Black Methodist For Church Renewal (BMCR) celebrated its Fiftieth Anniversary during its annual meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio –  March 8-11, 2017. The annual meeting not only was an historic event, it was a festive and inspirational gathering. It was a privilege and a joy to participate in this gathering of United Methodists.

The first meeting of Black Methodists was held in Detroit, Michigan in the fall of 1967. Bishop Woodie White noted that about 30 people gathered from the several corners of the nation. Their purpose was “to assess the future of Black Methodists in a newly merged denomination. There was enthusiasm, concern, and commitment as we gathered.” This meeting was a bold move that helped African Americans to find a meaningful path in the new United Methodist Church.

The National Conference of Negro Methodists was convened in March of 1968. The meeting was adjourned as a new organization, Black Methodists for Church Renewal. The very title demonstrated a solid commitment to the denomination and an unwillingness to accept the status quo. Dr. William McClain in his sermon during the opening worship service (March 9, 2017) proclaimed that the black “presence was both protest and participation.”

The decade of the 1960’s was a turbulent era – assassinations of national leaders, urban riots and the Viet Nam War. The Methodist Church was in the process of desegregating by eliminating the Central Jurisdiction which was the political home of all the black annual conferences. The nation and the church would never be the same again as time marched forward.

Over the years since its inception, BMCR has maintained a vital presence in the UMC. Its voice has been both pastoral and prophetic, energetic and emphatic, visionary and vital. BMCR has been a voice for racial justice, inclusivity and renewal of body, mind and spirit. BMCR is a caucus group with a vision: “A renewed transformed unified body of Christ on mission in the world.” What is the mission?

“The mission of Black Methodist for Church Renewal is to raise up prophetic and spiritual leaders who will be advocates for the unique needs of Black people in the United Methodist Church.”

The 2017 annual meeting convened under the theme, “Celebrating A Legacy of Faith, Hope, and Renewal – More Rivers to Cross, More Milestones to Reach. Various speakers rightly reminded BMCR that there are still more rivers to cross. During the days of American slavery, the slaves carried the image of the rivers which marked the activity of crossing to “freedom.” The Ohio River was known as River Jordan among the slaves. The desire, then, was to escape from bondage in Kentucky (a slave state) and cross the Ohio River (a free state) to freedom. The setting, Cincinnati, is the city where BMCR was birthed, and this city is freighted with history. The Underground Railroad Freedom Center is located in Cincinnati; its executive director, Dr. Clarence Newsome, was the banquet speaker. He also spoke of rivers, and barriers in life.

The meaning of rivers in black life and culture is captured in Langston Hughes’ poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers:”

“I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

There are rivers that remain. They must be crossed. BMCR is working within the United Methodist Church to enable the crossing of rivers through presence and participation.

Think about it!

Posted by: morgan1965 | February 6, 2017

Enduring These Turbulent Times

Depending on one’s perspective, it can be argued that we are living in “the best of times” or for some, “the worst of times.” One’s perspective might be guided by a variety of factors such as political party affiliation, gender identification, racial and cultural identity, national origin, economic class, or educational background.

Difficult times are not new to the American scene: The Civil War, World War I and II, the Depression, the civil rights era, the Vietnam War era, etc. Somehow, the nation has managed to find its way through turbulent times. During the hard days, it is not unusual to seek solace in the wisdom of other people. Let me share some words that can help us to navigate in these stormy times in America.

The hymn, “In Times Like These” (Ruth Jones), is a source of strength:

“In times like these, I have a Savior.

In times like these, I have an anchor.

I’m very sure, I’m very sure,

My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus;

Yes, He’s the One.

The anchor for Christians is Jesus Christ on whom we place our hope, and trust that our God will continue to lead us in and through all situations in life.

James Weldon Johnson expressed his understanding of God’s care and God’s leading in his hymn, “Lift Every Voice and Sing:”

“God of our weary years,

God of our silent tears,

Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;

Thou who hast by thy might led us into the light,

Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee;

Lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee;

Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand,

True to our God, true to our native land.”

