Dear CME Family:
Disinformation, divisiveness and deception have marked the four years of the Trump Administration and at least the year preceding it as a campaign. What we saw play out at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was an outgrowth of that divisive and deceptive rhetoric that had been fueled by at least four years of disinformation. When by the second day of that Administration, the phrase “alternative facts” began to be spoken by the official spokesperson, we should have been alerted to worse things coming.
It should be no surprise – after four years of targeted diversions – that we were front and center at such a diversion yesterday. For four years we have been handed decoys to get our attention off the things that were really happening. And so, when I hear so many leaders in government today talking about their ”shock,” they leave me wondering, where have you been?
Did you not hear disinformation in the comment coming down the escalator in the Trump Tower announcement of a Trump candidacy when Mexican immigrants were generalized as rapists?
Have you not noticed how there is always a diversion or other alarming event when the serious issues like information on Russia’s efforts to influence the elections (yes, even the 2020 elections) and like our unpreparedness to deal with COVID-19 and even to organize the distribution of the virus come up?
On a day when the Electoral College votes were to be counted, were you surprised that another diversion would arise?
I do dare say this: had it been a Black Lives Matter group or a group of Muslims, or a group of Arab-Americans in Washington yesterday, I believe the security forces would not have been unprepared or outnumbered or overwhelmed. AND I believe more force would have been used.
But our calling as members of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church is to point our people within and other people without to the authority of God, even in our nation … and the world over, even when we are in crisis. (But aha! Even in that statement lies another diversion: we have been cajoled into thinking “America First” so much these four years that we don’t even see the suffering of the rest of the world as clearly any more. Here: I’m so glad I’m on “the list” for the vaccine – but we have CME members in other parts of the world whose countries have no vaccine to get on a list or in a line for! We are rich, and in our wealth, we are focused on ourselves and become more insensitive to the pleas and needs of other nations. They are not on our radar!
When Moses, at the Red Sea, turned to God – with the Egyptians on the heels of the Israelites behind them – God said, “Tell the people to go forward.”
Yes, we pray through crises; but the time to really pray is before crises. Yes, we must investigate not only what happened but also what failed to happen yesterday. And while we are in our moments of shock, now is the time to be alert, to keep preparing, and to stay on focus!
This past Tuesday – January 5th – when CME men on the early morning CME Prayer Line were praying (at 6:30 EST), Dr. Ricky Helton (stationed in Washington) prayed for the nation and specifically for security in the Capitol city because of the threatening voices and the noises being made by those who were descending upon the city. That was Tuesday – the day before yesterday’s events! So … one of our pastors in Washington was aware enough to pray about it – before it happened; before the crisis. (And yet, the Capitol police were unprepared for it? outnumbered? overwhelmed? Or could it be they had somehow received a message to “stand down” or “stand aside?”)
As life goes on beyond yesterday, we as a church are 17 months from a General Conference. We need to be (and many of us are) preparing: preparing our foci for another four years plus; preparing by considering and prayerfully weighing the persons who are offering themselves for church leadership; preparing by asking ourselves (particularly after our sheltering in from the pandemic and discovering in this time altering styles and systems in worship and in polity), “What are our essentials? What are our core values? in worship? in structure? in mission? in requirements?”
And we need to keep focus. If I am right, yesterday was an intended diversion. But I kept hearing the voice of a friend, who said to me one night after a heated meeting, and in a calm voice, “Stay focused.”
And so, Family, I say to you: Stay focused and go forward.
Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick