I am rarely the first person to fire off words that speak to a current issue. I often wish I were, I wonder how some people are able to articulate so well and so quickly when chaos strikes.
I’m a processor, I want to say the right things well. I’m a researcher, I don’t want to contribute to a rhetoric swamp of misinformation or wrong information. I’m a “do-er” and I want to figure out what doing looks like in a particular context so as not to simply add more words without action.
On a sad but true note, the length of the current news cycle lasts about as long as a tweet. I have been around long enough to know that Americans can get really-really in-your-face passionate about something and then be off onto something else when a more sparkly tweet arrives, often within an hour of their initial outrage. So the teaching of “pearls before swine” comes to mind.
This past weekend I was leading a three-day retreat at Mount Angel Abbey. At this retreat we work through some powerful rhythms from my book Sacred Space in order to live a free-er, less divided and more God-centric life.
I limit my cell/wifi use during these time to what is necessary for getting files from Dropbox and other searches for images needed etc. This past weekend when I turned my iPhone on, news alerts started coming though. An altercation had just happened in #Charlottesville. My breaking news updates only noted that something had gone south (pun intended) with White Nationalists while holding a demonstration.
I made a quick assumption about what the term “White Nationalist” meant, but I had honestly not encountered that designation for the group of people it designates. To me, “White Nationalists” sanitizes the putrid ideology espoused by these groups, and there are many of them.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center:
White nationalist groups espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites. Groups listed in a variety of other categories – Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, racist skinhead, and Christian Identity – could also be fairly described as white nationalist.
The SPLC also noted that in 2016 there were 48 active White Nationalist groups in the United states. You can see the list and which states they are located here.
When I returned home from Sacred Space, I started searching the news feeds in order to find out what happened. To be candid, I was also fearful of what embarrassing, self-serving and potentially dangerous tweet might have come from our POTUS. In true form our POTUS created more havoc with three diverging messages that lacked crisis leadership skills, purposeful language, integrity, and the sense that he had any understanding of the complexity of the situation (imho). Daily, he continues to reveal that there is a twelve-year-old running the world right now, and that should concern everyone.
Images of confederate flags and angry white men filled my screen, a car careening into a crowd of people, a helicopter somehow was co-opted and crashed, people were allowed to demonstrate with clubs and shields…huh? The end result, death, carnage, terror.
The spark that supposedly created this opportunity of protest and violent demonstration was about removing a statue of General Lee, but the real reason is hatred, ignorance, racism and bigotry.
It seems that we tend to fall into four camps around issues like this (although I am sure there are more). The camps of the Complicit, the Complacent, the Convicted, and the Confused.
We are not only complicit when we actively involve ourselves in the hate, bigotry and racist world by believing and participating in it, but we are also complicit when we disagree and stay out of the dialog or refuse to engage in necessary actions to end it.
I am complicit in another way.
I grew up hearing stories about my family. They migrated North after the Civil War from the South. We were Southerners originally. I also heard the stories of how the Red Leg Union soldiers killed my distant great-great uncles who were Bushwhackers and Confederates, and how, although my family owned slaves, we were good to them.
That is a hard pill to swallow, and it takes some creative and quick maneuvering to try to justify human enslavement…yes I am, my family has been, complicit.
For this, I repent for my families history, and I, more than most, need to speak into conversation condemning it, calling it out, and working to end it. Becoming “Color-blind” doesn’t help. That term is an arrogant statement that misunderstands the complex dynamics of race issues. Rather, we need to see all Color, acknowledge our diversity and work towards love, understanding and the elimination of labels and divisions. I want to see my friends of color in all their beauty and not “white-wash” the world with a false sense equal superiority if you follow my meaning.
So as a white, male, pastor of an Evangelical church I ask for forgiveness and condemn any an all action of this kind as un-christian and in direct opposition to the dream that this country can become.
The Complicit tribe has a twin tribe named Complacent. We are complacent when we know something is wrong then stand by silently doing nothing. I am not intoning that you have to grab a counter-protest sign and start a march, but I am saying that you need to do –something.–
- Determine to choose love, and then offer it everyone you encounter…
- Determine to read books and stories that give a different perspective…
- Christena Cleveland @CSCleve has a great book called Disunity in Christ which is worth buying along with everything she has written.
- Drew Hart wrote a compelling and hard book called The Trouble I’ve Seen
- Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil wrote Roadmap To Reconciliation
- Soong-Chan Rah wrote Many Colors: cultural intelligence for a changing church
- Dr. John Perkins has much on this, but one to check out is Dream With Me: race, love, and the struggle we must win
- Determine to gain a better understanding of the issues, and share them…
- Determine to name this what it is, bringing light to the darkness…
- This is racism, bigotry, hatred, evil, terrorism, anti-christian, anti-moral, wicked, disgusting, un-american, divisive, ignorance…and so many more adjectives.
- Determine to seek out ways to change our current story, by involvement…
- Determine to pray for beauty, justice, love and equality to fill the earth…
- Pray that injustice, evil, bigotry, and racism would end…
Or another way to put it is:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”― Edmund Burke
The Convicted are the activists amongst us speaking out quickly, and moving to action. The Convicted don’t always know what they should do, but the fire in their soul tells them that they must do something.
Sometimes the something is good and beautiful and changing…but sometimes it creates more chaos. Sometimes right motives have poor choices. Another way to put it is, “the ends do not always justify the means.”
For the Christian, Jesus turned vengeance and retaliation upside down through destroying violence on the cross…His followers are to fight with different weapons, lives of sacrifice and grace and humility. This is hard, but should cause us to pause and look for ways to respond to hate without hate.
Today I choose the path of love over hate…
The fourth group is the Confused. This world keeps spinning into a dark mess that leaves many stuck in neutral because they don’t know how to move forward. The problems are so extremely complex and global that simple binary responses are simply inadequate..
The current rhetoric is so polemic and divisive that many have no desire to get hit with the verbal shrapnel that comes whenever you state your opinion. There is fear of being unfriended…fear of some troll attacking you…fear of the cost of getting involved…fear of being labeled in such a way that your tribe will cast you out which also means fear of a loss of identity and security.
All these fears lead to confusion which leads to complacency which ultimately lead to complicity through non-action.
The way forward is to choose to grow in love, understanding, action, and honesty until the evil of racism is gone.