All the while, Fred Phelps, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson present their face as the face of Christianity in America.
I daresay that many of your churches used the great old hymn “The Church Is One Foundation” on Pentecost. Have you listened to words lately? One of the last verses is, “Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war, she waits the consummation of peace forevermore. Til, with the vision glorious, her longing eyes are blest, and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.
The problem I have is that you are very busy with working groups trying to figure out why people are un-churched. Duhh! (As they say nowadays.) Look around at what you all are concerned with. The only headlines the Methodist Church have been receiving of late relate to the witch hunt being conducted to rid the pastorate of (ohmygosh) gays and lesbians, and a Methodist in the White House is allowing, nay, encouraging, the torture of other human beings. That is not, “The vision glorious” talked of in the hymn.
You all are supposed to be leaders in the faith. Demand better. If you are at a loss for words, cut and paste the appropriate sections of the Discipline. Remind our Commander and Chief of his obligations as a Christian and a Methodist. What are you afraid of? Lead or get out of the way. Show this world and this country that Methodist care, and try to live out the call of Jesus Christ in this world.
You all have, as a group, presented a couple of Bibles to the President. Call on him to read and study the book you provided. Live up to the call of John Wesley. Care about the world and the rest of humanity. Quit sitting on your hands and hiding behind Boards and Committees, and start worrying about what is really important. Some of you don’t even care enough to read my messages. I know you don’t like them, but it’s just rude when I get back a read receipt saying it was deleted without being read. How low have you sunk, that you are afraid to even read the truth when it comes to you?
As another verse of the hymn says, “Their cry goes up, how long!” How long indeed will the leaders of the Methodist Church standby and allow the Fred Phelps’ of this world to be the face of Christianity. How long will you ignore the torture of fellow human-beings? I weep for all of Christendom, and for our Church.
Yours in Peace,