The events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend have brought to light the deep-seeded hatred that has lurked beneath the surface of our society for generations. It’s been our nation’s dirty little secret. Some say it’s America’s Original Sin.
Many have thought that if we ignored it, it would just go away. If we stopped giving it any credence, it would wither on the vine and die of starvation. Maybe those tiny pockets of crazy KKK folk would eventually disappear due to lack of interest. That’s the easy response. Because admitting we have a societal problem is uncomfortable. It’s embarrassing. And it’s shameful.
But we cannot pretend it isn’t happening anymore. In all honesty, we shouldn’t have been pretending in the first place. But many of us have been. And although it’s been a long time coming, it appears that Charlottesville has served as a wake up call.
I would hope that if you’ve spent any time with me at all or if you’ve read any of my writings at all, it should go without saying that I deplore racism, white supremacy, and any other form of hate-filled rhetoric that these misguided characters might espouse. Let me say it again so there is no doubt in anyone’s mind: I reject racism and I repudiate white supremacy. This a poison that will only lead to destruction. There is no room for such hatred in our society. Period.
And there’s even less room for this type of venom in our churches.
Somehow along the way, people have tried to connect the Church with racist, white supremacist views. I assume some of this goes back to the time leading up to the Civil War, when church leaders who were sympathetic to the cause of slavery desperately needed some proof texts from Scripture to prove that the enslavement of an entire race was somehow divinely appointed. So they ripped verses out of context, twisted the meanings of different verses, and did the little song and dance that many of us do when we try to make the Bible say what we want it to say instead of what it really says.
If you’ve come here thinking that Jesus encouraged and supported some kind of hate-driven agenda, you can go ahead and put away your proof texts and your mental gymnastics because I want to take a few minutes to remind you* of what Jesus has to say on this matter:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34 (emphasis mine)
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘ There is no command greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 (emphasis mine)
You’ve probably heard the story of the Good Samaritan. If you haven’t, you should read it. Right now. Go ahead. Read it. I’ll wait. If you don’t want to read it, you can watch this video. Jesus makes it pretty clear who our neighbors are. He makes it pretty clear how to show love. And he made it very clear what we’re supposed to do in response to this story.
“Go and do likewise.”
And just in case you haven’t gotten the hint yet, let’s look at what the Apostle Paul and see what he has to say.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28 (emphasis mine)
You think one race is cursed while another is elevated? You think one is inferior while another is superior? No way. Not in God’s community. There is no distinction. We should all be united. That’s our call. It’s what we’re meant to be when the love of Christ transforms us. Love your neighbor. Show mercy. Love one another.
And that’s the same thing that John tells us in his first letter to believers.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:8
You might as well go ahead and read the rest of that chapter. Shoot, read the whole letter. If you have any doubt about how we should live in a world full of hate, 1 John has the answer. Spoiler alert: It ain’t hate.
It’s that simple.
And it’s that difficult. Holy cow, it’s hard.
Because when I see images of people gathering to spewing hate and breathing violent threats, my first reaction is to respond with hate. In fact, I want to punch them in the throat.
That’s what I want to do. But that’s not what I’m supposed to do. “Love your neighbor,” remember? One could argue that a white supremacist Nazi type of person is hardly a neighbor. So maybe it’s all OK to simply respond to hate with hate.
(Jesus said:) “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44
Jesus wasn’t merely talking in theory. While we were still sinners, while we had set up residence in the Enemy’s camp, Jesus put “love your enemies” into practice when he spread out his arms and died for all of humanity – even the ones who beat him, hurled insults at him, and executed him.
If I’m being honest, that’s a pretty tough example to follow. And I also have no idea how to put that into practice. Because I’m outraged at the fact that people think it’s OK to treat other people like they’re less than human. I will not let their trash gain legitimacy in our society. And I will not allow them to hijack my faith.
But where is the line between responding in holy anger (yes, there is such a thing) and responding in hate? I don’t know. But I do know this: I know in the end even after everything else has passed away, only love will remain.
And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest, the most excellent way is love.
It’s all about love. It will always be about love. Love will remain. That’s the answer to the ugliness that was displayed in Charlottesville. It is the answer to any ugliness we encounter, honestly. That’s what it boils down to.
So I’m learning how to choose love in the midst of hate. I’m learning how to stare Satan’s minions in the face and respond in love. Because these all of us desperately need Jesus.
I know what the answer is. But I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know what it looks like in real life. How do we flesh this out? I don’t have all the answers, but I know where to start.
So I’m learning to stand with love. That should be my default setting: love. But since we’re being honest here, I can tell you that it isn’t my “go-to” response most of the time. But I’m doing my best. I’m learning to love the way Jesus loves me.
I hope you’ll learn with me.
*Do I really think that sharing these verses is going to change the mind of a devoted white supremacist? No. I don’t think they really care about the words of Jesus. Or Paul. Or John. I doubt they really care about anything other than statements that promote their own twisted, hate-filled, repugnant views. This post is really for people who might be on the fence, although I don’t see how you can be on the fence. It’s also for people who are looking at these white folks, connecting the dots, and thinking that this is what the American church is all about.