If you had asked me “way back when” what the 21st Century would be like, I would have not anticipated the likes of the KKK and neo-Nazis being a part of it. Not in my wildest. Surely they whould have disappeared with the demise of the last millennium.
Alas, they and their ilk have not, and it is time for the voices of faith to rise up and push back against this darkness. Not in fear or panic. Only in confidence that we who are of the light have a much stronger power on our side. Not a mere physical power, but the spirit of Christ which conquers all.
I am heartened by what I have heard this weekend, so many good responses to the terrorism in Charlottesville. People of faith, evangelical faith like mine included, saying “Enough already!”
As a young man nearly a half-century ago I was deeply embarrassed by the silence of faith leaders, my own faith leaders, starkly silent in the face of brazen racism. It has marked me for life. I applaud the voices of faith who have spoken out so strongly in recent days.
My heart grieves for the families of those who died – a young peaceful activist and two police officers in the line of duty. I ache for those who were injured and I pray that their wounds, both physical and emotional, will heal. I intercede for the city, trampled by forces alien to its good.
But I am also stirred by what I trust is a holy anger, an anger that condemns the evil that has reared its ugly head. I urge others to join me in standing against all that is wrong with what happened this weekend.
Here are the five sins I oppose:
1. Hatred. See the faces in the photos, the faces of young men carrying torches. Their anger is not against sin, thus they sin in their anger, spewing out venom from the pits of hell. They speak evil of their fellow human beings, all of them created in the image of God. I see nothing of God’s love, and yet it is in the name of God that the KKK was raised up and sustained for far too long.
2. Violence. Watch a man filled with hatred barreling his car down a crowded street, intent on causing harm and mayhem among people who peacefully oppose his values. He seeks to present his views with a two-ton machine spreading brutality and bloodshed. This is not God’s wrath on evildoers, but violence demonic in nature.
3. Misrepresentation. Read the words of bystanders, beginning now to reinterpret the historical patterns of oppression in a softer, more palatable flavor. Starting once again to cradle sin in a velvety cultural context. Hiding evil behind secondary political influences instead of calling sin for what it is. Why can’t they be honest about what people in the past have done? Who are they trying to protect? Let us learn from our history. Let us call our society and cultures to account.
4. Silence. Listen to the church. Hear . . . nothing. The deafening quiet of those who hold back, giving excuses for why the church should not act. A silence that only emboldens those who speak evil. Why, of all the sins of our society, is the church most silent on racism, speaking only when it can strike a careful balance with all sides without being honest about why they think such a balance seems necessary to strike?
5. Racism, anti-Semitism, and nativism. They are all of the same. Feel the otherization that pits us versus them, that says to people of color, to people of the Jewish faith, to immigrants and refugees, you are not one of us. I cannot see anything of Jesus in such rhetoric. And yet there are people who call themselves Christians who espouse these lies, and people who call themselves Christians who excuse such anti-gospel teachings or allow them to go unopposed.
The percentage of these worst offenders in our nation is not large, but coupled with the many enablers, the numbers are huge. Fifty years after the death of Jim Crow and 70 years after the death of Hitler, such forces of injustice remain strong.
Now is not the time to hold back, to be passive, whether out of fear or indifference. These forces we saw in action this weekend in Charlottesville – the KKK, the Neo-Nazis, the Nationalists – these forces are hostile to the gospel. We have let them ferment in our midst for far too long. We will answer for our silence.