By Reverend Frank Wulf, Pastor, Echo Park United Methodist Church
Speaking at a Faith Weekend event, sponsored by the Faith Task Force of Refuse Fascism, July 15, 2018, Centenary United Methodist Church, Los Angeles
“I Am My Brother’s Keeper – The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go. We must do this for the future of humanity and the planet”
By Reverend Frank Wulf, Pastor, Echo Park United Methodist Church
The following is a slightly edited version of remarks presented as part of Faith Weekend, sponsored by the Faith Task Force of Refuse Fascism
I want to confess to you today that I really don’t want to be here. It is not that I mind being at Centenary United Methodist Church, that’s fine. It’s just that I wish our nation were in a completely different place than it is at the moment. I don’t want to be here because I don’t want to be involved in a struggle and yet the time comes when struggles are inevitable, and it doesn’t really matter what you want or what you don’t want to do.
All of us want to live at peace. All of us want to live happily in our homes. All of us want to be able to make what messes we’re going to make and clean up the messes we’re going to make. We don’t want to have to have to deal with these big social issues. And yet these big social issues continue to present themselves.
They always have in our country, all the way back to the very beginning. We all know that this nation was founded on a foundation of genocide and racism. We know that. It’s true, and for us to claim that it is not founded on racism and genocide is to simply perpetuate a lie that’s been told for a long time.
We have a myth of the founding fathers who had a wise vision of what this nation was capable of. And that may well be true in so many ways. There may be a great vision of human equality on which this nation is founded. But we also have to remember that this nation was founded on the idea that certain people were equal but not all; that certain people were worthy of life and freedom and hope and justice, but not all. And we managed to maintain a life of freedom of hope and justice for some people, but we did it on the backs of others. We did it on the backs of Native Americans and we can’t really call that anything other than genocide, it was genocide plain and simply. We did it on the backs of African-American people through chattel slavery – another form of genocide. We did on the backs of people coming from Mexico and Central America. We did it on the backs of immigrants coming from all over the world. We did it on the backs of women. And we just need to say these things because if we really do believe in a nation that is just and hopeful and good for all then we cannot do it without facing the truth of our past.
And so we know that we’ve been involved with these struggles for decades, we’ve been involved in these struggles for centuries, and yet there’s something different about this moment in which we live. Because this nation seemed to be for a time on a trajectory toward justice for all, for hope for all. It seemed to be. I mean there were many things happening underground that we don’t like to talk about.
But suddenly we’ve moved into an era where it’s okay to be racist again! You know what I’m talking about. When the highest echelons of power say it’s okay to be racist then we’re in a terrible situation. And when they begin to use the media of power in order to oppress folks that don’t quite fit into their stereotype of what everyone should be. We’re talking about something that if it’s not fascism exactly as we saw it emerge in Italy and Germany and Spain in the 1930s and 40s it’s not all that far away. And is moving in that direction; it’s moving in that direction.
We see the Trump/Pence regime consolidating its power day by day by day. And it does what it does with impunity. When we lock up children, when we separate children from their parents, you know there may be big uproars from people of good will and yet the regime continues to do what it continues to do. There may be uproars about the Muslim ban and yet the regime continues to do what it does without anyone seeming to be able to stop it or to make it stop. We continue to rattle the sabers of war and even though people protest nevertheless it continues and it gets worse day by day by day.
So the question I think that we really have to ask ourselves as religious folks is this question of, if we are our brother’s and if we are sister’s keepers then are we at a place where we could really stand by and just simply allow this regime to continue doing the kinds of things that it’s doing? Or does our faith require us to go the next step? Do we need as people of faith to step out and say no more, this has got to stop! Fascism cannot be allowed to emerge in this country full-blown.
I said on an interview with Michael Slate a couple days ago and I (some of you told me you heard it), and I said this a couple months ago on our last Faith Weekend, that the people in Germany, that the church in Germany prior to World War II thought that everything would work itself out, that the systems of the society would work itself out, that the church could remain nonpolitical in the face of the rise of national socialism. And we had a emerge in that particular period of time that was called the German church. And the German church was a church that was proud to fly the Christian flag on one side and the Nazi flag on the other side. And they were proud to be able to give allegiance to Adolph Hitler and to the Nazi party because they somehow thought that it was not their role, not their place, to get involved in the political movement to say no to national socialism, no to the Holocaust, no to the execution of Jews, no to the execution of lesbian gay bisexual people, no to the extermination of people with mental incapacities and disabilities, no to Jehovah’s Witnesses, no to Poles… you know what I’m talking about: that they did not have to stand up and say no.
And yet eventually the Nazi movement took over the church. And it was only a small group of people, Christians who called themselves the Confessing Church that put up any kind of opposition to the rise of national socialism at all.
And we have to ask ourselves, what if the church had taken seriously the threat of national socialism early on rather than waiting to that point that Martin Neimoller talks about when it was simply too late to stop it? And I believe that we’re at this point in time where we as people of faith have to say when do we need to put our boots on the ground? When do we need to join our voices with other voices in society to say no; not just about no to this particular issue, not just about no to that particular issue, but rather to say no to the whole constellation of issues that is the Trump/Pence regime?
I have resisted calling this regime fascist. I have. And Refuse Fascism tries keep me honest, but I’ve resisted it. And yet I’ve gotten to the point where I’m beginning to believe that I can no longer refuse to see that. It is what it is, and it is doing fascist things, and if it’s doing fascist things then it is a fascist regime. And are we willing to allow that to happen? Or can we, will we, as a faith community stand up and put our voices in opposition to what this regime is doing especially, especially when this regime tries to use religion to justify and support what it’s saying.
I was among the people who signed the complaint within the United Methodist Church against Jeff Sessions. Because somebody has to say to Jeff Sessions no. No, this is not what Christianity is. This is not who Jesus was. This is not what Jesus died for. Jesus did not die on a cross in order to obey the authorities in Rome. Jesus died on a cross because he set himself in opposition to the evils that the authorities of Rome were doing. And there are times when the only way to be faithful to God in my estimation is to say no to the injustices, the oppression, the evils that are being done in our society even when those evils are being done in the name of religion.
So I want to say to all my Christian brothers and sisters who seem to think that Donald Trump and Mike Pence are the saviors of Christianity in the United States you are wrong, plain and simple. You’re wrong, these people are not of the saviors of Christianity. They are if anything antichrists, and as antichrists they need to be opposed. They are the voice of fascism and there is nothing, nothing Jesus in fascism.
Amen. So thank you all.