I didn’t realize it until recently but you control Southern Methodist University, which I thought had become independent years ago. Rev Andrew Weaver explained to me that I was wrong and that it is still your responsibility.
That’s why I’m directing this to you: I’m pleading with you to stop this project. Not for my sake – the Bush Library is going to be built somewhere and as far as I’m concerned SMU is as good a place as any. No, I’m asking you to stop it for the sake of SMU itself but more importantly, perhaps crucially, for the sake of Methodist values and beliefs.
I am not a Methodist. I’m not even terribly religious in the usual sense of the word, but when I was at a very rough point in my life, I knew a Methodist minister. I learned from him first-hand about Methodist values: forgiveness, doing what you can for those less fortunate than yourself without expecting anything in return, protecting and defending the weak from the predatory strong, selfless sharing and patience under the most trying circumstances. If I display any of those qualities now – and I do occasionally, believe it or not – it’s in large part due to his example.
Later I worked with low-income families and kids and whenever I needed something for them I never hesitated to go to the local Methodist church for help and whoever the pastor was never let me down. They always did what they could and if they couldn’t do it all, they helped me connect with someone who could do the rest. Their charity and generosity was the first thing you noticed about them and the last thing you forgot.
When George W Bush was claiming to be a Methodist during his first campaign but running to Pat Robertson and James Dobson for advice and to lick his political wounds after a setback, I knew he wasn’t a Methodist. I knew Methodists were centrists, not fundamentalist radicals. I knew Methodists didn’t condemn pregnant but unmarried women and girls, they helped them find counseling and medical care. I knew Methodists didn’t applaud a rich man for heaping abuse on a poor one, they provided the poor one with shelter, food, maybe even a job. I knew Methodists didn’t believe in a vengeful, Old Testament Christ or a Christ who taught that accumulating wealth was the path to Heaven, they preached a tolerant, forgiving Christ, a Christ who said that the rich had a responsibility to the poor.
But George W Bush did believe in those things. He still does. He has cut aid to the poor and helpless every year he’s been president. He has taken health care away from sick kids while robbing the taxpayers and giving the money to the wealthiest 1%. He has allowed wounded soldiers to fester in cockroach-ridden facilities and let others go without care altogether so he could cut the Veterans’ Administration budget in a time of war. He has championed the torture and imprisonment for 4 years of men the Army itself said were innocent of any crime. He has given away the govt – our govt, the govt we paid for with our taxes – to the very people we were paying it to protect us from, with the result that his administration is arguably the most corrupt since US Grant’s 135 years ago.
The man the Bush Library and Policy Institute will celebrate, defend, protect, and promote is the antithesis of everything the United Methodist Church has ever stood for. He is a man who pretended to be a Methodist during his first campaign. He used you, used your reputation for goodness and grace, because he knew if he told voters he was really a militant imperialist and fundamentalist who believed the poor deserved to be abandoned because their poverty proved God didn’t care about them, he would have lost the election.
So I am baffled as to why you would allow this thing to be built on your property and in your name. Do Methodists suddenly condone greed, intolerance, and injustice? Is the “prestige” President Turner mentions as his primary reason for wanting the complex so important that it’s worth jettisoning everything you used to believe in? Everything that used to characterize your faith and work? Everything the Methodist church is and has always represented?
I can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it.
Yet I have to believe it because you are allowing this project to go forward. What other explanation could there be?
And make no mistake about it: I’m not the only one who will be asking these questions if the Library is built at SMU. I’m not the only one disappointed to see the Methodist church throwing in its lot with people who have carelessly and unapologetically tossed aside every truth, every belief that used to be a fundamental precept of the Methodist faith.
And I’m not the only one who will be saddened when one of our best and most prestigious institutes of higher learning becomes home to people who have no respect for education. People who have re-written history, ignored proven science, disrespected art, denigrated teachers, and refused to learn anything from the past or even the present.
As it becomes clearer and clearer in future years that the Bush Library is home to precisely the kind of people the Methodist church used to fight against, its presence on your property, at your greatest university, must be understood to mean it has your approval of what it does and what it believes. That can only serve to destroy the trust and affection of people who once believed in you. As the pedophilia cover-up has crippled the Catholic church, being seen to support torturers, criminals, and Constitution-trashers could one day turn your own flock against you.
I beg you not to do this. No good can come of it.
In hope and faith,