By Charlie Ludden

I try to spend my time focusing on the changes I can make, and try not to focus on the things that I can’t control. It is so easy to get bogged down with all the trouble, pain, and heartache that we see in the media every single day.

I try my best to stand up and fight for those that feel mistreated or beat down. I try to be a voice for those who feel like they can’t speak. This year I have had to ask myself, “Who will speak for me?”

This year has been full of stories of death, riots, struggle, and pain. I read stories about police brutality or black “thugs,” or people that wouldn’t have died if they just complied with authorities. Each time I hear another story it truly hurts me to hear. I have had more times this year that I just wanted to reach out and cry for help from someone. The problem has been I don’t know who to reach out for, or who will step up to help.

I prayed that one day I would hear that our church would take a stance to stand for those who have felt helpless or oppressed. Each time a new report came out, I thought to myself, “This will be the one that brings the United Methodist Church to make a statement, and stand for us.” It never happened. No stance was ever made. No voice declared that the church would stand with those that have felt oppressed. No person came to the stage to say, “We stand for you.”

After I finally realized that it would not happen, I thought to myself, “Why not?” The anger built for a few weeks. After that came the frustration. I finally reached a moment of understanding that maybe the UMC could not be the entity to speak out for a group of people hurting. This could cause pain to another group. So I stepped back and let my feelings rest in an unsettled place. My anger and frustration turned into an understanding of a rough place for the church, and its desire to be neutral and unbiased.

I never really thought that I would hear the UMC declare that “Black Lives Matter.” I would be completely lying to myself to say I thought it would happen. I understand the politics of life, and the hesitation to proclaim that black lives matter, that we need equality for women, or that we need true support for LBTQ people.
This understanding came to an immediate pause when the first declaration of opposition for the Dakota pipeline was released.

The statement was released days after the first protest began. The UMC was able to release a stance nearly immediately for a cause. I completely agree with the UMC to make a stance and to support our brothers and sisters that are fighting and protesting for what they feel is right. I was so glad that my church would step out and stand to support those Native Americans protesting.

I began to wonder why was it so simple for the UMC to make a statement so quickly for this cause and not others. Where was the statement with regard to any of the killings of black men? If these issues were too difficult to make a statement on (which they should not be), where was the statement on the water contamination in Flint, Michigan? My feelings went from understanding to immediately feeling like the stepchild of the church. As a young black man in the United Methodist Church, I want to know who will fight for me. What person, group, or entity gets to make the decision on who we will vocally stand up and support.

My frustrations continue to live on and grow, I will continue to fight for others, as well as find a way to fight for myself. I pray that one day my church will decide to fight for me also.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Johnny Silvercloud

Charlie Ludden is the Associate Director of Project Transformation, for the Oklahoma United Methodist Annual Conference.