Rector's Ramblings August 16, 2017
Part of this week’s Rambling will come later in the week, when a group of local pastors and I publish a piece in the local newspaper on Friday; a reflection and call to action in light of the recent events in Charlottesville, VA. While I assume, and pray, that the number of persons who espouse hateful rhetoric like we heard last weekend are small in number, small numbers can and do grow when not opposed. History is full of such examples. As I said on Sunday, we can (and should) all oppose such hatred by being very clear that it is inappropriate and out of place in our communities.
Sometimes people equivocate and say, “yes, but…” This is one of those times when “yes, but…” is inappropriate and destructive. If we need to criticize anyone involved in events like the one last weekend that were not white supremacists, there should be a pause in between our criticisms. White supremacy is evil. Violence is never the answer. Peaceful protests are what we endorse. See how those statements are all true, and yet there is no equivocating on the evil part? It matters.
It is also unhelpful to pretend there are two sides to some issues. Sometimes there just aren’t. Hateful ideologies that seek the destruction of other human beings are wrong. There is no middle ground. The planks of a Neo-Nazi agenda need not be debated. They are wrong. They are espousing evil. We stand with any who they threaten. That’s how following Jesus works.
I once upset some parishioners because I addressed racism in a sermon. I was made aware afterwards that I had crossed a line into partisan politics because racism isn’t a real issue (their assertion in slightly different words), but a partisan wedge. Does racism get pulled into the partisan tug-of-war? Absolutely. But as this past weekend showed us, racism is much larger than a political party. It deserves to be condemned when we encounter it, and especially when its adherents are so threatening and loud. Not to do so is dangerous and sinful.
The rise in hateful rhetoric and the threat of violence has been coming on for a long time. It’s been growing noticeably in the last eighteen months, to two years in particular. Increasing numbers of rallies and marches gives a clear indication of the growth. What must happen is an equally clear response from those who will speak up, speak out, and stand with the marginalized and threatened.
I don’t think we will ever eradicate extremism and racism. It will always exist. But, we will always stand and speak against it. By doing so we help keep it in check, and we send a message to its intended victims that they are not alone. This is perhaps the most important part of offering our witness to truth and love. If we think that racism isn’t an issue and don’t understand why people are so upset about last weekend, it is because we are living in a bubble of privilege. I can tell you that anxiety is high among our Jewish, African American, Hispanic, and LGBT neighbors at the moment. For all that we’ve made steady progress as a human race, we all know that nothing can be take for granted.
When I preached at Temple Beth Filloh on Holocaust Remembrance Day, I promised the congregation that they did not stand alone. I assured them that there are countless Christians who know right from wrong and who would step up to name and combat the evil of anti-Semitism if it ever reared its head. I meant it. And I still hope I’m right about the others who will speak out, too.
So what do we do? Well, I hope that we will continue to gather groups of faithful people willing to work towards unity and build relationships. Some of us have a few ideas about how to do that moving forward. I think we can raise our children to respect others and their differences, while building on similarities. We will make sure that we live and embody the example and teachings of Jesus, in word and deed, regardless of party or platform. We will learn from what happened last week; listen to the hateful speech and the assertions of supremacists if for no other reason than to realize just how evil their ideas are. We are a people of love and forgiveness, and we pray for our enemies. What we cannot do is nothing. When such ideas make it into public discourse, we respond. We cannot remain silent. Silence adds more fuel to the fire than loving, peaceful dissention ever will.
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.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is
hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where
there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where
there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where
there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to
be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is
in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we
are born to eternal life. Amen.