Trending Topics:

John Wesley advises Methodist delegates on divestment

ActivismNews
on 8 Comments
DSCF2862
Congregants prepare frond crosses for Palm Sunday in the Church of Saint Porphyrius, Gaza, Palestine (Photo: Joe Catron)

As delegates to the United Methodist Church’s General Conference 2012 debate whether it is good and proper for their tithes and offering to sustain military contractors directly responsible for the controldisplacement, and killing of their fellow human beings in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and elsewhere, perhaps some will benefit from Wesley’s thoughts on the divestment struggle of his day:

Where is the justice of inflicting the severest evils on those that have done us no wrong? of depriving those that never injured us in word or deed, of every comfort of life? of tearing them from their native country, and depriving them of liberty itself … ?

You stumble at the threshold; I deny that villany is ever necessary. It is impossible that it should ever be necessary for any reasonable creature to violate all the laws of justice, mercy, and truth …

“Why, it is necessary to my gaining an hundred thousand pounds.” Perhaps so: But how is this necessary? It is very possible you might be both a better and a happier man, if you had not a quarter of it. I deny that your gaining one thousand is necessary either to your present or eternal happiness …

Better no trade, than trade procured by villany. It is far better to have no wealth, than to gain wealth at the expense of virtue. Better is honest poverty, than all the riches bought by the tears, and sweat, and blood, of our fellow-creatures.

John Wesley, “Thoughts upon Slavery” (1774)

Having spent much of my childhood and youth in Hopewell, Virginia’s  Wesley  United Methodist Church before joining an Episcopal church in New York (and attending Gaza’s Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrius today), I struggle to explain to my Palestinian friends of multiple faiths why American Christians traffic so cheaply in their tears, and sweat, and blood. Make me proud, UMC. Wesley’s vision was broad, comprehensive, and demanding:

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.

By comparison, this one’s practically a freebie. You face a simple question: Should a Christian denomination fund the infliction of misery and death on other people? Please don’t get the answer wrong.

joecatron
About Joe Catron

Joe Catron is a US activist in Gaza, Palestine, where he works with Palestinian groups and international solidarity networks, particularly in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and prisoners' movements. He co-edited The Prisoners' Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange, blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com and tweets at @jncatron.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

8 Responses

  1. annie
    annie on April 30, 2012, 10:12 am

    amen

    • American
      American on April 30, 2012, 1:02 pm

      Yea….if religion doesn’t bring people to this ,what good is it?…or maybe that’s unfair….maybe religion only works on those who have some nugget of morality to begin with.

    • Blake
      Blake on April 30, 2012, 2:40 pm

      X2

  2. pabelmont
    pabelmont on April 30, 2012, 10:19 am

    Very moving. Right thinking and right acting were very well understood by this relatively-ancient religious teacher. Why is it so hard for the religious (or even merely moral) people of today to “get” this message?

    He says to a slave-owner, you didn’t need to get rich, but you merely choose to do so — and indeed do so at the cost of imposing misery on other innocent human beings.

    Better no trade, than trade procured by villany. It is far better to have no wealth, than to gain wealth at the expense of virtue. Better is honest poverty, than all the riches bought by the tears, and sweat, and blood, of our fellow-creatures.

    How, then, did slave-holders come to (or claim to) find (in the Bible!) that slaves (or black people) were children of a lesser God — just as Israel treats Palestinians today?

    Wesley was saying to the rich man, “do not pursue illicit money.” The lesson we learn every day today is that, to understand politics, “follow the money”.

  3. CloakAndDagger
    CloakAndDagger on April 30, 2012, 11:39 am

    Do all the good you can,
    By all the means you can,
    In all the ways you can,
    In all the places you can,
    At all the times you can,
    To all the people you can,
    As long as ever you can.

    Such powerful words! Repent ye warmongers, while ye still can!

  4. LanceThruster
    LanceThruster on April 30, 2012, 12:29 pm

    Good to find the source that Teddy Roosevelt paraphrased —

    Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

    I like Wesley’s total sense of inclusiveness, urgency, and persistence.

    • American
      American on April 30, 2012, 12:58 pm

      “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. ~ Theodore Roosevelt”

      One of my favorite great life instructions.
      Along with..if you don’t have enough to get it done, go get enough to get it done…….LOL

  5. Kathleen
    Kathleen on April 30, 2012, 2:25 pm

    thank you

Leave a Reply