What Charlottesville Taught Me: It’s Time to Speak Up.
- August 14, 2017
- James Harris
“The thing about statues is…”
I wrote that first line thinking it was how I would start this piece. I like to be lighthearted and comedic when I write– I view writing as an extension of your person, and I think that is basically who I am. But, unfortunately, there isn’t a very good way to joke about the violence that was done in our country the other day.
Today I walked by a mirror and had a very strange thought. “That’s what a terrorist looks like.” A white guy in a button down shirt and khakis. My second thought after that was, “How did I get so liberal?” But honestly, I don’t think this is a political issue anymore. And if you’re defending guys carrying Nazi flags with automatic weapons and body armor, it is time to take a step back and figure out how that aligns with conservative political beliefs.
I’ve never thought that way before. I’ve never been the easily identifiable guy. My skin makes me rather invisible to the general public in a sense. I don’t get worried when I see cops. I don’t hesitate when going through TSA at the airport. I don’t have to deal with people looking at me funny because they think I might be of a different religion.
This past weekend people died and there were brawls and fights because of White Supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, VA. Sure, there was violence on both sides, the punches weren’t all one direction. That seemed to be the response from some on social media. Deflection to liberal violence, the Antifa, the “resistance.” But it wasn’t about that. Those deflections and excuses, because that is what they were, happened because people felt that demonstrators carrying torches and calling on “white America” to “take their country back” were justified. The keyboard warriors might never put on a hood and burn a cross, but neglecting to see that those protesters were standing for something truly evil is inexcusable. You can’t defend that. No one seems to have an outcry when Westboro Baptist gets things thrown at them when they hold signs about God hating numerous groups of people.
I believe in peaceful assembly. We have that right. I don’t agree with what the white supremacists said in the least, but I’ll defend their right to say it. The Government has no authority to police the thoughts of its people. That being said, if you are saying that white supremacy is justified by a Christian conviction, you now answer to Church Discipline as well. Jesus talks about the Church twice. In Matthew he says this,
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The church is to be used in teaching to observe all that Jesus has commanded. So when people hold up signs with scripture justifying what they are doing, and it is wrong, then it is the duty of those who preach the Gospel to address and rebuke it.
First, I’ll be honest. I don’t really understand the whole fighting to keep statues up of confederate leaders. I’m from the south, and I was a history major in college. On a completely secular level, do we realize that when we do that we are fighting to have monuments to generals of foreign countries in our cities? I don’t care if that foreign country was once here. We don’t have monuments to English Kings from when they ruled the continent. The Confederacy was a separate nation, which was at war with our United States. You may be descended from them, and you may live on the lands they once did. That doesn’t change the fact that they, for however long, took up arms against our nation.
Here is the spiritual teaching. If you are defending a statue, and doing so makes you have division with your community, that’s an idol. Go read the Old Testament. You may not consider that monument a literal god, but it is idolatry.
Next, all Scripture has to be viewed through the teaching of Jesus, and his person. If you read about his life, and you know him intimately, then speaking hate against different people groups is clearly not of Him. In fact, it is at its heart evil. I don’t care if you think they have sinned. Jesus loved people, all of whom are sinful beings.
Finally, this. Discomfort doesn’t equate to not being Biblical. It makes me uncomfortable talking about white privilege. It makes me uncomfortable hearing hard things about a culture which I grew up in. Just because sentiments make you uncomfortable, doesn’t mean they are not true. Before lashing out, defending, deflecting, or attempting to justify actions by people who look like you, and probably vote along the same party line as you, consider the plank in your own eye. What is it making you blind to? It is far better to live in a world that you see clearly, rather than one you defend yourself from in your own ignorance. Your experiences are not everyone else’s. Your snap judgments you make from watching the news are not always right. Your one example of a time when something happened that confirmed a racially prejudiced sentiment in your heart is not logical defense for internalizing prejudice.
After the violence on Saturday, a lot of my clergy friends on Facebook made a point to say that if you’re a white pastor, it is your duty to speak about that hatred and racism on Sunday morning. There was push back to this. “We’re called to preach the Gospel and nothing else,” should never be a defensive statement. The Gospel of Christ is this: we are sinful creatures, unable of being in right relationship with God, but able to do so because Jesus came and lived a perfect life, died for our transgressions and made possible again communion with God. That sentence encompasses so much more. The Gospel calls you to fight for the rights of the unborn. Have you prayed in your church against abortion? That one fits in your political stance. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable. Here’s another. The Gospel makes us all equal in the eyes of God. If you can’t figure out how to articulate a biblical stance on racial prejudice and white supremacy from the Life of Jesus, then you need to read the Gospel again.
As my friend said following the events, it isn’t a multi-faceted diamond. It is a coin. There are two sides. It is time to figure out which one is Biblical.
Picture Source: New York Times/Edu Bayer[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]