(A Message from Bishop Johnson regarding recent hate crimes, published August 28, 2023)

English poet John Donne (1572-1631) penned these words that ring with truth today:

Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know for 
Whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. 
Another hate crime, the murder of three African Americans at the hands of a white supremist armed with an AR 15 semi-automatic weapon, happened on Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Public outcry seems to be a whimper. We are becoming so used to our culture of violence and hatred that it barely makes the news anymore. I can only reflect on how much more solidarity we need as a nation so that when our own people are murdered our collective voices rise loudly in unison to decry the horror. 

I call all of us to remember these constant shootings are personal. These are crimes against humanity, and that is us. The slain are your siblings, your neighbors, your beloved. 

During World War II as the Nazis were invading Europe and murdering and incarcerating Jews, the American public, for the most part, ignored the Holocaust. The United States turned back a ship full of Jewish people who were trying to escape death. 

Denmark was different; the Danes stood in solidarity and the Jewish people were protected in a national rescue effort. They smuggled 7,000 Jews to safety in Sweden; another 500 who were deported by the Nazis were sent to a ghetto in Bohemia where the Danes continued to protect and advocate for them. 

Why did they do this? They saw their Jewish citizens as their people, their family. We need more of this in our country. 

It was 60 years ago today that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., before a crowd of 250,000 people. 

There was an event in Washington this past Saturday commemorating this, the most important racial justice demonstration in U.S. history.

Yolanda King, Dr. King’s 15-year-old granddaughter, spoke: “Today, racism is still with us. Poverty is still with us. And now gun violence has come for our places of worship, our schools and our shopping centers.” 

The beloved community that we claim to be as Christians needs to speak out (and advocate and legislate) when any member of our human family is being oppressed and murdered. 

Let us grieve the death of each one. It is our own. 

Let us individually check our souls for racism and implicit bias. 

Let us collectively own the racist history of this country and name freely that “liberty and justice for all” is still a long way off.

Until everyone is free, none of us is truly free. 

The bell tolls for all of us.

See the Bishop’s original post as published on neumc.org, here.