General Crisis 2012: Am I a part of a “conflict-religion?” | By Jesse N. Love

Recently, I was updating my Facebook account, specifically under the “About Me” section.  Knowing how a lot of folks’ attention spans allow for only bites of info to be digested, I chose simple words and phrases to describe who I am:

  • Filipino-American
  • Thirty-something
  • Son
  • Brother
  • Cousin
  • Friend
  • Designer
  • Communicator

Under Facebook’s “Religious Views” field, I claimed “United Methodist” and included our mission statement: “The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Filling out these fields may seem very basic, but if you think about it, there’s much more to it.

Think about the concept of “identity”: it is how to best describe who you are as a person… AND potentially attached to your identity are other groups of people whom you may identify with.  I cherish the qualities that define my individuality: I am of Filipino heritage and raised in America; I enjoy illustration, graphic design, and typography as a designer; I developed a relationship with Jesus Christ in my teens, nurtured by special people in my life who are United Methodists.  These life qualities can explain the inside and outside of me.

While surfing the web, I came across a story from UMC.org, entitled “GC2012 to include call to repentance” by Kathy L. Gilbert and Linda Bloom.  In one of the paragraphs, it described the historic atrocities committed by European and American colonizers against Native Americans and Filipinos.

I read…and cringed.  When I came across the lines on how American President, William McKinley had a hand in having “…1 million indigenous Filipinos…killed in the Philippine-American war…” in the early 20th century, I gritted my teeth.  Although I had studied this portion of world history in high school, I didn’t know Mr. McKinley was, as described in the article, a “staunch” Methodist.

In a flash, I zeroed-in on the key items of my own identity:

  • Filipino
  • American
  • Methodist

When I had revisited this dark chapter in American-Philippine history with a 34-year old mindset, I felt anger, sadness, disappointment, and confusion.  The key things that helped best define me simply crashed altogether.  It’s like a jeepney, a Ford Model-T, and the horse that John Wesley rides (you know, the one in the Cokesbury logo?) all collided together at a busy intersection.  What was the best way to vent?  I hit up Facebook, shared the link to this story, and said, “Yes, repent!”

I’m proud of being Filipino, American, and a Methodist.  As a Filipino, I come from a proud, playful, intelligent, artistic, passionate culture to say the least.  As an American, I am proud to live in a place with opportunities, diversity, resources, and spirit.  As a Methodist, I enjoy our inclusivity, our ability to dialog, and our opportunities for ministry and mission.

But hold on, just to prove I’m not romanticizing any of these.  As a Filipino, I sometimes feel defeated, invisible, being from a hurt culture colonized by Spain and America.  As an American, I suffer from consumerism and live a lifestyle that would be considered lower-middle class but luxurious to those in the third-world (who may even be happier with less than what I have).  As a Methodist, we are still human and still working towards tolerance.  And now, I am reminded of how in the name of God, colonizers occupied and did unspeakable, un-Christian things to affect the natural development of Native-American and Philippine nations.

As I write, I am still trying to sort out my thoughts.  I ask myself, “Could I be a part of a ‘conflict-religion’?” Have you ever come across campaigns to buy Fair-Trade chocolate and how cocoa that isn’t Fair-Trade may have ties to injustices that involve small wages or slavery? Or what about ‘conflict diamonds’ the kind tied to funding war and oppression? Or what about ‘conflict minerals’ like the ones found in a computer, smart phone, or tablet that may involve over-mining?  In our Church, we have campaigns to boycott such conflict-things!  But, what of our Church?  With what is known about the history of America and our Church, how can we seek peace of mind during this time of spiritual crisis?  How can we share our cultural and religious heritage to others who want to know about us?  What is our identity?

I tuned into Friday’s Act of Repentance worship service, which specifically addressed the UMC’s role in Native Americans and Filipinos histories.  The Rev. George Tinker, our key speaker who is an indigenous advocate and theologian, shared that repenting is key.  We are to repent everyday and repent together, despite now not being a time of true reconciliation.  It is not an easy task – repenting involves “a change in lifestyle…” and “…way of being”, according to Tinker.  For Americans, it may even involve “giving up what we…hold dear.”

For my friends and colleagues who are people of, or descendants of, an indigenous culture, let’s have a conversation about what is in our minds and hearts – and figure out what positive things we can do to support healing.  For those who accept the invitation to repent, please know I am with you.  I am sitting with you at Church, I’m probably photographing a training you may be attending…but know I am with you in this repenting process.  Let’s continue our conversation… -JNL


The image above is a montage of:

11 COMMENTS

  1. Wow. Deep thoughts about the collision of identity. I too and uncomfortable and cringe to think that people of my Church tradition committed such heinous acts. I, of the dominant culture, repent at the ways I have inherited and continue living in ways that portray power and lack of justice. God have mercy.

    • Hey Pastor Jo-Dene, thanks for taking time out to read my blog. Methodists have this catch phrase on how something is “…in our DNA.” It really plays with one’s mind what this phrase says for everyone in the context of the church and indigenous peoples. I think, now, “repentance” is something I recognize that is a part of our UMC heritage.

  2. Jesse, that was powerful. Thank you for sharing. Makes me think of a child’s song with an important message–it’s me, it’s me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer. We all need to repent. It’s not a one-time act but a continual process.

    • Thanks for reading, Ellen. This is just my contribution to the overall, ongoing conversation. Because of the AOR service, ‘repentance’ is something I will now make room for during prayer.

  3. Some deep words and thoughts Jesse. We are all such interesting combinations of things, some good, some bad, most often complex. I hope you’ll share this link again once we are past the weekend. AND I love the image.

    • Hey Curtis, thank you reading and thank you for your kudos. I’m just one voice; the other voices, some who even dismissed the Act of Repentance service, were probably our friends-colleagues-UMs too and I look forward to listening and praying with them whenever needed.

  4. Good reading Jesse. Acts of Repentance are important. And equally important is that we acknowledge what happened, repent, and move forward, onward and upward. If we keep using ‘rear-view mirrors’ we’ll never see where we are meant to be going and never learn how to be better. “If you bake lousy bread and continue to use the same recipe,you’ll continue to get what you always got”. I cannot change the past. It is. What we all must work for and on is how to make (change) the future.

  5. […] An interesting (yet disheartening) phenomena I’ve experienced is realizing that some people prioritize their national identity over their cultural heritage. For many, America is first; whoever you are as a person of color or a person of faith, takes a back seat. I observe some who embrace American might over compassion towards other people in their struggle for recognition and maintaining their own sovereignty. As a Christian, I still feel conflicted when it comes to the plight of indigenous people scarred by the expansion of rule in the name of Christ (see “An Identity Crisis”). […]

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