Our God has led us through the “best of times” and “the worst of times.” Our God is able! Our God is leading us right now, day by day.

President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the Gettysburg National Cemetery with words that live in our history. He penned this historical document just four months after the Battle of Gettysburg. He said in part,

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain… that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom…and that government of the people…by the people…for the people…shall not perish from the earth.”

Creator God, Thank you for the opportunity and privilege of living in a democratic society. Thank you for the joy of being one of your pilgrim disciples in a nation where we have freedom of religion. Thank you for the gift of human and natural resources that we share together. In this present time, please grant this nation “a new birth of freedom.” Grant us wisdom and grant us courage as we strive to be a government of, by and for the people. Gracious God, we ask that you set us free. Amen

Let me begin this reflection by expressing my thanks and appreciation to President Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th president of the United States (2008-2016). As a citizen, I am thankful that he made himself available to serve in the difficult office of president for two terms; and, that he has served with ethical and moral distinction. Furthermore, I have appreciated his intellectual capacity, his skillful oratory, his talent as a community organizer, his commitment to family, his abiding faith, his audacious hope and his courageous leadership in the face of opposing currents.

After the fact, it was reported that a group of leading Republicans convened on the night of President Obama’s inauguration. Robert Draper notes that “they plotted out ways to not just win back the political power, but also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.” In October of 2010, then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” From the beginning and throughout his tenure, President Obama swam against the current.

For President Obama, there was a steady stream of Republican opposition that caused the president to find himself “swimming” against the political currents. Any leader, of course, would prefer to travel with the current. The appropriate current would have been a flow of useful bipartisan legislation; instead, we have witnessed a significant flow of presidential executive orders in lieu of bipartisan legislation. Nevertheless, President Obama has stood tall, he has kept the faith, and he has remained hopeful.

As I reflect on President Obama’s two terms as president, the image of “tacking” or “coming about” comes to mind. Tacking, of course, is a very useful sailing maneuver that enables a sailing vessel to progress against less than favorable winds. As I understand it, a vessel turns its bow into the wind. This facilitates sailing as “the direction from which the wind blows changes from one side to the other.” President Obama is to be commended for his courageous leadership in the face of certain Republican led opposition in the Congress. I have admired his ability at tacking. It is my observation that President Obama leaves a significant legacy that has been shaped on the anvil of opposition, even while swimming upstream against the current.

There is no need for me to catalog the matters that constitute the legacy of President Obama, because so many others have done this already. Rather, I would like to note the context in which the matters that constitute his legacy have been developed. The context from my perspective is Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of the “Beloved Community.” Dr. King envisioned a totally integrated society characterized by love and justice. Dr. King, although he understood that the “Beloved Community” had not yet been realized, remained a man of hope, and never stopped working for change.

President Obama in his farewell speech [Chicago] (January 11, 2017) said this: “It was in neighborhoods not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills. It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss. This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.” When we come together in community, then we can make strides toward Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community.

President Obama also said that we serve “to make people’s lives better, not worse.” He has been dedicated to making people’s lives better. The Affordable Care Act is a demonstration of this endeavor. More than 20 million people who previously did not have health insurance now have it. This stride toward universal health care benefits all Americans as we seek to provide good health care for all Americans. This effort can lead to a healthy nation of people.

A Beloved Community is a nation where all people are welcome and treated fairly. President Obama said: “So regardless of the station we occupy; we have to try harder; to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.” So, we are reminded to work together as fellow citizens. Such cooperation is the nature of true community.

President Obama in his farewell speech reminded us that “it falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.” The challenge is for us to believe in our ability to bring about change.

The farewell speech ended with this plea: “I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written.” President Obama’s answer now is the same as it was eight years ago, “Yes We Can.”

