When Hate Fills Our Streets

The recent events in Charlottesville are alarming for our nation. As people who profess faith in Jesus Christ, it should be a matter of deep prayer for us to address the sin of racism, in our nation, our communities, and even in our churches. It is times like this that we are reminded that the Body of Christ has a lot of work to do.

I was once shown a DNA genotype profile that showed the genetic sequence of a man from Indonesia, a woman from Oslo, Norway, and two men from Nigeria. The profile showed something peculiar – there were more genetic differences between the two men from Nigeria than there were between the rest of the sample. In short, race is about perception, not real science.

Race is also a concept burned into our national history due to the Eugenics Movement. This group sought to “purify” bloodlines and systematically eliminate what were perceived as “defective” or “undesirable “. While there were some strong Eugenics Movements in the United States, the pinnacle of the Eugenics Movement was found in Nazi Germany’s attempt to create a “master race” of Aryans.

The racial divide in this country is not as simple as North vs. South. While it is true that the Ku Klux Klan began in the south during reconstruction, it is of note that there were strong movements of the Klan here in Nebraska. In fact, the cities of York, Fremont, Omaha, Lincoln, Hastings, North Platte, Scottsbluff and even Grand Island had thriving hate groups. [1]

Since the defeat of the Nazis in 1945, there have been two movements, which occasionally come to a confrontation. The first is a movement that saw the atrocities of the Holocaust and determined that this must never again happen. The second was a revival of Nazi ideology that on occasion rears its head. The events in Charlottesville are not something new. Similar skirmishes happen with these groups from time to time in places like: Skokie, Illinois (1977), Coeur D’Alene, Idaho (1999) and countless others.

I grew up in the South. The town I served before coming to be your rector (Ocala, Florida) had one school that was not desegregated until 1986 – No, that is not a typo – 1986! My hometown, St. Petersburg, Florida, had a 10pm-dawn curfew (no residents of color were permitted north of Central Avenue) that existed on the city codes until 1967. My grandparents used to tell of having to hurry to get their housekeeper home before the curfew time. This is insanity!

I also was blessed to have parents and grandparents who were not part of this racist history. I grew up in an environment where I was consistently taught that since we all came from two first parents, we are essentially one family. As a Christian, I am even more convinced of our unity, because Jesus’ death was for all of us. If we hate, we are actually turning against our own family.

I struggle to really understand how anyone could hate another so much as to cause death. Yet at the “Unite the Right” rally, Heather Hayer, a 32-year-old woman was mercilessly run over by an Ohio man. This senseless act also injured 19 other people. I think back to the savage treating of African-Americans by people like “Bull” Connor who released police dogs and fire hoses on black protesters in Birmingham or the countless lynchings that dotted the American landscape. We have come far, but not far enough. The end goal should be a vision like that in Revelation, where the people of God are from every “people language, tongue, and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

I do think there is hope. Larry Trapp, once the Grand Dragon of the KKK for Nebraska, denounced a lifetime of racial hate and violence after experiencing the loving kindness of Rabbi Michael and Julie Weisser. Trapp had organized Neo-Nazi meetings, sent out hate literature and intimidated African-Americans and Jewish leaders. Some claimed he was even involved in several arsons and bomb threats. After he made threatening phone calls to the Weissers, they responded with messages of love. Trapp asked the Weissers to meet with him. After speaking with them, he renounced his hateful associations. I find hope in stories like this. Martin Luther King spoke of this power to change, saying, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

While we certainly pray for those who have hearts filled with hate, we need to also demonstrate our own commitment to all of God’s children. If we are serious about our Baptismal Covenant, we see that “striving for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being” includes eliminating some of the silent racism that allows these problems to perpetuate. Things like promoting fair wage equity and hiring practices, encouraging our children and grandchildren to have friends who are different from them.

We have a long way to go to have a just society. Little by little, as the Kingdom of God on Earth, I hope to see us eventually get there. Pray for those who hate. Demonstrate love in all your affairs. May God’s Kingdom come, on Earth, as in Heaven.

Robert+

[1] Michael W Schuyler, “The Ku Klux Klan in Nebraska, 1920-1930,” Nebraska History 66 (1985): 234-256.

 

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