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What Christians Need to Know About Policies that Exclude DEI and CRT

What Christians Need to Know About Policies that Exclude DEI and CRT

Commentary Inclusivity

Our Florida State Legislature is in session making policy from March 7 to May 5, 2023.

Once again, the members of the Florida Conference Public Policy and Witness Antiracism Team want to empower local churches and communities in the Florida Conference UMC to recognize and abolish the way racism functions through institutional policies, practices, rules and systems.

This work is rooted in the ongoing work of Christian discipleship. In response to the vow made at our baptism, "Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” In response to Jesus who calls us to follow him and be anointed by the same Spirit to "...proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and let the oppressed go free (Luke 4:18)." And in response to our collective discernment as United Methodists whose Social Principles “reflect both the particular interests of marginalized, vulnerable, and neglected peoples and places and the church’s desire to realign society’s interests in ways that will increase these populations’ capacity to flourish.” (Booklet Introduction to the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church 2017-2020).

Because of this gift of God’s grace, we are able to take an honest, non-defensive, deeper look at the impact of policies that produce and sustain racial inequity between racial groups. And as a result, we bear witness to the abundant and liberating gospel of Jesus by advocating for policies that produce and sustain racial equity. (Learn more about what we mean by equity here).

One of the proposed policies being considered in this legislative session is particularly relevant for this this work. Let’s take a look at Florida HB 999 and SB 266.

HB 999 is currently referred to the House Education and Employment Committee. And the companion Senate Bill, SB 266, is currently referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Education.

We encourage you to read at least the underlined portions of HB999 and SB266 as those sections indicate updates to existing law. You will notice that this law would prohibit the use of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and Critical Race Theory (CRT) in hiring and coursework in our state universities.

Some of the major criticism of both DEI and CRT by those supporting this legislation is that these initiatives teach people to hate America, discount hard work and achievement based on merit and that they are a cloaked left wing political agenda funded by taxpayers. As a result, the proposed legislation would effectively ban DEI and CRT programs from state funded university systems.

We encourage you to do your own homework when it comes to understanding both DEI and CRT programs. Listen to a variety of different sources (not just the ones you agree with). In the spirit of Christ, try on empathy, curiosity and humility as you make contact with cultural differences. Notice any feelings that come up for you (particularly sad, mad and scared), so that you can get what you need to stay engaged in this very important work.

The United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race has created an excellent resource page that includes a video called “Critical Race Theory: What Christians Need to Know.” And every clergy person in the Florida Conference UMC attended training on building communities of diversity, equity and inclusion in 2012 and 2013. This, of course, was not an exercise in leftwing political recruitment, nor an exercise in attack, shame and blame for white people or America in general. We encourage you to talk to your pastor about this, and read the Guidelines for Cross Cultural Dialogue taught in this training. You also might appreciate reading an adaptation of those same Guidelines Through the Lens of 1 Corinthians 13.

At its best, both DEI and CRT support the goals of Christian discipleship for learning to tell our story more truthfully so that we may love ourselves and one another more deeply, heal from our collective trauma and live together with all our cultural differences as a strength. Building inclusive communities by recognizing the way racism functions at four levels (personal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural) should not be a partisan issue, and it is not an act of hatred for white people or America. It is precisely an act of love. It is the work of Christian discipleship.

If you would like support for building communities of inclusion that reflect the realities of heaven and learn more about DEI, CRT and the impact of HB999 and SB266, please join members of the Florida Conference UMC Public Policy and Witness Antiracism team at our upcoming virtual community gathering on Thursday, March 30 at 12:00 p.m. and on Tuesday, April 4 at 12:00 p.m. Register to attend by clicking the date you prefer.

Finally, consider writing a short email to your elected representative and senator asking them to vote no on HB999 and SB266.

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