Charlottesville: A Confession of Complicity

I have been guilty of the sin of silence.

Over the past few months I have heard the rumblings that precede moments such as Charlottesville. These things don’t happen in the blink of an eye. They build over time. They vent themselves a little here and there, testing to see what the atmosphere is like before they blow. I saw the signs. And I was silent.

I knew that the voices of racism, white supremacy, and hatred were growing bolder and louder. I shook my head. I fired off a Tweet here, a Facebook status there, but I was mostly silent.

I grimaced at the proclamation of a false gospel, claiming God was a white man’s god. I winced as I listened to those increasingly loud voices claimed they were fulfilling God’s plan by lashing out and threatening those of any ethnicity, creed, color, gender, or orientation which didn’t match their own.

I knew these were false doctrines.

I knew they were dangerous.

And I remained silent.

I hoped that my fellow Christians would know that these things are counter to everything Christ taught and demonstrated with his life. I assumed people knew that these angry voices were not a reflection of Christ.

I remained silent. And my silence made me complicit with the hatred and anger that exploded in Charlottesville this weekend. Blood is on my hands because, as a Christian faith leader, I had the chance to denounce this deranged gospel and to proclaim the true Gospel of Christ, but I chose silence.

I had to stand before my congregation today and confess to this pastoral failure. Not only is my silence a violation of my baptismal and ordination vows. In baptism I vowed to resist evil and injustice in whatever forms they may appear in this world. In my ordination I vowed to protect doctrines of the church which include a faithful interpretation of the Gospel.

But let me be clear here and now in stating that there is no place in the Kingdom for the hatred, bigotry, white supremacy, and violence we saw this weekend.

Christ came to save the world, not just a few. Christ came to those left behind by our society, not just to the privileged. Christ came into a world full of divisions and tore those barriers down and to bring us all into the Kingdom of God.

I know that throughout history we, as Christians, have often messed up when it comes to race relations. Too many Christians found justification through their faith for atrocities such as slavery, genocide, and ethnic cleansing. Even worse, too many Christians knew these practices were anti-Christian and remained silent rather than risk their professions, their stability, their comfort, and their lives with dissent. Their silence allowed these atrocities and these deranged versions of the Gospel to fester and take root.

My shame will be my silence.

But let it be clear that my silence has come to an end. I cannot, with good conscience as a Christian, a minister, or even as an American, to allow these voices of hatred and bigotry to dominate any longer.

White supremacy is wrong. It has no place in Christianity. It has no place in our society. And I will stand with the people who have been, for far too long, subjected to a constant stream of racism because of the color of their skin.

Christ came to bring the grace of God to a broken people. He brought the Kingdom of God near and has given us the means by which we will be able to stand in the presence of God. There is room enough for everyone in the Kingdom, but there is not room for the false idols of hatred and racism and bigotry.

 

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