My latest for the Longview News- Journal
There has been a lot of conversations taking place this week in our country. The display of white nationalists and the protests that ensured in Charlottesville have brought race relations back to the forefront. These events have spawned conversations, debates, prayer vigils, political pundits posturing in sound bites and a social media firestorm. This has not been an easy week for our country; it has not been an easy week being a minister; it has not been an easy week as a father.
Throughout this past week I kept asking myself, “How did we get here? Is this what the world is coming to in 2017? How is white supremacy still a thing? Are they really claiming to be Christians?” It is mindboggling that in 2017 I have to worry about my children overhearing a news story about white supremacist and white nationalist. How do I explain to my kids that there are people in this world that hate another human just because they look differently?
Hearing the vile that was being spewed on the streets of Charlottesville still turns my stomach. The rage, the hate, the lack of concern for anyone else who does not look, think or act like they do is sickening.
This is not the world that I envision for my children. This is not the world I envision for my grandchildren. This is not the world that I envision for anyone. This is certainly not the “very good” place that God created in Genesis 1.
Time and time again the human condition rears its ugly head. It seems as if each time I think it cannot get any worse, humanity finds a way. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus calls his followers to a higher and better standard. This standard means giving voice to the voiceless, remembering the forgotten, seeking out the lost and standing up in the face of evil and hatred. This task is not simple or even convenient. It is not completed in a lifetime rather it is a process of continually showing that God’s love is real, God’s Spirit is alive and hope will remain.
This summer I worked at a high school summer camp where I lead a workshop on prayer. I asked the students what prayer was. One person responded, “it is a little plate of hope.” We must cling to that hope. Darkness might be around us, evil will be in our midst but we must not give up hope. The gospels remind the church that God will ultimately triumph over evil. Hope drives us to face a new day; hope guides us to stay the course; hope is the undergirding of our faith.
Hate can never be the answer; violence can the never be the answer. Not because it is morally repugnant, but because it goes against the basic teachings of God. To move away from the heart of God’s calling means we have decided to make God in our own image, to decide that some rules do not apply to us. The most difficult part of all that has transpired this week is the notion that some of the white nationalists were using the Bible and Christian theology as support for their violence. This is a twisting and misusing of the Bible and the traditions of the church. Nowhere in the Bible does Christ advocate racism, xenophobia or violence.
This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. We do not need to have yet another partisan political issue. This is an issue that speaks to what it means to be an American. Society has come too far just to go backwards.
Where do we go from here? What can be done?
The church must be a place where the welcoming spirit of God is felt and extended. Christians proclaim that all of humanity is formed and created in the same image of God. We proclaim that in Christ there is no division, in Christ there is no separation. Galatians reminds us that there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free for all are one in Christ. Jesus told his followers that the summary of the Law and Prophets was to love God with all of your heart, soul and strength and to love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself.
Love must be the guiding force for our community. Love must be the guiding force for our state. Love must be the guiding force for our nation. 1 John 4: 19-20 states, “We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen.”
Racism of any kind is wrong, bigotry of any kind is wrong. Churches of all sizes, denominations and theological outlooks must come together in one voice proclaiming that violence, white supremacy and hatred of another human being for being who God created them to be will not take root. It will not take root in our churches; it will not take root in Longview; it will not take root in Texas; it will not take root in the United States.
This will not be an easy task but it is the right thing to do. Let us not give up on hope.
Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.