How does one respond to the news event that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12th? That is a subject that many Christians and especially pastors wrestle with when we hear of such horrid developments as what happened that day when protestors from the “alt right” supremacists clashed with “counter-protestors”. We need a response. I mean of course we can do as I did that day after and pray about the matter and name racism as the sin that it is. Besides praying, which is a great start, is there more that we can do?
Our bishop, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi sent a wonderful pastoral letter asking for United Methodists in Western Pennsylvania to respond. She reminded us of our membership pledge noting: “At our baptism we, or our sponsors on our behalf, answered yes to the question, “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” The way in which we respond to the events in Charlottesville demonstrates to God and the world whether or not we can be trusted to do what we say we are going to do.” Indeed, those are profound words about our need to stand for justice as God and Jesus would want us to do. But what is our action? We need some response as she urges.
In considering this, I also remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr. who speaking about hate said: Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken. From Strength To Love, 1963. There is wisdom in these words from this great Christian leader. I realize the words he spoke were meant for all people of the USA and thus did not have specific Christian application, but knowing his heart and love from Jesus, I feel I can extrapolate that the light would be the light of Christ, and the love would be the love of God.
So what needs to be our response to such happenings as Charlottesville and in hearing that there was a similar supremacist rally planned in Pittsburgh the next weekend? The actions of such hate groups are not of God, and thus I would urge you to name such actions for the evil intent that is there. But remember such a response needs to be done so one is shining light into the darkness and showing love to overcome the hate. Respond with the love of God and demonstrate to our friends and to the world: as Christians we stand for the things of God which includes ways of love, hope, peace, and justice.