My heart grieves over the hatred expressed last night and this morning in Charlottesville, VA. I cannot comprehend that there is still so much hatred, racism, and violence today. The headline in today’s Washington Post reads, “White Nationalists Ordered to Leave Va. Park Before Planned ‘Unite the Right’ Rally.” Other articles I’ve read used even stronger imagery like “white supremacists.” Are we living in the 1950’s or 2017? I have to wonder how many of the “white supremacists” identify themselves as Christians.
The Washington Post had a disturbing photograph of the protesters marching in the night with their torches held high. In the Gospel of my understanding, the Light is to dispel the darkness. Furthermore, the Light dispelling darkness isn’t simply referring to the darkness of night, but rather, the darkness of evil.
When I was a camper at Peterkin Conference Center the last night of camp we always had the candlelight service. This special service started in the darkness of Strider Chapel with some sort of Evening Prayer or Compline. We were reminded that we had lived our lives that week at camp “under grace,” and that we were to take that “life under grace” out into the world. We were given handheld candles, like the ones we use on Christmas Eve during the singing of “Silent Night,” and we processed from the chapel to the front lawn of Gravatt Hall with our candlelight where we would sing the “Irish Blessing.” Those moments walking arm in arm, hand in hand down the King’s Highway at Peterkin with candles glowing are precious and holy memories to me; those memories stand in stark contrast to a group of fear-filled, hateful men walking in a park along a college campus chanting things like, “Jews will not replace us” with their tiki torches lighting the way.
I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. The example Jesus gave was to love and have compassion for all. Somehow, I must love those protesters as, they too, have the image of God buried within them somewhere. For my part, though, I cannot keep the image of Jesus buried deep down inside. Rather, as a follower of Jesus, it is my gift and my necessity to let God’s light shine brighter than any tiki torch, a light filled with love and radiating God’s all-consuming compassion and mercy for the world about us.
In God’s Grace,