prohibitionists were not messing around
notice the progress of a drunkard is to suicide...
Most people look back at the temperance movement and remember it as a funny time in our nation's history where momentarily we were really boring stiffs. But for Methodist's especially, temperance was seen as a grave moral cause that was necessary for the upkeep of a good society. As one Methodist historian once told me, "the last thing Methodists got done in this country was prohibition!" So important was the cause of prohibition, the Methodist Church had a Board of Temperance and Public Morals. When the Rev. Dr. Clarence True Wilson, executive director, saw a lot next to the U.S. capitol for sale, he immediately went to work to build the property we now know as "the United Methodist Building." We are no longer advocating for prohibition, but we still advocate for a just society right across the street from the nation's capitol.
A couple weeks I got a chance to be a part of a young clergy forum learning about and discussing the work of Methodists on Capitol Hill. We advocate for our Social Principles as well as working with United Methodists around the world through community building efforts led by Church and Society. Some people are excited that we have such an advocacy group right in the middle of US political power. Others are less enthused. But one effort that has resounded from Church and Society was the call for a more humane approach to immigration reform. Particularly the public art and rallies caused quite the stir.
While I was in D.C., we had a chance to meet with the chaplain of the Senate, Barry Black, as well as eat in the Senate cafeteria. While cafeteria's are the same everywhere, not every cafeteria includes a surprise appearance by Bill Nye, the science guy.
Bill Nye was very gracious as we shouted "BILL NYE" from across the room
On that Tuesday the day began to stretch a little long and we began to grow tired. As soon as we were released for dinner, we relished in the opportunity to grab a spot to watch the State of the Union Address. Earlier that week we had heard people excitedly talking about how certain restaurants have lots of bureaucrats who give you their real opinions on the speech. Being in D.C. for the State of the Union made me feel like a little kid in the big city. We were minding our business as we noticed a television crew setting up. When a reporter approached us and asked for a comment from our table, I begrudgingly agreed to represent the big table of clergy. Then a weird thing happened.
This experience was one of the scariest of my life. My heart was beating quickly and I worried about my ability to represent the gospel well. Thankfully, I had a whole table praying for me and encouraging me.
As I reflect on the time spent in D.C. with Church and Society, it was clear to me how many wonderful caring people are advocating for morality in a city that is often derided as being amoral. But I am also emboldened to go back to my local community and advocate for the neighborhood. At the end of the day, the real way that you make a big difference in the lives of people is in the local community, within the neighborhood.
Let me hear from you: how do you advocate for moral issues you believe in? What are some of the most pressing social issues in your neighborhood?
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Thanks to the generosity of the Texas Annual Conference, this year I was able to go to Church and Society's Young Clergy Forum. Church and Society is a general board of the United Methodist Church and sits next to the Supreme Court on Capital Hill in Washington D.C.