26 April 2008

Political bribery, sure, but in the church?

OK, this is going to be a rant, with PG-13 language advisory and all that jazz. This is one of those news stories that got me so incensed I was literally shaking with rage (that usually occurs with respect to something the church has done, but occasionally I get it from the Bush Administration also). It has to do with the quadrennial United Methodist General Conference, so if you’re not interested in the United Methodist Church I’ll understand if you tune out now, but if you’re at all interested in the power struggles of the religiously inclined, you can keep reading.

So here’s the basic story: The Renewal and Reform Coalition, basically the conglomerate group of the conservative wing of the UMC (I’ll refrain from calling them “christo-fascists” for now), gave pre-paid cell phones to about 150 delegates from Africa and the Philippines as a “no-strings-attached” gift. Fine so far? Well, the phones were accompanied by a letter inviting delegates to a breakfast where they could have "fellowship with other like-minded delegates," and receive "information about the important issues that are coming before the conference." The letter concluded with a recommended slate of candidates for Judicial Council, essentially the UMC’s Supreme Court.

Let me go over that again. The phones are a “no-strings” gift, but they come with an endorsed slate of candidates for Judicial Council. Who do these people think they’re fooling? I suppose it would have been too crass simply to staple a $100 bill to the letter, so they sent along cell phones instead. Just to flesh out the argument, imagine that they had included a $100 bill instead of a pre-paid cell phone, and imagine you’re a delegate receiving this package. So in one hand you’ve got a list of candidates, and in the other hand you’ve got Benjamin Franklin staring at you. Remember, there are no strings attached to Benjamin. Right? Just because he comes with a list of recommended votes doesn’t mean there are any strings attached…maybe just a paper clip, but no strings.

Give me a freaking break! Who the heck is supposed to believe this horse manure? (That was my PG-13 language, and trust me, it’s much more R-rated in the original version.) If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s a freaking duck! This arrangement is a walking, quacking bribe. That’s right, it’s a BRIBE, dirty payola that even secular politics wouldn’t tolerate.

Frankly, I think that every delegate to the UMC’s General Conference who was involved with this bribery scheme should surrender his or her credentials out of shame and embarrassment and repentance. Since that’s not going to happen, the Conference should adopt a resolution condemning this practice and reprimanding all those involved. In a classic belated closing of the barn door, the General Conference did vote today to establish an Ethics Committee for future General Conferences, since at present there’s no body where one can register an official complaint about a practice such as this one. Nice work for 2012, but it doesn’t help much for now.

My only hope (and I think it’s a legit one) is that the assembled delegates will be so thoroughly appalled by this treacherous, shameless act that there will be a backlash against the conservative agenda, and miracles of inclusion and grace will occur at this year’s General Conference. Hey, why not?

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