Photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. accredited to PBS Newshour Extra, WFYI.

As we enter the 27th day of the government shutdown, which has affected thousands of federal employees and contractors, it seems as if discouragement is being served for dinner.

As injustice continues to speak, I find myself crying out, “Lord, have mercy!”

Admittedly, there have been glimmers of hope in this season of doubt. Organizations and businesses both here in Indiana and nationwide have sought to be light in a dark time, offering free meals and services as paychecks go unreceived and finger-pointing goes back and forth between Capitol Hill and The White House.

As I write this letter on the weekend preceding the celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, I can’t help but wonder how Dr. King would respond to our nation today.

I believe the Church would do well to reexamine and repeat the prophetic words recorded in Dr. King’s 1963 letter from the Birmingham jail,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

The general rules of the United Methodist denomination are simple to proclaim yet seemingly much harder to live out. “Do no harm, do good, and stay in the love of God.” Our embracing of the good work of missions and acts of mercy must never serve as a substitute for “doing good” as in the good work of justice.

At the time of Dr. King’s writing, it appeared that the Church and religious communities had, “largely adjusted the status quo, standing as a ‘taillight’ behind other voices, rather than a headlight leading (men) to a higher level of justice.”

As we stand at a crossroads between injustice and Christian witness, we should not have to choose one over the other. I believe our democracy is being eroded and that which represents the common good is being neglected. The current government shutdown is symptomatic of our propensity to use or neglect people while we worship things, possessions, and power.

Our nation deserves more from our elected officials than an abuse to democratic power or common decency with citizens left as causalities in political skirmishes.

In his 1967 book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community, Dr. King shares these thoughts,

“If democracy is to have breath of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequality. It is not only moral, but also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.”

As for the Church, we must, on occasions such as this day, refuse to press the mute button on our prophetic witness. As descendants of Abraham, Sarah, Micah, and Jesus, whose paths crossed with injustice, may we remember to,
“Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” – Micah 6:8

It is my prayer that we all come to love God and love neighbor.

Be encouraged,

Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Resident Bishop
The United Methodist Church