replacing You with our fears, values, prejudices and our laws.
Move us from hardness to compassion,
from guilt to forgiveness,
from apathy to action,
from complicity and silence to justice.
Heal our brokenness and the wounds of your creation. Amen
This we prayed on November 20 at the symposium on hate crimes held at Grace United Methodist Church, 125 W 104th Street, New York City. It was a beautiful church, and throughout the day we watched the sun shine through the stained glass dove above the altar as we sat together and confronted what it means and what it would look like to commit ourselves to the work of ending hate violence. The symposium, called My Brother's Keeper: People of faith confront hate crimes, was sponsored by the Conference Board of Church and Society, the NYAC Immigration Task Force, the NY chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, Methodists in New Directions, the Conference Commission on Race and Religion and the Conference Committee on the Status and Role of Women.
The symposium was so beautifully woven together with lecture, worship, discussion, and art. We began with worship, opening with a song whose lyrics were "I am not forgotten; God knows my name"--- a powerful reminder of those communion of saints for whom we gathered today to stand up against the violence that makes people "forgotten."
For there are indeed so many who are pushed into forgotten-ness. Dr. J. Terry Todd, Drew professor and member of the keynote panel "How is the Hate Sponsored in Church and Society? How is the Hate Countered?" along with doctoral biblical studies student Rosario Quinones and civil rights lawyer Fred Brewington moderated by Dr. Traci West, spoke about the three periods of anti-immigrant fervor in the USA, weaving political cartoons from the 1880s with pictures from Tea Party rallies to reveal how the same rhetoric gets repeated again and again. And though he began by focusing on immigration, he reminded us that it is not coincidental that the rise of the Klu Klux Klan coincided with the period of anti-immigrant fervor from 1880-1924.
He ended his part in the lecture, though, with the adoption in 1972 in the United Methodist Church of what we call the incompatibility clause: "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." Originally the Committee on Christian Social Concerns wrote a sentence to declare acceptance of people of all sexual identities, recognizing everyone's sacred worth, but on the floor the language was changed to "incompatible." Fred Brewington said during his part of the panel that the incompatibility clause turns the bible into a weapon. And that, we began to see, is hate speech.
The day really centered around showing us of the intersectionality of anti-immigrant, racially-based, and homophobic hate crimes, as you can see from the keynote panel. The literature also reminded us about those hate crimes against Muslims in the city this year, though it was not covered as much throughout the day. There was a theatrical performance brought to us by the Teatro Experimental Yerbabruja out of Long Island, that spoke to us of the real-life events of the murder of Marcelo Lucero, thus documenting how hate crimes happen. Here, we kept hearing the words so prevalent today in our own anti-immigrant fervor: "It's not about race, it's about rule of law." And we kept seeing the bodies of immigrants broken and bruised alongside these words, proving how empty those words really are.
Bishop Jeremiah Park, who I was very proud to see there as too often bishops avoid events like this, brought us a letter announcing the coming statement from the Council of Bishops that says:
"We as people of faith are charged to build the beloved community because Christ has broken down the dividing walls and ended the hostilities between us. Yet we continue to build walls in the church and in the world, which separate us and cause our hearts to grieve...In the United States, there has been an escalation of violence, related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religious preference. This escalation included personal attacks, bullying and vicious criminal acts of violence to the mind, body and spirit of persons. These actions diminish life for the victims, the perpetrators and the total community. They are ultimately insidious and irreverent attacks on the sacredness of God given life."We as people of faith, must work to build this beloved community, one free from hate crimes and hate speech.
To educate yourself more, visit the Center for Preventing Hate and join the conversation on the My Brother's Keeper Facebook page.
As Rosario Quinones said, the blood of those impacted by the hate is, like Abel's, crying out from the ground. We must move, as the prayer says, to compassion, action, and justice to repent from this sin of fear.