Archive for July, 2014

PRESS RELEASE: Civil Disobedience for Families Harmed by Current Immigration Policy

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Protestors for Immigration reform are loaded into police vans...
WASHINGTON, DC – July 31, 2014 – Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) executive director, Chett Pritchett, has been detained by the United States Park Police for an act of civil disobedience in front of The White House. Pritchett, along with Love Your Neighbor Coalition Coordinator, Rev. Steve Clunn, joined with other United Methodist clergy and laity, as well as ecumenical leaders, to witness to The White House from across the street in Lafayette Park. All involved expect to be released by early evening.

 

“If this act of civil disobedience can raise public awareness that children and families are being harmed by current government policies and practices, then we will have been successful,” stated Pritchett prior to his detainment. “Our United Methodist Social Principles call us to recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons, regardless of country of origin. To not stand for the safety and welfare of our Christian siblings is equivalent to ignoring John Wesley’s first general rule of ‘do no harm.’”

 

This act of civil disobedience outside The White House developed as a way to bring moral clarity to the injustice of the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement policies. Those gathered prayed for affirmative relief and expansion of deferred action from deportation for immigrant families, so that families might be kept together.

 

Teams of organizers from across the United States joined their hearts and voices with those arrested today. Some of those teams are from local chapters of MFSA, while others are from annual (regional) conference groups organized by The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society, working to advocate for local, grassroots welcome of immigrant families. Tomorrow, those teams will gather with ecumenical partners for movement mapping, new media organizing, and spokesperson trainings to heighten the effectiveness of today’s witness and civil disobedience.

 

Since 1907, the Methodist Federation for Social Action has worked to mobilize, lead, and sustain a progressive movement, energizing people to be agents of God’s justice, peace, and reconciliation. As an independent, faith-based organization, MFSA leads both Church and society on issues of peace, poverty, people’s rights, progressive issues, and justice within The United Methodist Church.

 

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God and Baseball:Evangelism Hits a Foul Ball

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Today I received an email from the sales office of the Washington Nationals. I love the Nationals. Nothing is better than a half-smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl, a summer breeze, and some baseball. I even have a Ryan Zimmerman bobble head on my office shelf – right next to John Wesley, of course!

The email from the sales agent was to invite participation in “Faith Day” later this fall. Intrigued, I read on to learn that “Faith Day” consists of a post-game concert by contemporary Christian musician, Lincoln Brewster, and select players will give their personal Christian testimonies.  The post-game Faith Day event is free with the purchase of any ticket to the Nationals game that day and group discounts are available.

“Faith Day” sounds more like “Christian Day.”

Actually it sounds more like “Evangelical Christian Day.”

If the Washington Nationals would like to have a day to support faith communities in the Washington region, I hope they would extend this invitation to people of all faith traditions. The District and surrounding suburbs are rich with religious diversity: Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, Sikh, Buddhist, and a multitude of other faith traditions. To call this “Faith Day,” yet to have only Contemporary Christian Music and select Christian players sharing their Christian testimony is at best a marketing faux pas; at its worst, it’s a bold lie.

Even if the Nationals were to be honest and call it “Christianity Day,” this too would be problematic. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I live out my devotion through acts of prayer and community worship, as well as acts of service and justice. Might a stronger witness not be made that the Church is a place of nurture and care for the entire world by encouraging a food/clothing drive, or a donation of portions of group ticket sales to be shared with faith-based 501c3 organizations working to alleviate homelessness, poverty, or human trafficking? Witnessing takes many forms. And as the 16th century Christian mystic, Teresa of Avila, stated, “Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours.”

It is also important to remember that not all Christians have unanimous beliefs about the nature of God, salvation, and human responses to the Divine. When I confessed my faith at the age of 23, I committed to growing in faith with God through reliance on Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience of the Holy Spirit. Many Christian traditions live out that faith in many different ways, so for that reason I will invite my friends and colleagues of many different faiths who choose to attend the game that day to not participate in the post-game festivities, but instead to build relationships across diverse faiths and serve society in the ways that Jesus would: by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and liberating those who are imprisoned. (If you have thoughts on how to make this happen, please let me know!)

The final problem of “Faith Day” at Nationals Park is that the District of Columbia provided over $611 million for the new stadium. The Nationals ball club not only pays rent to the District of Columbia, but also received credit for locating the team in the District. I’d hazard a guess that their memorandum of agreement with the District doesn’t cover sectarian, religious events. If the Nationals accepted funds as part of a public-private partnership and those funds are being used in for the promotion of certain religious beliefs, my hunch is that the ACLU would have a field day. I could be wrong on this and if someone has the time to devote going the rabbit hole of securing a copy of the Memorandum of Agreement with DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, please help me out.

In a day when “religious freedom” has become a buzzword, I would hope that the Washington Nationals would be aware of how “Faith Day” does not create opportunity to celebrate that Constitutional right, but instead entrenches the dichotomy between the secular and the sacred. The nuances of what it means to be a person of faith go far beyond Contemporary Christian Music and testimonies of salvation.  I’m sure that many Nationals fans, Christian and non-Christian alike, would welcome the opportunity to celebrate our religious diversity and freedom after a curly W is added to win column.

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Chett Pritchett is Executive Director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. He is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College and Wesley Theological Seminary, and is a member at Dumbarton UMC in Washington, DC.

National Office:212 East Capitol St., NE,Washington, DC 20003 * tel: 202.546.8806 *email: mfsa@mfsaweb.org