I will remember President Obama as one who gave children, young people, adults and senior citizens an audacious hope for the future, and offered the challenge to live in community as brothers and sisters who are Citizens. What an awesome legacy that is couched in the content of his character.

Thank you, President Obama!

 

 

Posted by: morgan1965 | January 14, 2017

Dr. Martin Luther King: A Network of Mutuality

When we annually observe the birthday [January 15, 1939] of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we remember the life and legacy of a great American moral leader. Dr. King disrupted the tranquility of a nation, while helping to weave the ethical and moral tapestry that would provide a foundation for building lasting community. He posed the question of ultimate destiny with regard to whether America would choose chaos or community.

Too often, it seems that we choose chaos rather than community. As a nation, we have just completed a very divisive political campaign. Already we have witnessed protests and demonstrations against the president elect. The chaos is manifested in a variety of polar opposites: democrats vs. republicans, majority vs. minority, black vs. white, liberal vs. conservative, rural vs. urban and suburban, rich vs. poor, well education vs. the less educated, etc.

We also see signs of division in the United Methodist Church. There is talk of the possibility of schism in the church. There is, however, a Commission that is grappling with the possibilities of shaping a way forward with regard to gender issues – homosexuality, ordination, same gender marriages, etc.

Regardless of the arena, the nation or the UMC, there is an unhealthy attitude manifested as “us versus them.” Such a posture can only lead to chaos, not community. In the spirit of Dr. King, we should strive to live in community as citizens of the United States of America. As Christians, Jesus calls us to live in community: “So, we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another” (Romans 12:5).

In Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963), he said: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

Dr. King fully recognized the “interrelatedness of all communities and states.” He further stated that “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” An example of this is the Affordable Healthcare Act that affects all Americans because it has to do with the health of the American people.

We live in a world that is interrelated in so many ways. Thomas L. Friedman argues that the “world is flat.” This is a result of globalization. The nations of the world are connected by air, land and sea trade roots, and technology. The lower forty-eight states of the United States are connected by the interstate highway system as well as by air, rail and sea. The cities and villages of each state are connected by a web of county and state highways. The whole nation is wired, as is the world. The people of the United States and the other nations of the world are connected through relationships. We are a “network of mutuality.”

In the United Methodist Church, we consider ourselves to be a connectional church, connected by our love of Jesus and our roots in the United Methodist way. We are connected through our membership in local churches that are connected by their membership in an annual conference. The annual conferences are located in episcopal areas, that are organized into jurisdictions and/or central conferences. We are a “network of mutuality.”

In celebrating the birthday of Dr. King, we give thanks for the gift of a pilgrim disciple who was such an amazing leader in weaving the fabric of a “network of mutuality” in this nation and the world. Like the Apostle Paul, Dr. King has helped us to understand that all races, all ethnic groups, and all nations are needed to gain unity in the body of Christ.

We have work to do in the United Methodist Church and in the nation. The various denominations have work to do. The U.S Congress has work to do, as well as the president and the Supreme Court.

The real work of building a “network of mutuality” begins in the neighborhoods where we live, the churches where we worship, and the workplaces where we labor. Thank you, Dr. King.

Think About It!

Posted by: morgan1965 | January 6, 2017

Pondering An Epiphany Question

Where is Jesus?

This is an appropriate question to ponder in the Season of Epiphany. The three wise men followed the star to the place where Jesus had been born. Fortunately, they did not reveal his location to King Herod. In preparation for celebrating Christmas, many Christians sang the familiar words of the Christmas carol, “Joy to The World.” The first verse of this hymn contains a directive, a plea, an invitation: “Let every heart prepare Him room.”

To prepare room for Jesus is to make a place for Jesus in our heart, in our life. Now that is a joyous experience. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!   Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room.”

The biblical story tells us that when Jesus was born, however, there was no room for Mary and her son in the inn. So, Mary laid Jesus in a manger. Where is your Jesus? As you traverse the days of the new year, where will your Jesus be found? In other words, have you made a place for Jesus in your private and public life? Do you have a prepared place for Jesus?

