My wife Gail and I are on sabbatical this month in Italy. As a result, I have intentionally reduced my consumption of both news and social media. I have only been posting about my travels—until now.
This past weekend, I was unable to escape the news of President Trump’s reckless, incendiary tweets about North Korea and the sad, disgusting events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
I wish you could see how both are covered by the press in Europe. It is a wake-up call, for sure. Yet I don’t think these two are unrelated.
Like it or not, leaders replicate themselves. Their personal character, words, and actions matter. Cultural norms are more often “caught” than taught. When a leader sneezes, his followers catch a cold.
When you have a president who publicly attacks members of his own party (i.e., Jeff Sessions and Mitch McConnell) and recklessly threatens the most insane leader of our time (i.e., Kim Jong-un), thus risking nuclear war, it should come as no surprise that it encourages the least stable, most nihilistic members of our culture to re-emerge from the darkness and express their own bitter hatred.
And make no mistake about it: this is precisely what happened in Charlottesville.
White supremacy and Naziism are the twin heads of a single evil. Racism is an assault on the diversity of God’s creation. More specifically, it is an assault on God himself, whose image is imprinted on every man, woman, and child, *regardless* of their race.
This is why we must resist this evil while we can, because, unchecked, we know where it leads. We saw in played out in the events leading up to and surrounding both the Civil War and WWII.
This is also why it is particularly important for American pastors to speak directly and boldly to this issue *now*, while it is fresh in our thoughts. Pastors have the theology and the platform to make a very real difference—but *only* if they use it.
People need to be educated. More importantly, they need a solid, theological foundation for their resistance.
* This won’t come from secular humanism; it’s bankrupt. (In fact, it led indirectly to the murderous eugenics program of the Nazis.)
* It won’t come from our government officials. More legislation won’t solve the problem without creating additional evils (for instance, gutting the first amendment).
* It won’t come from remaining silent, hoping that God intervenes. Certainly, we need divine intervention; however, God expects *us* to speak out and act in the presence of such evil.
This is not a political issue; it is a moral one. Therefore, silence is not a virtue; it is cowardice. It is unwitting cooperation with the enemy.
So pastors, *now* is the time. If not now, when? If you didn’t speak on it last Sunday, I understand. Sometimes it takes a few days to sort through our thoughts and find clarity. But you can speak on it this coming Sunday. The problem won’t go away before then, that’s for sure. And remember this: the cost of resistance will only escalate unless we collectively address this great evil before it spreads further.
Finally, to my black brothers and sisters (as well as every other person of color). I am sorry. You have suffered enough. I can’t imagine what this must be like for you.
I am astonished that we have not yet moved beyond the kind of racism we have witnessed over the last few days. (This statement is itself no doubt naive and privileged, since you, I’m sure, witness it daily.)
But it is a reminder to me that it has always been there, lurking in the shadows, waiting for the moment when the political and social climate is right to reassert itself again in such a bold and public way.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, leaders replicate themselves. This is why white leaders in particular must be ruthless in eradicating any remnants of racism in our own hearts and actively seeking reconciliation with our black brothers and sisters. Only then will we being to realize Dr. King’s vision:
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Amen. May God give us *all* the wisdom, love, and courage, to speak up.