The Bush Library 5: An Open Letter to the United Methodist Church


Dear UMC:

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,

Mick Arran

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4 responses to “The Bush Library 5: An Open Letter to the United Methodist Church

  1. Dear Mick Arran,

    Thank you for the work you put into writting your opinions concerning “The Bush Library 5: An Open Letter to the United Methodist Church.” I am a UMC minister, but I do not speak for the whole denomination—no one minister can do that. I have expressed my opinion to the leadership of SMU.

    The decision to place the library at the school is not just a reflection of any current assessment of President Bush—good or bad. It is my belief that many years from now the Bush library will be a great asset for the school. The long term advantages to the school are greater than the short term benefits of expressing disagreement with a President who is near the end of his last term

    I do not fully support all of our President’s decisions. I do support putting the library at the SMU

    May God bless you.

    Leon

  2. Dear Leon Morrow,

    I appreciate your response, but I must say I don’t think you understand to any significant degree who the hell you’re dealing with. Which is something I don’t understand, given that you’ve had 6 years to figure it out.

    But since you tag this as a matter of “disagreement”, you force me to assume that you “agree” that torture is OK, that a US President taking for himself the powers of a king is OK, that starting a war based on lies is OK, that pursuing policies that increase the level of hunger and homelessness at the very same time Wall Street and corporate America are taking in record profits is OK, that ignoring science you don’t care for is OK, that re-writing history you don’t care for is OK, that a callous disregard for the health and safety of children, workers, consumers, and soldiers is all OK, and that it’s therefore OK for the UMC to condone all those acts.

    And that’s just the beginning. I would prefer to believe that the partial list above represents some of the things you don’t agree with, but if you do, you do. If supporting a man who believes all those things – and a good deal more just as unsavory – and has acted in every way contrary to the beliefs espoused by Methodists for generations, if supporting all that is acceptable to Methodists now, then it is and I withdraw my objections. The library and SMU are a good fit.
    But if, as I suspect, you either don’t understand what the neocons really are or are under the impression that they will not poison SMU the way they’ve poisoned everything else they’ve ever touched with lies, greed, arrogance, cruelty, and stupidity, then I would have to say you’re living in a fool’s paradise.

    No one else has ever escaped. What makes you think SMU will be different? I can assure you, it won’t be.

    But I recognize your reluctance to accept just how far beyond the pale these people are. Even Benjamin Johnson, an opponent, left me a comment saying that Karl Rove couldn’t be the Library curator because “that person is appointed by the Archivist of the U.S.” – as if a thing like that would matter to the crew who ran illegal wiretaps, or to the president who uses “signing statements” to tell us that the laws, even the ones he signs, don’t apply to him.

    If the UMC allows itself, through the library’s being at SMU, to be tied to the policies of the man and the tactics of the True Believers who will be running it, then the UMC will be damaged. That is a fact, not an opinion. How badly damaged I can’t say, but I can say this: your assessment that more good will come of this than evil is, to put it charitably, highly unlikely.

    I really can’t imagine why anyone who cares about the church would urge it to take such a path.

    May the road always rise up to meet you,

    Mick

  3. Dear Mick,

    Thank you for your kind words toward Methodism. Most United Methodists see clearly who G. W. Bush is. Look at our petition at Protectsmu.org. 10,000 UMC folk from every state are voicing their objections to the Bush Partisan Think Tank at SMU over which neither the university nor the church will have any oversight.

    Be Well
    Andrew

  4. …over which neither the university nor the church will have any oversight.

    Apparently, they don’t think they need it.

    Like I said, Andrew, I don’t think the National Council or whatever group makes decisions like this knows who they’re dealing with. I mean, look at Leon’s comment. He’s rational, sane, doesn’t sound like a partisan or a right-wing whacko, and yet despite everything that’s come out lately about what the Bushies have really been up to the last 6 years, he’s convinced this is nothing but a political disagreement.

    The problem here is one that many of us share – liberals, Methodists, progressives, even moderate Republicans. Nobody wants to believe these people, people we think we elected, Americans all, could act like tin-pot dictators running a banana republic as if it was their own little kingdom. I know hard-core anti-everything-Bush-does progressives who persist to this day in believing that Bush wouldn’t go so far as to, say, suspend the Constitution and declare martial law on the flimsiest of pretexts.

    I don’t say he will, but it’s perfectly clear that he wouldn’t consider it out-of-bounds for a president of the US to do such a thing.

    What’s at work is the old “It can’t happen here” illusion. No matter how bad things prove to be or how far these people prove they’ve gone from what America is – or was, as Vonnegut would have it – we just can’t bring ourselves to accept that we’ve put anti-democratic authoritarians in power.

    I hope the decision-makers listen to you and your 10,000, but don’t be surprised if they don’t. A lot of otherwise good people are denying the evidence of their own eyes rather than face the fact that Americans voted for a clutch of monarchists, imperialists, Roman Empire-style plutocrats, and quasi-fascists whose dream is to turn the US into Argentina c. 1973 or Chile under Pinochet.

    I certainly understand their reluctance, but by the time they catch up it may be too late. Not just for SMU. For all of us.

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