Dave Gauger: Bigotry left untreated metastasizes into violence

By Dave Gauger

So here we are comfortably snug as a bug in a rug in the Twin Harbors, far from recent white supremacist violence in New Zealand and the Netherlands. Nothing to worry about in our safe haven neatly tucked into the southwestern corner of Washington state.

But that’s a distortion of truth. In reality we are not immunized from bigotry. It’s present among us in many names and multiple formats. Bigotry’s fearful hate is with us as white supremacists, zealous nationalists claiming superiority as “chosen” people far above all the lowly “unchosen.”

The Anit-Defamation League painfully points out that bigot extremists killed at least 50 people in our country last year. That’s up from 37 in 2017. And the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that in 2018 the United States had more bigoted hate groups that at any time in the previous 20 years. In fact bigotry by way of organized hate groups increased 30 percent since 2016. According to the Justice Department, hate crimes in 2017 jumped up by 17 percent.

You and I cannot escape our duty to challenge bigotry wherever it raises its hateful head. Bigotry is ugliest when wrapped in a flag or when claiming biblical endorsement.

Late last month in St. Louis, during a three-day General Conference, the United Methodist Church once again disgraced itself by continuing to endorse discrimination toward homosexuals.

It truly saddens me to admit that my fellow Methodists and I are bigots. At least that’s the “official” position of one of the world’s largest protestant denominations. Hmmmm, so much for “love thy neighbor.”

Once again the Methodist Church, by way of its Book of Discipline (Article IV), is replete with double-talk by first acknowledging that “all persons are of sacred worth.” This noble sentiment is quickly followed by: “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church.”

It reminds me of the cycle of language an abuser would use with a spouse. Sweet talk one moment and soul-crushing criticism the next.

The clergy rests its primary defense on the “connectional” composition of the Methodist Church — explaining that until a majority of the body politic votes for change, Article IV stands. 

Based on this logic, one must wonder whether or not Jesus polled his 12 disciples prior to angrily upending the Temple tables.

The church’s Book of Discipline is candy-coated, prefabricated theology, but no amount of sugar coating can mask the distasteful truth about Article IV — namely, that our beloved Methodist Church is officially and shamefully bigoted. Well, at least until another vote or two, or three, or four, or whatever.

Those defending this bigotry claim falsely that Methodists throughout the African continent are responsible by tilting the votes toward bigotry rather than favoring the more enlightened U.S. Methodists. That’s as false as Donald Trump claiming that his losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million was due to voter fraud and illegal immigrants casting ballots. Come on! It’s past time for me and my fellow Methodists to admit publicly that Article IV is petty, hateful bigotry.

Can an institutional church held together by prejudice legitimately make an honest claim to being the Body of Christ? One thoughtful blogger addressed this issue by writing, “Instead of worrying about who is in whose bed, we should be concerned with those who don’t have a bed.”

Article IV represents ugly social injustice. How can one condemn the Ku Klux Klan as hate incarnate while in the same breath embracing the bigotry of Article IV propagated by the Methodist Church? Article IV’s condemnation of the LGBT community and their exclusion from being “certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church” is the ecclesiastical equivalent of a gated community.

In the short run, dialog surrounding Article IV likely will be contentious; but in the long run, the United Methodist Church might find its way to be lifted up beyond its current weak pulse and once again display a vigorous heartbeat with restored moral authority.

History teaches that bigotry in small doses, when untreated, metastasizes into full-blown violent hatred. It’s time for all of us comfortably snuggled in the Twin Harbors to take full responsibility for the bigotry festering among us. No organization should be exempt from critical accountability.

Dave Gauger lives in Raymond and owns Gauger Media Service, a company that helps broker the sale of newspapers. He id former owner of the Raymond Herald and other newspapers, as well as radio stations.