By John Mark Boes
My heart truly aches for those who are suffering in Charlottesville. I am sure that the fear experienced on the night of August 11 and the morning/early afternoon of August 12th was, at times, paralyzing if not completely demoralizing. My head is beyond angry. Surely the white nationalist protesters understand the hurt their actions and racism are causing! There must be a better way.
If the Gospel preaches good news, where is the good news for Charlottesville? At first glance, the situation that gripped Charlottesville August 11-12 was rife with fear. The images that were being disseminated on social media alone proved that. I was separated from Charlottesville by some 500 miles. Yet, I was nearly dumbfounded by the level of fear that I had just by observing a few pictures and the terror that I witnessed.
However, there is hope to be found in Charlottesville; the Good News is, in fact, present. While the white nationalist protests were occurring, clergy along with other community organizers were gathering. Their sheer presence was enough for me to remember that even in the darkest of hours, God’s abundant, just presence is with us.
I was reminded that God always shows up. I was reminded that God stands on the side of justice, grace, and mercy. I was reminded of the words of Amos 5 where justice will “roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (Amos 5: 24 NRSV). I was reminded that God stands mightily with the oppressed and the marginalized. I was reminded of the prophets who boldly proclaimed truth to power. But, most of all, I was reminded that, as Christians, we are called to stand in solidarity with those left powerless, those who are sent straight to the margins of our society, and with those who have a different skin color from us.Fear pervaded Charlottesville, Virginia. But fearlessness, both by those who led the counter-protests and those who walk alongside with the marginalized elsewhere, will always prevail. Even when the hour is darkest, fearlessness prevails.
The biblical witness is hard evidence of this notion. The persistence of the counter protesters in Charlottesville is hard evidence of this notion. Yet, the effort to eradicate racism cannot and should not end with the narrative in Charlottesville. Our churches must become bastions of light that radically proclaim God’s love to oppressed people. Our actions must boldly emphasize Christ’s liberative crucifixion and resurrection. Hate must be combated with love; moreover, we must seek to love even those whose actions are abhorrent.
Ultimately, our words and our actions must condemn racism as wholly separate from the will of God. My prayer for Charlottesville and for our world is that we will continue to partner and cooperate in renewing God’s creation. May God’s justice remind us to be fearless in the face of fear. May we stand as God’s people in the face of injustice and confront it lovingly and fearlessly.
John Mark Boes serves as Partnerships and Advocacy Specialist for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. He is a recent graduate of Candler School of Theology at Emory University.