Fast forward to the Easter story and the death of Jesus. Jesus was placed in a borrowed tomb, but on the third day the women went to the tomb and discovered that it was empty. The women were perplexed by the surprise of an empty tomb. Where was Jesus? They were told that Jesus, who had been raised from death to life, was not there. Jesus, of course, previously had reminded his disciples that he would be with them “to the end of the age.”

When we consider the drama of the Christmas story and the marvelous dynamics (triumphal entry, the Last Supper, foot washing, betrayal, denial, forgiveness, prayer, death, and resurrection) of the Easter story, we come face to face with Jesus. Eugene Peterson, in the “Message,” helps us to gain focus and clarity regarding the question: Where is Jesus? “The Word became flesh and blood, And moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14)

Our hope is couched in our belief that the Word is resident in our neighborhoods. What a wonderful gift. Jesus the Son of God, lives in our neighborhoods –  our cities, our homes, our churches and our hearts. We, therefore, live in the presence of Jesus.

As we journey through the early days of a New Year, there are some ominous signs on the horizon – fear, doubt, anxiety, mistrust, anger, suspicion, etc. Let us not, however, miss the signs of God’s fresh beginnings as illustrated in the change of seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall.

God is ever present in our midst. In this Season of Epiphany, let us not forget that Jesus comes to us and brings to us, grace and truth. “He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove, The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His Love.”

God calls us, you and me, to be the presence of Jesus in our neighborhoods. By practicing the presence of Jesus in our neighborhoods, we can help to build new relationships between all people and with God.

Think about it!

Epiphany of the Lord – January 6, 2017

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-12

 

Posted by: morgan1965 | December 13, 2016

Contemplating “Truth” in the Season of Advent

The Season of Advent is an appropriate time to contemplate the matter of truth. What is truth?

This question has loomed before us in this 2016 presidential election cycle in a way that we have not seen before. Do facts constitute truth? When a statement is made, we wait for the response of the fact checkers to tell us the degree of veracity in the statement. In this season of politics and real life experiences, one is forced to ponder what can be believed. Can we believe the media, or politicians, or preachers, or teachers?

Some scholars define truth as “the state of being the case;” in other words, truth is fact. Truth, then, can be a body of facts.

Some dictionaries define fact as “something that actually exists.” Fact defined in this way equates with reality and truth. A fact, then, is something that is known through actual observation or experience. We see that there is a direct correlation between truth and fact.

A brief examination of truth and fact pushes one to consider the definition of belief. Belief, of course, can be defined in a variety of ways. Belief has to do with a tenet or body of tenets held by a group, such as a religious group. Belief is also about the conviction of the truth of some statement or fact or reality. A common synonym for belief is faith or credence. Some antonyms are disbelief, doubt and nonbelief.

In a recent blog (Blog posted by Seth Godin; December 1, 2016), Seth Godin posed the question “What kind of truth?” He suggests that often there is confusion between fact and belief. On the one hand, “there are facts that don’t change if the observer doesn’t believe: The age of the Eiffel Tower. The temperature in Death Valley. The number of people in the elevator.”

On the other hand, “there are outcomes that vary quite a bit if we believe: The results of the next sales call. Our response to medical treatment. The enjoyment of music.” To be sure, there is some degree of confusion as one attempts to discern between fact and belief in search of truth.

Recently, Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as its international word of the year (2016). This decision has emerged in the era of President-elect Donald Trump and Brexit. The dictionary defines post-truth as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” There has been a significant uptick in the use of this concept in 2016. The editors contend that this increase in usage is unfolding “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States.” (“The Guardian,” November 15, 2016)

What are some implications for Christians in this conversation? Let me suggest that Christians are by definition committed to truth. From a biblical perspective, we are reminded that Jesus said, “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6) Furthermore, John’s Gospel declares that “the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Regarding truth from a Cristian perspective, we are reminded of this scripture passage: “Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’.” (John 8: 31-32)

Humans have a way of disregarding what is true when it is convenient. As a child, I was taught to tell the truth in all circumstances.  Why not tell the truth? Why do some people tell the untruth? The untruth never prevails in the long term.

