Pastor Rob’s blog on January 27th was about how some people are splitting off from our United Methodist denomination to form a new one. Given some of the tactics I have experienced from those departing, I remembered one of the most hurtful things anyone ever said to me. It came from a Facebook “friend,” with whom I grew up. She left our home church in her late teens and has been in a fundamentalist Christian group for about fifty years. She believes herself and her church to be right in their views about Jesus and the Bible. Since mine aren’t the same as hers she said publicly that I’m not a Christian. “Ouch” and “sigh.” Call me most anything else and it doesn’t hurt like that. Our lives have gone down different trails. The trail I walk doesn’t let me deny her Christian faith and her devotion to Jesus. Throughout the years the wise ones of the Church have cautioned against setting ourselves up in judgment of another’s faith. Maybe that’s what Jesus was saying about specks and boulders. I’m supposed to concentrate on being a faithful follower and friend to Jesus and leave judgment out of it.
I tell this story because those who are splitting from the UMC to form a new group of Methodists, fundamentalist in much of their thinking, speak about us United Methodists as though we’re not true Christians, real Christians. As Pastor Rob notes, Methodists have split and come together from time to time since our movement began with John and Charles Wesley. This isn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last. Still, splitters, have you no more tools to use than “I’ll justify my exit by claiming that my church isn’t Christian??”
Sojourner Truth in 1851 walked into a gathering of white clergymen, most of whom given the times and their backgrounds, did not acknowledge her humanity. She took to the pulpit and showed them her humanity, her strength, and her womanhood. In her message she several times echoed, “ . . . and ain’t I a woman?” By the time she concluded her message some were even cheering her and her message. Just because she was African American, formerly enslaved, unable to read, it didn’t make her any less of a woman.
Borrowing Sojourner Truth’s phrase, I must say “. . . “Ain’t I a Christian?”
To the woman who said I can’t possibly be, I will sing “Jesus Loves Me” and say, “Ain’t I a Christian?”
To anyone who wonders when I gave my heart and life to Jesus, I can state the date. “Ain’t I a Christian?”
To those who say they are the only ones who know and care for the scriptures, want me to tell you how much I love Bible study and talking about the scriptures? “Ain’t I a Christian?”
I don’t agree with the splitters and I trust Pastor Rob’s counsel that we pray for them and love them. That’s the Jesus way. Still, splitters, can you do your deeds without the heart piercing darts?
A year or so ago I reached out to the woman I mentioned as I began this blog. We had a lengthy phone conversation in which we came together, sharing from our hearts and shared histories. We left feeling different. Does she still think I’m not a Christian? What’s happened is– she hasn’t said it again. Maybe she might be considering that even someone like me can both sing and know that “Jesus loves me.” She might even be wondering, “Ain’t she a Christian?”