Since The United Methodist Church is searching for areas where we can serve our fellow human beings, I have a suggestion. Why not encourage the military veterans in the UMC to join organizations that work for the benefit of those who have served our country?
This will not be easy, as many Christians shun these organizations because of their “wild party” reputation. Yet some Christians work in sinful businesses, and many of us worship unethical athletic programs. I am asking as a former pastor in another denomination that my wife and I left when their fundamentalist faction won the fight for control. Our move was influenced by UMC pastor Fred Read, who we saw representing the American Legion at veteran’s funerals.
After a long period of hesitation, I joined the Bay Springs American Legion Post several months ago. It has an active group of about 40 veterans who open and close their meetings with prayer, do not serve alcoholic beverages and lead in doing more community service projects than any church in this area.
There are several veterans whose wounds left them with visible scars present at every meeting. I cannot remember seeing any disfigured veterans in the churches where I spoke as a Gideon, preached a revival or worked on mission and building projects. When I asked these heroes why they were not church members their common answer was, “They don’t want us; they believe that God is visibly punishing us for our sins.”
That response led me to call more than 50 active Christians, concentrating on pastors and staff members, to ask if they had visibly disabled veterans in their churches. The answer, after a long silence, was always no. This was often followed with, “I have never thought about this omission, and we need to make certain that it does not happen again.”
A college theology professor added, “And some of us preachers may be in trouble!”
If we do not try, may God have mercy on our self-serving souls.
Don R. Wildmon