Einstein had this to say about truth: “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

William Cullen Bryant made this statement about truth in his poem, “The Battle-Field:”

“Truth, crushed to the earth, shall rise again;

The eternal years of God are hers;

But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,

And dies among his worshippers.”

In this Advent Season, we are making preparation to receive Jesus, who comes among us as one full of grace and truth. Yes, “He rules the world with truth and grace.”

Think About It!

 

Posted by: morgan1965 | November 23, 2016

The Holy Staples of Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving tradition goes back to the 17th century.  The Thanksgiving holiday is a very special holiday whose meaning has been corrupted by secular trends. There has been a continuing failure to lift up the religious foundations of the season.

Thanksgiving Day is an annual national holiday observed in the United States and Canada. Its original purpose was to celebrate the bountiful harvest and other blessings of the past year. Although Thanksgiving has deep roots in our religious traditions and practices, however, we experience it today mostly as a secular holiday.

Thanksgiving Day has evolved as a time when families gather and share a scrumptious meal together. A typical Thanksgiving Day might begin with a family breakfast. Many families will attend a local high school football game or a college football game. Still other families will watch a favorite team, whether college or professional, on television. Then there is the Thanksgiving Day dinner with a delectable menu. In my family, it was always a menu that included turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, sweet potatoes, collard greens, mashed turnips, and yeast rolls. Then there would be pies with sweet potato pie being the favorite. These were the stables of Thanksgiving Day dinner in my family.

To be honest, I still look forward to that kind of menu each year. Recently, I heard a sermon that caused me to ponder the question as to whether my favorite menu included the real stables of Thanksgiving.

What constitutes a genuine Thanksgiving celebration from a Christian perspective? To be sure, Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. It is a time to review and renew our family relationships. It is the time to probe in depth our relationship with God.

So, what are the staples of Thanksgiving? For me the real staples of Thanksgiving are the blessings that God has bestowed upon me. Our lists will not necessarily be the same, but I share my list with humility.

  1. Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.
  2. The Gift of life.
  3. The gift of family – spouse, brother, sisters, children and grandchildren.
  4. A reasonable portion of good health – mind, body and soul.
  5. The freedom to be…
  6. The gift of a few “talents” and hobbies.
  7. The gift of retirement

These are some of the critical staples of Thanksgiving for me. What do you include on your list?

In this 2016 Thanksgiving Season, I am thinking about an old song, “Count Your Blessings.”

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

 

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God has done!

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

(Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1897)

I am so thankful for the staples of Thanksgiving; yes, I praise God for what God has done and is doing in my life right now.

Praise the Lord!

 

 

 

 

Posted by: morgan1965 | November 17, 2016

A Flawed President-elect In God’s Hand

The United States electorate cast our ballots to determine our 45th president on November 8, 2016. After a very contentious primary, the electorate chose one of the two flawed presidential candidates to become the president-elect.

Now that the election is over, we have president-elect Donald Trump, who is a flawed person. Even if we had elected Hillary Clinton, we would be faced with a flawed president-elect.

Trump supporters, of course, are delighted with the outcome of the election. Clinton supporters, on the other hand, are perhaps angry, or disappointed, or afraid or disenchanted. No matter the sentiment, Donald Trump is the president-elect; the election is over.

Numerous articles have outlined Donald Trump’s flaws, and media pundits have expounded upon his many flaws. For example, Mr. Trump seems to shun the truth when it conveniently amplifies his argument. He has manifested streaks of racism, and once was charged with racial discrimination in his housing units. When he slammed an American-born judge for his Mexican heritage, he manifested his bigotry.

