White Supremacy was celebrated last Friday and Saturday in Charlottesville, VA as the "Unite the Right" rally drew hundreds to protest the city's plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
"Blood and Soil!" chanted the marchers as they processed at night with their tiki torches alit.
That slogan comes from early Nazi propaganda used against Jews. The intent of the marchers in Charlottesville is self-evident. They weren't just marching for Southern "Heritage". They were marching for white supremacy.
Let's name white supremacist ideas for what they are: heresy, error, an offense against God.
"...You have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off, and to those who are near," reads one of our prayers in our prayerbook.
This says it all. Humanity is one. God created all life, and all humanity. God provided for variations in the expression of humanity. There are different shades of skin, different visible characteristics. There are different cultures and languages; different historical forces at work to shape people's lives; different customs. God loves what God has created, and asks us to love too.
In Luke's Gospel, we read (6:35) Jesus' teaching that "the Most High...is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked." (NRSV). Jesus says that God loves us when we're good. God loves us when we're bad.
People naturally asked Jesus something like this: "Well, if God is good, then why does God allow bad stuff to happen?" We read in Matthew's Gospel that he answered their question with a story about wheat and tares (13:24-30).
While on vacation I worshiped at an Anglican Church on Vancouver Island and heard Fr. Anthony Divinigracia preach the Good News powerfully and clearly from this text. He said that we are called to name evil actions plainly and openly, while leaving the ultimate judgment of the souls of those who do evil to God alone. "Our job is to love," he plainly said.
And loving is hard. Loving includes naming evil actions and evil thoughts for what they are. This is necessary in order to protect the dignity of people whose dignity is being trampled upon and honoring God who gives dignity to all. Loving in this way means that some people will be mad at you for pointing this out. When we do evil things we typically hide behind the idea that we're actually doing good, after all. We don't like being confronted with the possibility that our "good deeds" may actually be evil deeds. Jesus found this out. He got killed for being this truthful.
"All you need is love," sang the Beatles. Well, yes, but as a teacher once told me, the real question is "what does love require?"
Love requires truth-telling, among other things.
So let me tell some truth about me. I'm a recovering racist. No, I've not been the habit of uttering racial slurs or consciously expressing racist ideas. I've liked to think of myself as beyond all that; better than that.
But I've been the beneficiary of a racist society. I've benefited from white supremacy. How, you say?
I was born in a state founded upon white supremacist ideals enshrined into the Constitution. Yes, I'm talking about Oregon. I managed to get through all my primary and secondary education there without having this fact pointed out to me, much less emphasized. As a white man I never had to fear for what street I walked on in what town I was in. I didn't ever have the experience that some black youth from a Portland high school basketball team had when they were called the "n-word" from the bleachers of a high school gym downstate in a city reputed to be "liberal." This was in the 90's, by the way. It was only as an adult that I had any notion of the civil rights struggles of black Oregonians that were going on in our state's largest city. And then there's this. As a 17-year-old I knowingly signed up to attend a "Christian" college with a whites-only admissions policy. I didn't stay long, but I didn't have enough awareness to be horrified at the choice I was making, and I didn't have any adult around me saying "this is wrong!" This is darned embarrassing, but it's the truth. The truth sets me free.
Truth sets me free to accept God's mercy for my ignorance and for the "things done and left undone."
Let's call out what happened in Charlottesville over the weekend as the expression of white supremacy, a repugnant and odious ideology born of fear and hatred, and espoused by those who are led astray. We must be unequivocal about this.
Let's affirm that God loves all people without exception or exclusion. Let us resist those who deny this truth, and resist the impulses in ourselves which are like unto the impulses to which they have fallen victim.
And let's pray that God will continue to show us how to be faithful witnesses to Christ. This prayer from our prayerbook is a good guide:
Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us
grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace
with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom,
help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our
communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy
Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.