What happened in Charlottesville? That question has ping ponged through my mind all week. I have read news story after news story trying to piece together what happened and what the response of the Christian Church should be. Let’s talk about what happened and what the response should be.
Here is a pretty good video to describe what happened.
Essentially a racist, white supremacy/nationalist group protested the removal of a statue honoring Robert E. Lee the famous General of the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
A counter protest of anti-white supremacy, which had permits for another area came to where the white supremacists were and emotions, words, and punches were exchanged.
The Governor of Virginia came in and called the assembly unlawful and told everyone to go home.
James Fields, who was protesting with the white supremacists, got his car and drove it into the counter protesters killing Heather Heyer and wounding 30 others.
Racism is Real
In 2017 we have racism in America. Like legit, no holds barred, “I hate you because the color of your skin” racism. There are people who believe in white supremacy, and really believe, “You should be my slave, because of the color of your skin.” That is a problem. What makes this more of a problem is that these white nationalist/supremacist groups say things like, “We want our White Christian nation back!” That makes me uncomfortable. Because who thinks like that?
Now listen…it’s very very unlikely that we have people in our church that are straight up neo-nazis. Sometimes satan is a roaring lion, sometimes he’s a snake hiding in the grass. If we can’t talk about the whispers of bigotry and racism and process the complexity of our feelings together as a body, then we really do leave it up to interpretation on what the church thinks about these things. For a lot of people, the events of Charlottesville are annoying. Just another thing that divides the country along racial lines, but for the most part doesn’t affect me, because I stay within my own homogeneous bubbles. There are others who watch the news of Charlottesville and get angry that no one is saying what needs to be said. No one is standing up against outright evil.
Two people can encounter the exact same thing and come away with two totally different experiences. Unless we can process what we’re seeing and thinking and feeling, we allow satan to divide us quietly and secretly.When death and violence result from racism it moves from words to actions and affects how people of different races view others. It affects how you feel about sending your kid to school. It affects what type of people with whom you associate. In fact, a church’s silence on this issue may cause many to look at the church and think they are complicit because they are not speaking out. I know this, because when terrorist bombings occur and there is silence from the mosque next door and imams are silent, it makes me wonder if they were secretly chanting “Allah Akbar” as they watched the news and watched heart wrenching video of victims walking out from ashes in tears looking for their family.
In a country where we have a checkered past when it comes to racism, there are people from all walks of life and all political forums coming out stating a clear condemnation of racism. Twitter statements are so much easier than actual posts and can’t even begin to touch a real life conversation. It’s easy to say “As a church, we stand opposed to any form of racism…” without acknowledging the fact that racism doesn’t happen without people. Or talking about how Charlottesville actually impacts our local community (because it definitely does). Racism happens because people are evil. Not just “those people” but all people. There’s a lot of charged emotions with this one, and people aren’t really sure how to respond, how strongly they should feel, and what to do with those feelings.
For the past couple years, every Thursday morning I, a white man, have breakfast with three black men who love God and love each other. Charlottesville and events like it became awkward only for a moment, like every other racially tense event that has happened nationally. However, that tension breaks when we acknowledge what is going on, ask about how that makes us all feel, and point to our deep need for Jesus. This is good. The Bible makes a clear stand against racism. Jesus didn’t just come to save one race, he came to save all races.
Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, the rest of humanity has been guilty of treason against God. We have all been guilty of hate. We have all been guilty of the darkness of the heart to want to do our own thing and get our own way and be our own god and subjugate others to serve our whims. That may come out overtly as racism or in the way we selfishly treat our spouse. That wasn’t God’s moral will that we would be treasonous people. But God allowed it.
Then God did the unthinkable. He sent Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, to earth and God became a man. He lived a sinless life. He was condemned to die, not just by humans, but God condemned in the place of man. And anyone who believed that Jesus died on the cross for their sin and in their place would have a restored relationship with God. Jesus experienced hell, separation from God, on our behalf– so that we could experience heaven.
Paul in writing to these Ephesians talked about where racism was totally crushed. It was destroyed in Jesus.
For [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
The both here are the Jews vs the Gentiles. The Jews considered themselves the chosen race. God was working through them. In fact there was a part of the wall that separated the court of Gentiles from the Court of the Jews that read, “Any Gentile that passes this point has only himself to blame for his subsequent death.” That is pretty strong wording. And a fairly strong reason why there was a deep embedded hatred for any other race of people other than Jews. But Jesus fulfilled the law and broke down that dividing wall and now all people, Jew & Gentile, black and white, are able to live as one people, because the cross kills the hostility. That is my hope as we move forward as a church. The cross would kill the hostility.