With the recent events in the country, it would be good for us to discuss and search out the Scriptures about the topic of race relations. To best prepare for discussion, read the article below. We begin at 8:30 am in the sanctuary.
Violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Reveals Deep Racial Divide in America
In the News
“The whole week leading up to this felt like watching an out-of-control freight train barreling down on a car stuck on the tracks, with no way to stop it.”
So wrote a healthcare professional working in a hospital emergency room in Charlottesville, Virginia, about the events that unfolded last Saturday at a rally of white nationalists opposed to the city’s plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee.
Heather Danielle Heyer, 32, was killed, and 19 others were injured during the rally when 20-year-old James Allen Fields of Ohio, whom his former high school history teacher described as a Nazi sympathizer, allegedly rammed his automobile into pedestrians gathered to protest the “Unite the Right” movement. Fields was apprehended and charged with second-degree murder.
Two on-duty state troopers monitoring the situation from the air were also killed in a helicopter crash the same day.
Author Brian McLaren, who was in Charlottesville at the invitation of local clergy, witnessed many of the white nationalists dressed in Ku Klux Klan hooded robes or paramilitary clothing, displaying confederate and Nazi flags in abundance. They were heavily armed with helmets, shields, guns (including semi-automatic rifles), torches, tear gas, and pepper spray, McLaren said. “They looked like they came expecting to fight, threaten and intimidate.”
“It was truly horrifying,” the Rev. Elaine Thomas, associate rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, said. “[The white supremacists] came to town to cause violence, there’s no question about it.”
While McLaren acknowledged that some who came to oppose the ideology of white supremacy, racism and injustice in its various forms may not have chosen the path of non-violence, he said most were committed to peaceful resistance, even when they were subjected to “vicious attacks, insults, spitting, pepper spray, tear gas and hurled objects.”
“There was no call to violence or revenge; only a call to resilient resistance” among the multicultural, multiracial clergy and representatives from various faith traditions, McLaren said.
The action of the man who drove his car into a crowd of defenseless people has been described by many as a repugnant act of domestic terrorism, but others lauded the attack. Justin Moore, the Grand Dragon for the Loyal White Knights of the North Carolina Ku Klux Klan, told WBTV, “I’m sorta glad that them people got hit and I’m glad that girl died. They were a bunch of Communists out there protesting against somebody’s freedom of speech, so it doesn’t bother me that they got hurt at all.”
Substitute teacher Kathy Wilson, who is white, reacted to the news about Charlottesville with this comment on social media: “I am, this morning, so very ashamed of my skin color.”
To which Delonte Gholston, an African-American pastor and artist responded: “No. God made you in his image. You are fearfully and wonderfully made as the descendants of Europeans. Yet you have inherited a system designed for deep spiritual wickedness. Stand in the beauty of who you are and work to dismantle this evil and unjust system.”
“We Christians need to face the degree to which white Christianity has failed — grievously, tragically, unarguably failed — to teach its white adherents to love their non-white neighbors as themselves,” McLaren urged. “White supremacist and Nazi dreams of apartheid must be replaced with a better dream — people of all tribes, races, creeds and nations learning to live in peace, mutual respect and neighborliness.”
In the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, Tim Keller, church planter and founder of The Gospel Coalition, wrote that “in Acts 17:26, … Paul makes the case [to Greek listeners who saw other races as barbarian and their own race as superior] that God created all the races ‘from one man’ … Paul makes the case that all races have the same Creator and are of one stock. Since all are made in God’s image, every human life is of infinite and equal value (Gen. 9:5-6).”
More on this story can be found at these links:
What I Saw in Charlottesville. Auburnseminary.org
I Went to Charlottesville During the Protests. Here’s What I Saw. The Daily Signal
Evil Is Real, but Love Is Stronger. Christianity Today
Episcopalians Rally Against Hate as White Supremacists Bring Violence to Charlottesville. Episcopal News Service
“I’m Glad That Girl Died” During Virginia Protest, Says NC KKK Leader. The Charlotte Observer
The Big Questions
1. Have you ever felt ashamed of or endangered or threatened because of your skin color? What, if anything, does our faith teach us about racial identity and race relations?
2. Pastor Karl Vaters, founder of the blog NewSmallChurch.com, wrote: “No one wakes up one morning, in the middle of a fine, stable, happy life, and decides, ‘I’m going [to] ram my car through a crowd of people today.’ We get to places like that slowly. Piece by piece. Step by hateful step.” What does it take to radicalize people to the degree that they are willing, even eager, to commit mass murder of others they don’t understand or like?
3. What are some causes of civil unrest and strife? What should citizens do about those who “stir up strife” in a community or nation? What is the proper response to violent racism?
4. How would you react if you learned that one of your church members had participated in the Charlottesville protests or was connected to groups promoting white supremacy ideology? What if they were carrying or wearing symbols of the neo-Nazi, white nationalist or other related movements? What should the church do about people who “stir up strife” in civil society? in the church itself?
5. What do you need to do differently if you are the one who typically stirs up strife?