Thursday, August 17, 2017

Persevere in Resisting Evil: Responding to Charlottesville

Like people all around our country and the world, I was horrified by the violence, the racial hatred, and the deliberate act of terror that killed Heather Heyer last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

I was particularly disturbed to see American citizens marching with Nazi flags and other white supremacist symbols while shouting slogans like “Blood and soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!” 

This is pure evil. And even more so when we recall how Americans of all races from the “Greatest Generation” made incredible sacrifices during World War II to eradicate the scourge of Fascism and Nazism from the face of the earth. Those brave Americans fought and many of them died to insure that all people - regardless of race, color, or creed - can live in freedom. 

The protesters who advocated for white supremacy last weekend dishonor the sacrifices of Americans who fought during World War II. They dishonor the sacrifices of Americans who struggled for liberty and justice for all in the Civil Rights Movement. They dishonor true patriotism and love of our country. They dishonor basic human values of decency, civility, and kindness. 

But as Christians, we must condemn this evil in even stronger terms. 

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission with the Southern Baptist Convention, hit the nail on the head when he wrote the following on Twitter

“The so-called Alt-Right white supremacist ideologies are anti-Christ and satanic to the core. We should say so.” 

And Bishop Jake Owensby of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana summed it up like this: 

“Racism is a sin. White supremacy is a racist ideology. Its presence in Charlottesville was undeniable. It is our responsibility as followers of Christ to denounce this hate and violence without resorting to hate and violence ourselves.” 

In the Baptismal Covenant, we promise to “persevere in resisting evil.” White supremacy in any form is evil. It is an assault on the dignity of persons created in the image of God. It is an assault on the teachings of Jesus, who commands us to love one another as he loves us (John 15:12). It is a form of hatred that separates us from God. For as St. John the Apostle writes: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). 

We find the way to resist evil in the love of Jesus Christ. For the love of Jesus is stronger than hatred. It transforms enemies into friends. It overcomes even death itself. 

What happened in Charlottesville reminds us that this world is shot through with sin and evil. This world needs saving. It desperately needs to see the light and know the healing power of Jesus’ love. May we be that light and that love. 

As we seek to resist the evils of racism and white supremacy by faithfully walking in love as Christ loved us, I invite you to use the following prayer from The Book of Common Prayer

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.