Yesterday, a dear, beloved friend of mine posted a reprint of John Pavlovitz's blog post on his Facebook page regarding the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend (August 12, 2017).
One of his friends responded, "I disagree with this pastor. I don't accept that anyone in Charlottesville is racist, a bigot, or anything other than ignorant, ignorant of their history and common beginnings, and ignorant of why there is a statue of a confederate general in the first place. All the more reason to maintain those statues" He continued in a later comment, "To wit: if all we see and speak about is racism and bigotry, then that is all we will discuss."
I suspect he wanted to continue the conversation about states' rights and how a big government was really to blame for the South's succession from the Union before the Civil War; however, I wanted to take the conversation in another direction: "Then let's start talking about sin. About how it's a sin to not love others as Jesus commands us to do. Instead of loving other people, we spout stuff like, "Love the sinner, hate the sin." We teach people that justice is more important than mercy. We teach people that the racial divide started in the Bible and that because the Bible talks about slavery and bigotry, that makes it OK--when the POINT of God and the writers of the Bible talking about those things wasn't to say those things are OK but to show how they don't work. And then to point out the better way, which is loving God and loving one another.
"So sure. Let's stop talking about racism and bigotry, but if we're going to do that, we need to START talking about how racism and bigotry are 100% rooted in sin. You can talk about states' rights and ignorance all you want, but this is willful, blatant ignorance, and people who are that willfully and blatantly ignorant don't want to be educated. They want to feel powerful and privileged and better than people who are different than them.
"So let's start talking about sin with these people then. And see if they respond any differently to THAT than to us talking about how wrong their racism and bigotry are."
People are sinful. As a Christian, I truly believe that. On a personal level, I have to fight against my sinful nature every day. And yes, I even have fight against my own bigotry, prejudice, and privilege that tells me that I'm better than people of color or that I should be scared of the young African American man I encounter when I'm walking my dog at night. I think and feel all these things, all while being horrified when I hear of another young African American man who was shot by some white dude for doing nothing more than walking down the street minding his own business.
In reality, it's the white guy I need to be more afraid of.
I have friends who are African American, Korean, Chinese, Jewish, Muslim, Latino, and Indian. I love hearing stories about their cultures and religions (or lack thereof). I'm saddened and infuriated by what some of them have had to endure because they aren't white and/or Christian.
And I still harbor some prejudices in my heart.
Prejudice and bigotry and thinking we're better than other people is a sin. God told the Jewish people to welcome foreigners into Israel because they were once foreigners and oppressed in Egypt. In Jesus' day, Jewish people hated Samaritans, but Jesus spent time with a Samaritan woman and told a parable about a Samaritan who acted with love towards an injured Jew while his Jewish brothers passed him by. Jesus commands us to love one another, to love our neighbors: "There are countless modern parallels to the Jewish-Samaritan enmity—indeed, wherever peoples are divided by racial and ethnic barriers. Perhaps that’s why the Gospels and Acts provide so many instances of Samaritans coming into contact with the message of Jesus. It is not the person from the radically different culture on the other side of the world that is hardest to love, but the nearby neighbor whose skin color, language, rituals, values, ancestry, history, and customs are different from one’s own."
Honestly, I really want to erase all the stuff in this post about how I have some prejudices still. But I can't, because sin can only die when a light is shining on it. To my friends who are people of color, I'm sorry that I still harbor these prejudices. I am praying that God will help me remove them and if I have ever hurt you by my words or actions, I'm so sorry. I don't want to be like the people in Charlottesville who marched with Nazi flags under the banner of white supremacy. Despite my shortcomings, I stand with you on the side of the oppressed.