January 12, 2018
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling's statement on the reported remarks of President Trump
On Monday, January 15, our country will again celebrate the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As we do so, we remember his prophetic words that, "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it."
With these words resounding in our hearts, it's hard to reconcile the reported statement of President Trump, who used racist and defamatory language to speak about Haiti and several African nations. With these statements, President Trump's fitness for office is no longer in question. One cannot lead while demonstrating blatant disregard and disrespect for entire segments of the population.
It does not matter that those disparaged are from another continent or country; the implied effect of disparaging individuals from Haiti or Africa, while extolling those from Norway, belies a disdain for persons of color. That is undeniable and unacceptable from the leader of the free world.
I cannot understand those who seek to justify his comments as "putting America first." We are first when we lead with decency and honor, equity, integrity and equality. We are not first when we espouse racism and bias, discrimination and inequality. That does not make us strong; rather, it makes us weak.
For those who are religious, humanists, patriots (in the truest sense of the term), or otherwise decent human beings, there can be no quarter for anyone practicing or supporting racism. Any form of hatred or bigotry that attempts to place a hierarchy on the value of human life is unacceptable.
As United Methodists, we embrace the Scriptural truths, which are also reiterated in Para. 3371 of our Book of Resolutions, that "All women and men are made in God's image and all persons are equally valuable in the sight of God. ... We must work toward a world in which each person's value is respected and nurtured."
But just noting our concern about racism and intolerance is not enough. We are a people of social holiness. As it states in Para. 5012 of the Book of Resolutions, "Scripture recognizes that faithfulness to God requires political engagement by the people of God. ... The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust."
As Americans, the office of the President warrants our respect. And, I do, in fact, respect that office. I respect it so much, that I demand the holder of that office conduct themselves with the utmost integrity. With these comments, as reported, that standard has not been met. Therefore, there is no room for silence or justification or equivocation or obfuscation.
We are called to choose decency, love, and justice. Words have power. We must hold ourselves and our leaders accountable for our words and the actions they inspire. I call upon all the members and churches of the Baltimore-Washington Conference to pray, and to act, so that justice and equality for all people stands as a guiding principle for our leaders and the law of our land. Let us be illuminated by love.
Your servant in Christ,
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling