The Charlottesville Hate and the Christian Response

Note: This article was originally written for the August 23, 2017 Pastor’s Corner in the Leoti Standard.

A documentary was released last week by Vice Media depicting the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists who protested in Charlottesville, Virginia over the previous weekend. This documentary was viewed over 44 million times. In it one white supremacist Christopher Cantwell is recorded among his many incendiary statements stating, “I think that a lot more people are going to die before we’re done here.”

The news coverage of the Charlottesville protests and counter-protests was upsetting and terrible. I was amazed at the hatred these people had for others based on race. More shocking, though, were some other observations.

First, the white supremacists claimed a Christian faith. There is nothing surprising about this historically. The KKK commonly burned crosses to further their cause. Yet the Christian faith is the most contrary position to the hatred and violence that they profess. As one pastor put it, “Nazis are going to be pretty uncomfortable in heaven when they see the variety of people there.” Another friend wondered how white supremacists could possibly find any reason in professing faith in a religion that is based upon following a middle-eastern Jew.

The Christian faith is ruled by 2 great commandments. Jesus himself stated in Matthew 22 that the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The second greatest commandment is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” As simple as these commandments are we still can find many records in Christian history of groups of people hating others based on race. We humans are sinful. Satan loves nothing more than to twist our faith into lies. Sadly it continues into our present generations.

As Christians we should be denouncing hate. To say that racism is wrong is basic morality. Yet for us who are not in Charlottesville this is a passive statement. We are not the ones on the front line. For us to say that we should not hate others does not require action from us. While I am glad we dislike hate, I find this level of reaction to this news to be the minimum we as Christians can do. Christ calls us deeper.

The second observation I made was the reactions I saw from the counter-protesters. They were yelling profanities at the white supremacists. There was violence from both sides. After the release of the documentary Christopher Cantwell has shared that he has received so many death threats that he cannot keep up with them.

Hating someone because they are a part of a hate group that hates other people is ironic and simply wrong. The reaction of so many people against haters is to hate them. The problem with hate is that we cannot stop the hate if we hate the hate. As Christians we cannot passively just say “Racism is wrong.” and shrug our shoulders.

Hatred and racism, among many other forms of pride, are everywhere in our communities. History reminds us that all communities have struggled with overcoming this sin. Christians must be active in working against it. We must be growing the Kingdom of God as light in dark places. How do we do this?

Paul writes in Philippians 2 to tell us about unity in the Church. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” Paul tells us in the following verses that we should have the same in us that was in Christ. Jesus humbled himself to become a man and definitely to die on the cross. As is always true in the Christian faith, we follow Jesus’ example.

When it comes to facing racism and hate, Christians need to be proactive. We are called to go beyond seeing racism as morally wrong. We need to step out and love our neighbor. That is where faith becomes real and difficult. We do not get to choose who is our neighbor. The love of God can transform the heart of anyone. There is no one who is beyond the grace of God. All of us have the free will to choose salvation through the cross of Christ.

This the beauty of the Gospel.  The Gospel is transformative.  For all the failures of humanity our only hope can be Christ.  The only response to hate must be Christ: the real, living, incarnate Jesus Christ who loves them so much he died for them.  Jesus can transform the heart of any person, even someone who is a white supremacist.  With the hope of the world in our hearts our main purpose in this life is to share Christ with others that they might come to know Him as their own God!  We all come to the cross just as we are. No one accepting salvation through the cross of Christ is allowed to remain as they are.  We must be transformed, and that transformation gives us hope for entire world.

Today, right now, how can you go and love your neighbor? Start by answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Then find a way to actively personally go and love them. That is how hearts are changed and the Kingdom grows. If we do not grow weary in doing good we will see hatred decline and God’s reign and love grow around us!

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Published by: Brad Kirk

I'm an ordained Elder in the Great Plains Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and serve as pastor of Leoti UMC in western Kansas. I am a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary. I love being a husband to Diana and a father to Tobin. Most of all I am a child of God!

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