(Please note, this was written before the massive flooding, death and destruction that happened in Texas this week. Flowers at site of Charlottesville automobile terrorist attack. Please see next SOUNDINGS for reflections on that great tragedy. )
In the week after the clashing rallies in Charlottesville, I found my heart deeply in sorrow weighed and weighed down.
I am deeply saddened and weep over the death of Heather Heyer, and also the accidental deaths of Lt. H. Jay Cullen, and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates, as well as the pain and trauma inflicted on all the injured participants and spectators. My prayers are with them and for their families.
In the midst of this rising storm of racism*,
“We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened.”
This statement is found in the United Methodist “Social Principles**”. It calls us to consider our own actions as well as the actions of our society from the mind of Jesus.
Though our faith in Christ, we have learned that God does not discriminate and so calls all God’s faithful people to be engaged in a “radical hospitality” with all people. We are called to share God’s love in Christ, even when it may make us uncomfortable and is risky.
And so it is that we are called to respond to the recent demonstrations in Charlottesville for white supremacy, Neo-Nazism, blatant racism and it’s associated evils. All of these are counter to both the Christian gospel and the principles of our American democracy.
Our nation’s constitutional guarantee of Free Speech and Assembly are protected rights for everyone. However, with respect for everyone, we need to bear witness to power of peaceful exchange of ideas and resolution of differences. We stand for conciliation and peace, and we call on everyone to lay down the weapons of violence and respect the rights and dignity of all involved.
We decry the physical attacks, the damage to private property and pain and suffering that some individuals inflict on others, actions shared by many on both sides.
However, eclipsing those acts of violence was the initial purpose of the rally by the Nazi Party in America and other white separatists, which was to create such chaos and violence.
It’s clear by any measure that they came armed to the teeth and looking for a fight. They chanted racial slogans and dared anyone to cross them. Some counter-demonstrators responded with the same anger and took their bait of angry conflict.
To me, this looked like the violent and notorious “Brown Shirts” that were used in Germany during the 20’s and 30’s to destabilize that country and give rise to Nazi control.
I believe that we all must resist such “race baiting” from happening in our nation by all moral and legal means.
My faith in Jesus Christ compels me to take a stand and call what these “new” Nazis and White Supremacists for what they are: racist, hateful and violently intimidating.
My father, along with millions of others, fought the consequences of the original Nazis in a terrible war that involved the whole world. After the war he was part of the military occupation that worked to bring democracy back to Germany and return it to economic prosperity.
I believe that we must always defend our heritage of being a nation of immigrants, that we need to reach out and welcome people of all backgrounds and ethnic origins, religions and lifestyles whether we agree with all their choices or not.
I believe that we are calling them all to join us in a nation of laws, of ideals, hopes and dreams. And that we will all work together and expect responsibility and respect from each and every person.
While we may organize to change those laws, and we may often disagree with each other about how to go about that change, we must all vow never to do that violently or with intimidation and bullying. To do so would betray all that Christ lived, died for and was resurrected for.
I am convinced that the greatness of our nation comes from the values and ideals written in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And that we not only stronger in diversity, but we become a true leading nation for the future.
I know that this is what my father and mother fought for, and this is what I will fight for. Let us find ways to restore the greatness of our nation by working together with dignity and love, liberty and justice for all.
How goes it with your soul?
What scripture or experience with Christ has touched your heart or challenged, changed you lately. Can you share that with others?
Grace and Peace,
*re: Racism: Our national church has gathered some great ideas and suggestions on how each of us can respond to racism as individuals and as a church. They are found at: www.bit.ly/umcandracism Give them a try!
**The United Methodist Social Principles are a tool we use to engage, discuss, pray about and discern God’s will for us. You will find it at: www.bit.ly/umcsocialprinciples .