Speaking Out for Compassion and Against Hate
—Isaiah 59:14-16 (NIV)
And therefore, put off falsehood and speak truthfully, for we are all members of one body.
—Ephesians 4:25 (NIV)
When Isaiah observed that “justice has stumbled in the streets” and “truth is nowhere to be found,” he said, “God was appalled.” At a time of rising vitriol, racism, hate, and violence in the world born of deep economic crisis and global shifts, it is time for the Church to speak out. If we do not, God will be appalled. We feel compelled to raise a prophetic voice challenging the climate of distrust, distortion of truth, and fear, shifting the conversation to our common future. In many nations, the level of anger has crossed a line in terms of civility. Whatever the disagreement about policy or program, this behavior is unacceptable. It represents a spiritual crisis that calls for us to respond by deepening our understanding of God’s call and filling our own deep yearnings for spiritual wholeness, that can empower us to love and show compassion without giving up our responsibility to speak out for justice.
Many parts of the world are facing a deep economic crisis. In 25 of the world’s poorest countries, 50 percent or more of those employed live on less than $1.25 per day.  More and more people in the United States are learning the harsh realities of job loss, reduction of work hours, bankruptcies, lack of affordable health care resources, foreclosures, predatory lending, declining wages, and budget cuts for education and critical social programs. In the United States, overall unemployment rates in February 2011 were 8.9 percent but were 11.6 percent and 15.3 percent for Latinos and African Americans respectively.  We recognize that there is cause for anger among all economic and social groups. However, we are alarmed by the climate of hate in public discourse in the United States that has emerged in the wake of these difficult economic realities. We challenge the misdirection of anger toward the most vulnerable, for all are impacted by these crises.
As Christians we are called to be models of compassion. The United Methodist Social Principles affirm “all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. … We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate and violence against groups or persons based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or economic status” (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, ¶162), and “The strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. The Church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust” (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church,¶164B). The Charter for Racial Justice states that “all persons are equally valuable in the sight of God …that racism is a rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ … that we must work toward a world in which each person’s value is respected and nurtured.”
We remember our roots in speaking out for justice. Methodist women organized against lynching in the 1930s. The Church spoke out boldly during the 1960s in support of the civil rights movement. In South Africa and the United States, Methodists were strong in the opposition to apartheid. We spoke boldly for peace and reunification of Korea. In the 1980s we called for an end to United States government funding of paramilitary groups in Central America. When the United States began bombing Afghanistan in 2003, we called for an end to the bombing as well as for long-term support for the United Nations and international human rights. We continue to speak out in support of migrants and immigrants who are demonized and criminalized in many countries.
We do not want God to be appalled. We confess that we have not always behaved well as a Church. We have violated one another and acknowledge the need to reexamine our own behavior in following our impulse to first protect our own needs and our own security.
It is time to act boldly, and with God’s grace truth will be found and we will know justice.
We call on the Church—individuals, congregations, conferences, boards and agencies, clergy, and laity—to enter into dialogue and action, speaking out for compassion and against hate. A faithful dialogue requires the courage to speak up without misusing privilege and power. This will include:
- Redefining compassion as the process of inviting and sustaining faith in full dialogue.
- Acknowledging the wholeness of the human family by staying in community with those with whom we disagree and embracing both patience and humility.
- Committing to a lifelong journey of personal and collective discipline.
- Committing to listening attentively, respectfully, and never using dialogue as an excuse for talk and no action or to mask dishonesty.
We call on the Church at all levels to create sacred spaces for common prayer and community discussion as an invitation to reconciliation to convene conversations in family gatherings, churches, communities, and the political arena about current realities, fears, and the need for faith-filled compassionate response.
We call on conferences, boards, and agencies to use resources in the global Church to share models and strategies for faithful dialogue and to intentionally practice words and attitudes that will help us find common ground.
2. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The Employment Situation: February 2011,” News Release USDL-11-0271, retrieved from www.bls.gov.