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  • Writer's pictureFloyd Thompkins

A Pastoral Statement on Student Protest and the Gaza War

May 2, 2024


As tents pop up on campuses, as students are threatened with expulsion, and as politicians are exploiting legitimate fears of racism and antisemitism, we are faced with pastoral questions for ourselves. How do we listen to and emotionally support students while gracefully challenging assumptions? How do we witness of a justice imbued with mercy, a grace that has accountability? How do we encourage political dialogue that takes place with humility?

The questions follow the challenges into which we continue to carve inroads. We, people of faith (specifically Christian faith), are viewed with suspicion precisely because we are perceived as another element of a bankrupt approach to conflict, community, and politics. We encounter cynical questions about why we are interested and what our invested interests are. For many people faith is, at best, anarchism and, at worst, a part of the gaslighting and polarization that defines the cynicism of recent years.

Taking a middle ground is not the answer. As pastors, chaplains, and counselors, we are at the locus of recent events, decisions, and policies that increase the volatility. We are leaders in this crisis of conscience.

A terrorist act by Hamas killed 1200 Israelis. They took hostages and committed rapes against innocent women. The Israeli army has killed over 34,000 Gazans.  Children and adults are starving due to this destruction. The unique historical relationship between the US and the government of Israel presents a moral challenge for all who live in the United States. American money and political support have made us all unavoidably involved in the pain and suffering of people thousands of miles away.

It is time to assert, educate, and proclaim the kingdom of God that Jesus articulated. The concept goes beyond political agendas and specific conflicts. It encompasses a vision of a just and compassionate society where love, grace, and justice prevail. It calls for us to encourage critical thinking and to seek wisdom, to move beyond superficial knowledge to deeper understanding.  

The Gospel proclaims an equality that longs for strong agreements to safeguard the safety and opportunities for all people, a nonviolence that seeks just outcomes, and a stewardship that creates of shared spaces in the world where people can live with dignity and practice compassion

We must join with the common cry of our humanity to stop the cycle of violence and dehumanization that is and has been ongoing in Israel and Gaza. Hamas and its ideology are the common enemy. More violence and suffering will only lead to both Palestinian and Israeli deaths and insecurity. I fear that the present actions of the Israeli government will only increase both. In this moment, as ministers, pastors, and chaplains, we must respond from authentic places of faith as we advocate for peace and grace as essential tools for transformation.

Because of my biography, I always look to the ministry of those whose work has allowed me to live a life with dignity – the Civil Rights movement. Although now misremembered as something that everyone accepted and supported, this movement is a reminder of the perpetual need to remember, remind, encourage, and act.

Remember: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) insisted that protestors understand the principles of nonviolence.

Remind: Churches must announce that the Kingdom of God is breaking out even now.

Encourage: Mentors must exercise boldness when pushing for a peaceful resolution that is not just a politically comfortable solution.

Act: We must support students who challenge irresponsible power and cynical hypocrisy while speaking honestly about the potential consequences of their actions.

Again, it is time to say aloud that not only must bombing but that relationships must also change!

 

Floyd Thompkins

UCCM Minister

Pastor of Saint Andrew Church

 

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michaeladee4
May 04

Thank you Rev. Floyd Thompkins for this reflection and call.


Remember: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) insisted that protestors understand the principles of nonviolence.

Remind: Churches must announce that the Kingdom of God is breaking out even now.

Encourage: Mentors must exercise boldness when pushing for a peaceful resolution that is not just a politically comfortable solution.

Act: We must support students who challenge irresponsible power and cynical hypocrisy while speaking honestly about the potential consequences of their actions.

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