There are examples of misogyny in Mr. Trumps life as manifested in the “Access Hollywood Tape.” He typed Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman” while launching an endless attack upon a Gold Sar Mother and the Khan family. These are some of his more obvious flaws; perhaps there are others that you might want to include in your own list.

In a recent Facebook post, I made the following statement: “No matter who wins the 2016 presidential election, we have the blessed assurance that our Creator God still will be in charge. Our God is able. Our God dispenses justice, mercy, grace, peace and love.” This was my statement and I am sticking with it.

First, God is the potter. “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). My prayer is that God will take our new president as a lump of flawed clay and shape him into a leader of all the people in this nation. At the same time, I am praying that God will shape me into a citizen who will support the new president when he is right and chastise him when he is wrong.

Second, Mr. Trump is our presidential leader now. Is he ready for the difficult and complex task of leadership that lies ahead of him? No, but neither was Moses. I pray that God will lead him, and he will follow, for God will lead him by day and by night. Donald Trump only has to follow. If Trump is to follow God’s leading, he will have to bury his ego, admit his errors and be open to learning new things and God’s way. God has a way of molding the clay because God is the potter.

The prophet Jeremiah describes the work of the potter and the clay. Jeremiah went down to the potter’s house where the potter was working at his wheel. The vessel that the potter was making was spoiled in the potter’s hand. The potter did not throw the spoiled clay away, but reworked it into a new vessel. “Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as the potter has done? Says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:5-6).

To be sure, God prepares leaders for leadership. Unless, the person resists and croons the words popularized by Dionne Warwick, “Don’t Make Me Over.” Consider these words:

“Don’t make me over.

Don’t pick on the things I say, the things I do

Just love me with all my faults

The way that I love you, I’m begging you.

Don’t make me over.”

In times like these, I am reminded of the hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.”

“Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!

Thou art the potter; I am the clay.

Mold me and make me after thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still.”

This is my prayer.

Think about it! And start praying.

 

 

Posted by: morgan1965 | October 25, 2016

Women, Politics and Sexism

As human beings, we mentally bank a variety of experiences and memories during our lifetime. A memorable experience for me occurred when I was in elementary school. We lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey for four years in the early 1950s. I remember my mother taking us to see the Miss America Pageant parade on the boardwalk. This venture enabled the parade watchers to see the Miss America contestants as they rode by in their respective vehicles. In recent days, however, I have been compelled to revisit this childhood experience because of what we see unfolding in our nation as we participate in the 2016 presidential election cycle.

In 1965 the theologian Harvey Cox published a book titled “The Secular City” that describes what Cox calls “The Girl.” He says in part, “…that The Girl is an idol. She functions as the source of value, the giver of personal identity. But the values she mediates and the identity she confers are both spurious. Like every idol she is ultimately a creation of our own hands and cannot save us.” In Cox’s assessment, Miss America represents The Girl.

Harvey Cox further notes that the “Playboy” magazine “does for the boys what Miss America does for the girls.” He argues that the boys “need a total image of what it means to be a man.” “For ‘Playboy’s’ man, others – especially women – are for him. They are his leisure accessories, his playthings. For the Bible, man only becomes fully man by being for the other.”

The above quotes suggest that there is a problem in American culture. The problem has to do with our lingering perceptions of women and how we treat women. The problem also relates to the designated place for women in our society. Historically, women tended to stay at home, and when women entered the workplace, there often seemed to be a glass ceiling when it came time to rise up the corporate ladder. Even today there is a serious issue of pay equity for women.

We have heard the term, misogyny, bounced around in this current political season. In plain language, misogyny is the hatred of women. Is there a hatred of women in the United States culture? Perhaps, hatred is too strong a term.

Let me venture to say, however, that it seems to me that there is a subtle anti-female sentiment that continues to manifest itself in our American culture. On the one hand, the woman is idolized. On the other hand, women are less appreciated when they step out of their traditional roles in the society.

