August 14, 2017

Some Thoughts on Charlottesville

Last weekend, the town of Charlottesville, Virginia (to which I have family ties) was besieged with demonstrations by a large number of self-identified white nationalists and “alt right” activists, largely from out of town. Attendees included such notorious peddlers of white supremacist ideology as Richard Spencer and David Duke. Violence erupted between these protesters and counter-protesters, including but not limited to the savage beating of 20-year-old African-American Charlottesville resident De’Andre Harris and a 20-year-old Ohioan driving a car into a group of anti-racist counter-protesters, which killed a young woman named Heather Heyer and wounded 19 others.

It is hard to do justice with words to how sickening and horrifying this evil is. This is not a matter of partisan politics but very basic right and wrong.  White supremacist ideology, along with the actions it encourages, is evil, pure and simple. It is a fundamentally blasphemous attack on the God in Whose very image ALL people are equally created from the moment of conception (Genesis 1:26-27, Acts 17:26).

Yes, there are other current forms of totalitarian extremism and hateful violence, against which I have spoken out and will continue to speak out. But that is no reason for not being specific and clear about condemning the racism recently displayed in Charlottesville.

We must never ignore or forget the deep scars that white supremacy has left on the history of the United States. But we must also honor and celebrate the hard-fought history of American progress against racial bigotry, a legacy that includes the abolition of slavery, the fight against Nazism in World War II, and the civil rights movement.  Key early leaders of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) were heavily involved in the civil rights movement, and we repeatedly condemned Apartheid back when that intrinsically evil system was imposed on South Africa.

With the present situation, nothing good will come out of irresponsible and factually baseless words or actions to exaggerate the extremely limited extent of Neo-Nazism’s appeal in this country.

On the other hand, while former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke only got a pathetic three percent of the state-wide vote in a single one of our fifty states, in his campaign for U.S. Senate last November, every one of his votes received was one too many, in my humble opinion.

To my fellow white Americans who may be inclined to dismiss all the current outcry over Charlottesville as an over-reaction, I would respectfully encourage you to do a few things. Please do click on the links in my first paragraph above to see the video and pictures of Harris and Heyer. Imagine how you would feel if that was done to your own brother, sister, son, or daughter.

It is really worthwhile to spend a little time reviewing the history of Klan marches and other forms of mass intimidation of African-Americans decades ago, and consider how the sudden episode last weekend of a night-time march by a torch-bearing mob of angry white racists would make African-American residents feel, particularly those who are old enough to have lived through some of the darker chapters of our history. Such demonstrations easily meet Merriam-Webster’s definition of terrorism. I do not want anyone to have their safety threatened in such a way.

Spend some time trying to listen with an open mind, and without any “yes, but what about…” interruptions, to fellow Americans who have a different skin color – whether public figures writing online articles or personal friends of yours – about how seeing the white nationalists march makes them feel.

For white Americans who call ourselves Christians, Scripture is very clear that, as radical as it may sound, we simply have no right to mentally dismiss this situation as not our problem or to ignore how last weekend has impacted our non-white brothers and sisters. Rather, we are told that within the body of Christ we MUST “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15), that we MUST each “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4), and that when one member of Christ’s body suffers, all the rest suffer with him or her (1 Corinthians 12:26).  The fact of the matter is that throughout this land, a great many in the body of Christ are suffering and mourning from being victimized by past as well as present racism in all sorts of ways (usually not quite as extreme as neo-Nazism but still very damaging). And if we are to be truly biblically faithful Christians, whenever there is such suffering in any part of the body of Christ, the rest of His body has no choice but to mourn, embrace, and take on such suffering and problems as their own.

As IRD Director Mark Tooley reminds us, last weekend was a grim reminder of the fundamentally, inescapably fallen, sinful nature of the world in this present epoch.

There remains much work to do in advancing racial justice in the church as well as in society. As we continue to address such issues, Christians should take the lead in cautioning against fighting fire with fire, violence with violence, or hatred with hatred. As InterVarsity Christian Fellowship official Greg Jao recently put it: “A Christian response requires prophetic denunciation, pastoral grief, & evangelistic hope for the white supremacists who demonstrated.”  All three are essential.

In denouncing the sin of the clearly troubled white nationalists, let we Christians never forget that we ourselves are in no less desperate need of God’s mercy for our own sin, and that even such sinful “others” are not beyond the possibility of miraculous redemption through the blood of Jesus.


6 Responses to Some Thoughts on Charlottesville

  1. diaphone64 says:

    “As InterVarsity Christian Fellowship official Greg Jao recently put it: “A Christian response requires prophetic denunciation, pastoral grief, & evangelistic hope for the white supremacists who demonstrated.””

    And what about the Antifa “counterprotesters” who actually started the violence? Or the organizer of the rally who is an Obama and Occupy Wall Street supporter? Or the dozens of violent protests and beatings performed by leftists on Trump supporters going in since last fall? This is an unfortunate mis-step and sad pandering by a usually strong voice amidst leftist radicalism.

    • John Lomperis says:

      As indicated above, on this site and elsewhere, I and others with IRD regularly condemn all sorts of left wing extremism. In this particular article, I focused on unequivocally condemning white nationalism. In the big picture of my writings, I don’t see why I can’t do both over time.

    • Skipper Anding says:

      The picture shows the Counter-protesters with their helmets and other “battle gear” harassing the Protesters. We see who started the violence and this is largely ignored in the media. When someone incites violence, are they more innocent or more guilty?

      Nearly a century of horrible injustice (slavery) occurred under the American Flag. It flew over shipyards constructing slave ships, over the ships themselves transporting slaves packed like sardines, and over the docks where the ships unloaded. But those terrible injustices are just part of history now. Some need to get over it and carry on with their lives. This goes for the Protesters and Counter-Protesters: It can be hard to replace ill feelings with love, but it so worth it!

  2. William says:

    Our country made unparalleled historic strides, spent trillions, and transformed ugly, real ugly racism into genuinely positive race relations and good people relations regardless of race through the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s under the leadership of national heros, starting with Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King will go down in America history as the one who saved our country from a blood bath in the 60s because of his message of peaceful change, and his unwavering trust in God. Not only did he peacefully help liberate African-Americans from institutional segregation and insidious racism, but he also was a light to white Americans, especially in the South, by helping them cast off the sin of racial bigotry, hatred, and transform an oppressive legal/cultural system by giving them the courage to reject and be freed from the bonds of that system themselves. Oh, oh, oh — all the racially charged events, actually a new form of racial conflict, of this new century seems to have set us back decades, and seems to demonstrate a form of historic illiteracy that is obscene to the work and memory of Dr King and all those earlier civil rights heroes. May God have mercy on the USA. And may our country regain the message and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King and complete the work he initiated, peacefully.

    • Emanuelle says:

      A new racial conflict that is being inflamed by people with ulterior motives. As long as whipping up racial sentiment is profitable in some shape or form, there are those who will exploit it without a care for who pays the price.

  3. EdKe says:

    I think we as a Church do a disservice by beating-up only the “clear” bad guy such as KKK, Nazis, etc. We do this mainly because it is easy. We owe equal time and scrutiny to the other evil side, the counter protesters have their own agenda and it appears not to be Christian based either. Evil, in all its forms, will always be with us.

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