As a leader in a church that claims Diversity as a principal value, I need to say a word about what happened in Virginia.
This weekend in Charlottesville a group of terrorist organizations gathered. I believe it is important to call these organizations by that name. The terrorist groups gathered to intimidate, to strike fear. These neo-Nazi and “white-power” organizations, emboldened by the rhetoric of the 2016 campaign and media attention went along with that campaign, descended on a college town to protest the removal of a monument to the Confederacy.
It is not enough to call what happened in Virginia sad, or even tragic. As Christians, I believe we must name the rhetoric behind these actions for what it is.
The racist, ethno-centric, anti-semitic, homophobic, and misogynistic message of these groups is anti-Christian.
I say they are specifically anti-Christian because the hatred professed by these groups is sometimes cloaked in a false vision of Christianity. These groups point to scripture and to God at times. As a Christian leader, as a preacher, I believe it is incumbent upon me today to name this hatred not simply as problematic but to say: this ideology is heretical. It is heresy to claim that God has reserved a special blessing for one race. It is heretical from a Christian standpoint to say to members of another class or speakers of another language: “you don’t belong here.” Hate is heresy.
Both Friday night and Saturday morning Christian leaders from around the country also gathered in Charlottesville. As the terrorist groups marched with torches, clergy and lay folk surrounded the area with prayer, and sang old Spirituals. We shall overcome. I had a number of good friends, clergy and lay leaders from The Episcopal Church, there witnessing. Christian love makes no room for hate. As St. Paul says in today’s epistle: there is no distinction between Jew or Greek. All are one in Christ. Christianity proclaims that ALL people are one. All people are created in the image and likeness of God. We are less without one another.
Love is hard work. Love takes practice. That is why we come here week in and week out, to practice love.
Nelson Mandela once said:
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion… People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love…
This Sunday, the sermon was a Sunday School lesson. We are beginning a new Sunday curriculum this Fall at Holy Communion called Godly Play. I want you to see how it works. I want you to see how we plan, both in words an in action to tell EVERY child their are beloved. We want to indoctrinate your children. We do. We want them to know God’s love, and we want them to have a message of hope to hold up in a climate of fear.
St. Paul, at the end of our Epistle reading today says:
How are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?
It matters that we bring our kids to Sunday school. It matters that we come to church to be formed by the values of our faith. Perfect love can cast out fear. Will our children learn the Good News of Jesus? Will we stand up in our own towns, in our own schools? Will we meet the forces of hate with love?
The Rev. Mike Angell