The events in Charlottesville have elevated an issue that has been festering a long time. Amidst the political discomfort that now blankets the nation, Christian pastors have tried to navigate a middle course, proclaiming the gospel without meddling in affairs many parishioners consider to be none of the business of clergy or church. That’s especially true in my community. The dominant political ethos is conservative, and public discourse exhibits a subtle distrust of people who are “not like us.” That’s just the way it is, neither good nor bad. Let’s face it, that’s the way it is everywhere, even in places on the other side. But when white supremacists, Nazis and their relations gain enough footing to absorb the evening news, pastors can no longer walk the tightrope. They must stand. Duck and cover is not an option.
White supremacy and Nazisim express not one set of ideologies among others to be treated with equal regard. Our constitution may give them the right to be heard, but they are ideologies of demonic evil, intolerable to our Lord Jesus Christ. We would be failing in our duties as his disciples not to speak out. As it is, I cannot speak for others, only for myself, but I speak as one who follows Jesus as best I can.
When Martin Luther King, Jr. was tossed into the Birmingham jail many years ago, he wrote a long letter to the local clergy. Most of them had urged patience, noting that there was a certain amount of misbehavior on both sides, and maybe now was the not the time to confront segregation in ways that invited more violence. King chastised them with strong prophetic words. When was the right time to stand against evil, if not now? When was the right time to stand for Jesus Christ, if not now? When was the right time to risk more violence from those whose evil ideology was based on violent suppression of others’ freedom, if not now?
The events of the last week speak for themselves. Now is the time to stand against evil. There are not two sides to be carefully evaluated. There is one side that is both un-American and counter to everything Jesus stands for. Indeed, they are near cousins to the forces that crucified him. That counter demonstrators may have behaved badly also does not make things equal. One side would destroy the highest ideals of our nation in the name of demonic evil. The other, however stumbling, would defend our highest ideals. Whether Christian or not, they follow, however poorly, the fundamentals of his teaching.
What teaching? Jesus dedicated his life to breaking down barriers that separate us from one another. Healing and reconciliation was what he was about. He made it clear that we are all created in God’s image, that none are deputed by God to be superior to others, and that God is not shy about condemning those who would twist it to be understood otherwise. He taught not as another wise teacher, but as the very word of God. It’s not up for debate. As an old hymn proclaims, “In Christ there is no East or West, in him no South or North, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.” We may not see the fullness of it yet, but it stands as our beacon guiding the way.
Jesus stood with courage in the face of the evil he met each day. He stood especially tall in the presence of evil represented by the rulers of the land, even at the cost of death itself. As Christians, we proclaim that, in his resurrection, he defeated both death and the ideologies of the rulers of his day. White supremacists and Nazis are not our rulers, but they would like to be, and they are adept at spreading their poison whenever they think they have a chance to do it.
Jesus defeated them on the cross and at the empty tomb , but they have a way of raising their heads from time to time to see if a comeback is possible. It took a world war to quash it last time. We cannot let that happened again, and not in our country.