So, our 2012 General Conference has been moved from Richmond, Virginia, to Tampa, Florida.
What's the reason for the change? Because The United Methodist Church has said "The United Methodist Church rejects the use of Native American names and symbols for sport teams, and considers the practice a blatant expression of racism."
Richmond has a farm team of the Atlanta Braves.
So, the Church is moving it's quadrennial gathering to Tampa.
My feelings about this have changed over the past few days.
My first response was that this was stupid. It is not possible to find a city which, if it doesn't have a professional or semi-pro team with a Native American named mascot, it must be present in the secondary schools, if not the universities.
But my consciousness on this matter has been raised recently, and the blindspots of my capacity to intolerance (see previous posts) has once again been exposed.
I learn much from my congregants, probably more than I teach. One congregant, with great passion, talked about this issue as being more than irrelevant and the rantings of the liberal end of the church. He, a university professor in religious studies, talked about how blind we have all been to the systematic elimination of the native population of this country that continues even to this day.
Which is true, we are conveniently oblivious to that issue, probably because we do not have native cultures regularly present in our lives.
But then he said something that jolted me even as it woke me up. He said, "If there was a team called the Richmond Niggers, you'd have a different opinion on this issue, and the word "Braves" is the equivalent pejorative label."
Whenever my eyes are opened, it hurts at first. Something about the light of truth that's too bright. But once my eyes adjust, I realize how much more I can see than I could before.
So, for what it's worth, which ain't much, since I have no stroke in the political maneuverings of the UMC, would not the more faithful, if not prophetic thing be to stay in Richmond?
Would it not be the most consistent expression of our tradition to meet right there and with our 1000 delegates confront the principalities and powers that perpetuate a racism all too quickly written off as no big deal?
What's faithful about running off to Tampa? Seems a little too convenient for me.