Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The events that took place in Charlottesville last weekend are a haunting reminder to us that the world in which we live is not only broken, but infected with the worse kind of disease there is: Hatred. The following prayer excerpt was offered by the ELCA Council of Bishops prior to last Saturday’s event.
“Just and merciful God, we give you thanks for our sisters and brothers – bishops, pastors, deacons, people of God – who this Saturday walk the way of the cross in Charlottesville, Va. On this day and in that place, they join other courageous and faithful people across time and space to stand against bigotry, hatred and violence; to stand with those who are intended victims; and to stand for justice and mercy, peace and equality for all people…By your might, break the bondage that bigotry, hatred and violence impose on their victims and their perpetrators. May your Kingdom come on earth as in heaven. And, we pray, empower us in our own communities to follow their lead as fellow servants to your dream of a community in which all people and their gifts are welcomed and honored, cherished and celebrated as beloved children of a just, merciful and loving God; through Jesus Christ crucified and risen for the life of the world.”
No one, including myself, imagined that innocent lives would be lost that day. Hundreds of torch bearing, white privileged “nationalists” many of whom bearing Nazi Swastikas and dressed in riot gear, beat and intimidated anyone who dared oppose their protest message of hate and destruction. Make no mistake about it: This was not a protest for equality. It was a protest for supremacy.
We in the Lutheran Church have a tragic legacy of quietism when it comes to hate-filled crowds promoting themselves as a superior race and desiring the elimination of “inferior” ones. With the exception of the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany, who refused to be silent in the face of human extermination, the Lutheran State Church of the 30s and 40s said and did nothing; even when forced to display swastikas as altar paraments.
It would be easy for us to turn off the television and pretend that nothing is wrong; to claim the media is making mountains out of mole hills; to turn and look the other way when we hear stories of violence perpetrated against persons of different ethnicities and immigrants. It would be easy for us to look away saying, “that’s just the way the world is” without asking what or who has unleashed and given voice to the hatred.
As followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who reached across all boundaries and divides, advocating love and justice for the least of these, we know what we have to do. We cannot and we must not remain silent. We, like the psalmist, have voices that “sing to the Lord a new song”. A song that anticipates the lion and the lamb coexisting in peace; A song that proclaims justice rolling down like an everflowing stream; A song that emboldens us to love recklessly as Christ on the cross first recklessly loved us; A song that declares love of God and love of neighbor are all that matter.
Let us raise our counter-cultural songs together as we engage in both conversation and action in the weeks to come. Let us not be fearful in the face of hatred. Let us not remain silent in the face of racial atrocities. For the world is now too dangerous for anything but Truth, and too small for anything but love.
Walking with you in Christ,