It was not until 1920 that women were allowed to vote [Nineteenth Amendment] in the United States. The election in 1920 marked the first time that women were allowed to vote in the United States presidential election. Ninety-six years later a major political party has nominated a woman to run for the office of president of the United States.

The United States has not yet elected a female head of state, however dozens of countries around the world have had female heads of state at one time or the other over many decades. Sri Lanka elected a female head of state in 1960, while 20 years later the United Kingdom elected its first female prime minister. Switzerland has had five female presidents.

It was not until 1956 that the General Conference of the Methodist Church approved full clergy rights for women. Twenty-four years passed before Marjorie Matthews was elected and consecrated as the first female bishop in the United Methodist Church.

Why? Why has it taken so long to get the first female nominee for president, and why did it take so long before women were ordained in the UMC and a woman elected to the episcopacy? In the case of the UMC, there has been a cultural bias against women ministers that has been fostered by both men and women. It was my experience, as a district superintendent and a residential bishop, that there was often reticence, if not vocal resistance to the appointment of female pastors. To be sure, this was the exception and not the rule; yet, this cultural dynamic was real.

This same kind of cultural bias is present in our nation in general and in the current presidential election process in particular.

Women are not to be treated as “The Girl.” They are not to be treated as some kind of trophy. They are not to be physically abused, psychologically abused or sexually abused. In plain language, women must be treated with respect and dignity in the church and in the larger society.

The presidential election cycle should be devoid of any signs or symbols of misogyny.

Think about it!

Resource – Harvey Cox, “The Secular City. New York: The McMillan Co, 1965.

Posted by: morgan1965 | September 25, 2016

The Politics of Change

The word “change’ is heard often in the midst of a general election season. This current election season is no different than previous election seasons – voters want change.

What is change? As a verb, change means “to make or become different,” according to the Oxford dictionary. Change also means take or substitute one thing for something else.

When used as a noun, change is “the act or instance of making or becoming different.” When referring to money, loose coins constitute change.

Do American citizens want change, or something different from what currently exists, or what they now have and experience in their life? The answer, of course, is yes when change will improve one’s personal well-being. On the other hand, the answer is no if it means that one has to change his/her thinking or what one does.

Voters tend to ask this question: What is in your bag of goodies for me? Will I be able to get a job or a better job? Will I be able to get a higher salary and be able to buy a house? Such critical questions have to do with one’s quality of living.

Some observers would characterize these concerns as populist expectations. Politicians have learned that it is helpful to promise change, even when they know that they will not likely be able to deliver on their promise.

So, America is seeking a leader, a president, who will bring about the needed and necessary changes in Washington. Changes that will improve significantly the quality of life for all Americans. Who is that leader?

Change, to be sure, is a very broad concept that is open to a variety of interpretations and misconceptions. When there is a call for change, there is no common agreement with regard to chat needs to change, or be changed. In this 2016 election cycle, we know for sure that there will be a change in who is president. But, will a change in the White House usher in the desired change?

It is appropriate to want our president to bring about change as it relates to specific problems and concerns, such as immigration, criminal justice reform, the economy, taxes, jobs, etc. What about our structures and systems that hold our government together? Can there be any change that eliminates particular problems and concerns without the appropriate changes in structure and systems.

The dilemma that we face is articulated in an article by David Shribman titled “Voters want change – yet they like how things are now.” (“Las Vegas Sun, September 23, 2016). He said: “The 2016 campaign is a struggle for the hearts of voters who are at once desperate for change – and satisfied with their well-being. It is an electorate that is impatient with America’s leadership – even as it is highly supportive of America’s leader.”

Who effects change in Washington? Is it the President? Is it the Senate? Is it the House of Representatives?

If we want to see meaningful change, it might come about when the President, the Senate and the House of Representatives begin to work together on a bipartisan basis for the good of the nation, and not for the political gain of any political party.

Now, that would be a change.

Think about it!

 

 

 

 

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