Posts Tagged ‘humanity’

Marcus Wellons: More than Many Sparrows

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

On Tuesday night, Georgia murdered Marcus Wellons.

The news reporters delighted in labeling him as nothing less than a murderer, a killer, an inmate. However, I knew him as a friend of a friend of mine in Georgia. She had these words to say about Marcus after his execution:

"Marcus Wellons was my dear friend and mentor. Although his body was imprisoned by the state of Georgia, he was completely free through his strong Christian faith and through his unrelenting service to other death row prisoners. For 25 years Marcus gave God glory through being a model prisoner and a peacemaker. I first came to know Marcus out of my work to abolish the death penalty. We became members of one another's families. He asked for forgiveness for his crimes against India Roberts and her family every day, and his remorse was real and palpable. He was murdered at the hands of people whose identity was kept secret from him, and with drugs from an unknown source, filled through a prescription written by a doctor who has taken an oath to do no harm. I can only take comfort in the knowledge that Marcus is finally with Jesus, whom he loved so very much."

The state of Georgia did not see Marcus as a friend—or really a human, for that matter. They saw a crime record of rape and murder of a teenager.  They saw a case docket. They saw a poor black man and reduced him to the worst thing he’s ever done. A last resort, Marcus pleaded for his life with the United States Supreme Court. They showed no mercy and saw no friend. “Blind justice,” indeed.

Matthew 10:26I knew another man who was executed once. He was a homeless immigrant who traveled by foot with a dozen good friends. He spent his time healing and loving people. He was wrongfully accused of insurrection, did not have a fair trial, and was executed. Just like Marcus, the state reduced Jesus to a law to interpret and found loopholes to get rid of the one they saw as undesirable. Just like Pilate washing his hands of the crime, so does Georgia by keeping details of executions a secret. Nobody has to know it was you.

The lectionary gospel this week proclaims truth to our collective situation:

So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul… Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your [Creator]. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:26-31)

God weeps over Marcus’s conspired death. Even if states like Georgia cannot see the humanity in people like Marcus, God sees them as her children. Even if we cannot see the faces of the people cloaked in secrecy laws conspiring to kill our friends, God sees and will bring the truth to the light. Even when the Supreme Court reduces our friends to crimes, Jesus says, “The hairs on your head are numbered! You are worth more than many cheap sparrows.” Abolition is coming but only if the Church rises up and proclaims, “No more! Not in our names!” Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Church, have mercy.

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Autumn DennisAutumn Dennis is a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School, active with Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and a member of the UMC. She is engaged in ministry with the children of God who live their lives on streets and in prisons. She blogs at inspire2conspire.wordpress.com.

Learning to Love: First Time at West Virginia Day of Fairness

Friday, April 11th, 2014

"To Love another is to touch the face of God" {in Les Miserables motif}When writing about what it was like to be at the Capitol building for West Virginia  Day of Fairness in February,  I  had to think about it for a while because I wasn’t sure how to express how I felt and what I saw that day.  I, like many clergy, often try to avoid uncomfortable situations or being some place that our congregation would question or be upset about.  Going to the Capitol that day actually made me a bit anxious because I did not know what to expect.  What would people think?  How would people react to a woman running around in a clerical collar with LGBTQ people demanding to be treated fairly?

Well, I got to where I was supposed to be and was greeted with warm hugs and happy smiles.  A variety of people showed up and I saw that they had a bit of an anxious look about them too.  I came prepared, though, for a clerical collar possibly causing discomfort.  I had made silly little valentines cards for everyone, it being close to Valentine’s Day — a reminder that, regardless of who we are or how different we might be, we are worthy of being loved and treated well. 

As most conferences and events go, there was the usual shuffling about of people and time-frames but everyone jumped in with a smile.  As I co- presented I was able to interact with people who had amazing stories and lived unusual, yet loving, lives. 

I have to admit, it can still surprise me to see a transgender person (in this case, a transgender woman) and I found myself focusing on their make-up or their hands with painted nails.  But then, something happened.  I looked her in the eyes.  I saw her – really saw her.  I lost sight of the appearance and forgot stereotypes and gender expectations and just saw her.  The rest of the day was dramatically changed for me.  I was able to look each person in the eye and hear their story.  Their stories involved all manner of partnerships and family groupings.  Their stories involved some heartache and some joy.  They all involved love.  I heard love story after love story.  I saw family after family and I quit being worried about what anyone would think. 

I told stupid jokes and silly stories to get our minds off the cold and the shuffling around.  They figured out quickly that I was just a goof!  But they had looked into my eyes and had seen me too, so it was okay.

The bottom line for me, standing with people who demand to be treated fairly, is that within our scriptures and within our social principles we have determined that all people have the right to homes, jobs, and to be treated well.  Too many people never look past the differences and learn to love.  I am reminded of the line in “Les Miserable” that says, “To love another is to touch the face of God.”  Each time I am with LGBTQ people, I am thankful because I have been taught how to love and how to be loved in a deeper and more meaningful way than I ever dreamed of.

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Clergy-person Hyde in a collar & colorful shirtShauna Hyde pastors First United Methodist Church in Ravenswood, WV. She is committed to social justice work because, as Methodism's founder John Wesley said, "There is no holiness without social holiness." She has worked in Tent Towns, has lobbied at the Capitol and sits on boards and committees that are committed to establishing good living conditions for children and families. Shauna is author of two books: "Victim No More!" and "Fifty Shades of Grace."

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