INDIANAPOLIS -- Wanting to provide a safe place for American Indians native to Indiana to worship and gather as a community, the Rev. LeKisha Reed . . . convened an Oct. meeting of United Methodist and other American Indian advocates of greater Indianapolis . . .
That's an arresting phrase in that opening: "wanting to provide a safe place" [italics mine]. I wasn't aware that Native Americans were regularly being attacked on the streets of Indy. Has the sound of a fife and drum corps playing "Garryowen" been heard emanating from the former site of Fort Benjamin Harrison?
This phrase, "a safe place" crops up a lot in churchified boilerplate. Perhaps it bothers me because it implies the group referenced is being victimized by the larger community. This is sometimes the case, but not always. Sometimes minority groups are simply ignored by the larger community. That could imply neglect, but neglect is not the same as hostility. And sometimes minority groups are celebrated by the larger community (everybody's Irish on St. Patrick's Day, for instance). Anyway, I tire of the victim/victimizer dichotomy and all the Conflict Theory sociology that goes with it.
I think that phrase, "a safe place," also bothers me because I remember the Christians of my younger days being severely criticized by denominational leaders for supposedly wanting the church to be "a safe place" for those who did not want to engage the ills of society. "The Church is not a refuge, but a staging point," they thundered. It's the people in the same positions who criticized the majority for supposedly wanting the church to be "a safe place" for them who now advocate it being "a safe place" for other groups. Seems to me, one of the functions of the church is that it should be "a safe place" for all of God's children.
For what it's worth, I think a UM ministry to Native Americans in Indy would be a great thing, but I'd like our communications people to get rid of some of their worn rhetoric. Maybe we could assist the staff of HUM Together by sending them some underused words and phrases, like, I dunno . . . being saved? redemption in his blood? Scriptural holiness? conversion? It's been a while since I've seen those phrases in any of our UM publications.