Charlottesville, White Supremacy, and a Broken Heart

Charlottesville, White Supremacy, and a Broken Heart August 26, 2017

36642342275_cb8ff397cfSince terrible events on August 12 in Charlottesville, I have heard bona fide Christians justify the President’s remarks in which he equivocated, making it seem that there was equal fault in both the Nazi camp and in those who resisted the Nazis. I have heard Christians arguing slavery wasn’t that bad. I have heard Christians refusing to empathize with the strong feelings many black brothers and sisters feel about Confederate statues, many of which were put up during the Jim Crow era to help keep blacks “in their place.” I have heard anger and rage about statues, when God said, “You shall not make for yourself an image” (Exodus 20:4 NIV).

Many* white people in this country are far more angry about removing statues than they are about actual lives being lost in police brutality. [*EDIT: “Many” added here in order to be more precise.]

And hey, maybe there is a debate to be had as to whether a local community chooses to add more statues or interpretive plaques rather than remove statues, but in my state of Montana, authorities had agreed to add an interpretive plaque to the Confederate fountain that until last week was in Helena, Montana, but until Charlottesville had happened, they still had done nothing. So other solutions might work, but only if people really follow through.

I’m sitting with an incredible amount of sadness these days. America is lacking a moral center. Christians and other people of faith should be encouraging character, morality, honesty, and civility. Instead, many of America’s Christians are getting more mean, crude, and justifying of evil and dishonesty as each day goes by. I don’t have any amazing words to make us all feel better. There are still Christians who do stand for decency, character, and morality and my respect for all of them has grown with each passing day. But with others, I feel utterly brokenhearted.

White supremacy–that view that white people matter more or are better human beings than others–is a deep spiritual stronghold in this country. Ephesians 6 reminds us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. We must join together in prayer, deep prayer, that the Lord will open eyes that are blinded. What is needed in America, and particularly among Christians, is a Damascus Road experience (Acts 9). It is hard to imagine much changing without divine intervention.

I am sad. I am mourning. And since I don’t have any amazing words for you all, I will share a few articles that have helped me make sense of what happened in Charlottesville and everything that followed.

Leah Wise, wrote for CT Women about being gathered in her church building that night of the neo-Nazi march

To say I was scared would be an understatement. But then the Spirit of God showed up, like a messenger commanding, “Do not be afraid.”

The song leader told us to sing loud enough for the neo-Nazis outside to hear. This church, my Episcopal church, normally a place of stiffness and Southern gentility, transformed into a loud celebration.

Brian McLaren, a Christian who was present and protested with other clergy on Saturday, wrote an extremely helpful eyewitness account of what he saw:

The courage of the clergy present inspired me. In public gatherings and in private conversations before Saturday, participating clergy were warned that there was a high possibility of suffering bodily harm. A group of clergy (pictured below) walked arm-in-arm into the very center of the storm, so to speak, delaying entry to the park as they stood, sang, and kneeled. … This symbolic act took a great deal of courage, and many who did so were spat on, subjected to slurs and insults, and exposed to tear gas. I hold them in the highest regard.

He also wrote about the counterprotesters, those seeking to stand against the Unite the Right rally:

I was deeply impressed with the Black Lives Matter participants. They went into the middle of the fray and stood strong and resilient against vicious attacks, insults, spitting, pepper spray, tear gas, and hurled objects. It’s deeply disgusting to see BLM be vilified on Fox News and other conservative outlets after watching them comport themselves with courage in the face of vile hatred this weekend.

Speaking of other groups (not BLM), he added,

Not all of the groups shared a commitment to nonviolent resistance in the tradition of Dr. King. I saw a few groups of protestors who, like the Nazis and white supremacists, came with hand-made shields and helmets, and I heard reports that some of these groups used pepper spray on the white supremacists, who were also using pepper spray, sticks, and fists on them.

After Charlottesville, conservative Christian Jake Meador wrote courageously over at Mere Orthodoxy:

This year has been something of a moral apocalypse not only for evangelicals, but for our republic. The absence of moral foundations is at this point undeniable and the results are devastating. If we would have credibility when witnessing to those to both our right and our left, we must have the courage to speak plainly when we see serious sin happening before our eyes.

Former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrote on Facebook on August 18,

The president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis–who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat–and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association.

This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children.

Jemar Tisby wrote about “10 Everyday Ways Charlottesville and White Supremacy Are Allowed to Still Happen”–and you should read the whole article.

Please join me in praying for America and in working to grow in empathy. May God bring revival among us. We desperately need it.

Community discussion guidelines:

Because this is a Christian blog, the things I’m talking about will obviously be topics that people feel strongly about in one direction or another. Please keep in mind that this is a place for substantive, respectful, constructive conversation. All perspectives are welcome to discuss here as long as all can treat each other with kindness and respect. Please ignore trolls, refuse to engage in personal attacks, try not to derail the conversation into divisive rabbit trails, and observe the comment policy listed on the right side of the page. Comments that violate these guidelines may be deleted. Vulgar remarks may result in immediate blacklisting. For those who clearly violate these policies repeatedly, my policy is to issue a warning which, if not regarded, may lead to blacklisting. This is not about censorship, but about creating a healthy, respectful environment for discussion.

P.S. Please also note that I am not a scientist, but a person with expertise in theology and the arts. While I am very interested in the relationship between science and faith, I do not believe I personally will be able to adequately address the many questions that inevitably come up related to science and religion. I encourage you to seek out the writings of theistic or Christian scientists to help with those discussions.

photo credit: quinn.anya Charlottesville via photopin (license)

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