Dear friends in Christ,
Like many of you, I was shocked and saddened by images and news coming out of Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend. The presence of racism in our nation should shock no one, because racism has been the original sin of the United States from its founding. What I found shocking is the boldness with which white nationalists now pursue their racist agenda using Nazi symbols without apology or shame. And, sadly, many of these racists attempt to deploy Christian symbols in their campaign of fear and hatred.
In thinking about writing this week’s message, I was tempted not to write about these events. After all, I wondered, what can one more white person say that hasn’t been said? But then I thought about the cost of remaining silent at a time when some misuse the Christian story and in a time when we Christians sometimes have trouble facing up to our own complicity and troubled history of racism.
So, speaking as the leader of Forward Movement, let me suggest three things that might help us all in our effort to proclaim a Gospel of love in a world that is sometimes dominated by the din of hatred.
- First, we must remember that being a disciple of Jesus Christ is utterly incompatible with white supremacy and all forms of racism. So redoubling our work of discipleship is itself an inherent rejection of racism. I say this because a life of discipleship means daily prayer, and when we pray, God will guide us away from fear and hatred toward hope and love. A life of scripture study will remind us that God’s will is for all people to thrive and that Jesus Christ stands especially with those at the margins. A life of generous giving will show us that there is always more than enough, and that God’s love can only be magnified, never diminished. A life of evangelism will bless us with joy as we share the liberating news that all people are beloved and that Jesus Christ has offered himself for the salvation of the whole world.
- Second–here I am speaking to my fellow white people–rather than heaping scorn on others or imagining that this is a problem that afflicts only certain parts of the nation, we do well to look inside our own hearts. As with all sins, facing our shortcomings is never easy. As with all sins, God stands ready to forgive us if we but repent. “What sins of racism demand my repentance?” is the question we white people must relentlessly ask ourselves.
- Thirdly, we might take a careful and thorough inventory of our churches. Where is racism found in our churches? This is the most pernicious place for racism, because it directly undermines our Gospel witness, and for that reason it is crucial that we do an honest examination. How does the racial composition of my church differ from that of my neighborhood or town? What do the leaders of my church look like? How has my church stood with–or failed to stand with–those who are the victims of racism, hatred, and fear? Has my church benefitted from white supremacy, and, if so, what must we do to repent?
Doing this work is hard, and if it’s easy, we’re not doing it right. The reward though is that we and our world become more Christlike, as all of God’s beloved children may flourish as the people God has created them to be. We can’t do this on our own, but with God all things are possible.