People in my grandparents’ and parents’ generation lived through the civil rights movement, and so their minds know of a time when people of color were treated differently due to their outward appearances. I know that prejudice and racism took a leading role in the minds and actions of many historical events. However, it’s still hard for me to personally identify with people who have treated others differently due to their skin color.
By now people everywhere should be aware of the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. These events point to a brokenness that is going to be difficult to heal. I can honestly say that I am not your average news junkie. I don’t just hear something and then take it as truth. I am willing to do a little investigating on my own to determine my own opinion, even if that opinion is different from the majority. I spent some time studying Jason Kessler, the organizer of the “Unite the Right Rally.” I’ve listened to several of his video blogs and believe him to be a producer of hate. One of his beliefs and there are many, is that the removing of Confederate statues disrespects the heritage of himself and the people he represents. He stands upon the platforms of “white genocide” and “demographic displacement.” He feels that we should celebrate the history of white culture and the events that brought us to where we are. I couldn’t disagree more. To celebrate historical events that have hurt people is akin to celebrating the day your mother found out she had cancer or the day your father had a heart attack. There is no cause for celebration or rallying around times and places that have caused harm to others. To signal that these events make up the genetic fiber of Caucasian people is like saying adding dirt to a pot of chili makes it taste better. The only thing we could celebrate about these situations is if confession and forgiveness were sought after and received.
As a response, I want to call on fellow followers of Jesus to follow Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent resistance. In his book Stride Toward Freedom he says, “true pacifism” or “nonviolent resistance” is “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love.” King’s notion of nonviolence had six key principles. First, one can resist evil without resorting to violence. Second, nonviolence seeks to win the ‘‘friendship and understanding’’ of the opponent, not to humiliate him (King, Stride, 84). Third, evil itself, not the people committing evil acts, should be opposed. Fourth, those committed to nonviolence must be willing to suffer without retaliation as suffering itself can be redemptive. Fifth, nonviolent resistance avoids ‘‘external physical violence’’ and ‘‘internal violence of spirit’’ as well: ‘‘The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him’’ (King, Stride, 85). The resistor should be motivated by love in the sense of the Greek word agape, which means ‘‘understanding,’’ or ‘‘redeeming good will for all men’’ (King, Stride, 86). The sixth principle is that the nonviolent resister must have a ‘‘deep faith in the future,’’ stemming from the conviction that ‘‘the universe is on the side of justice’’ (King, Stride, 88).
II Corinthians 5:16-21 says, (16) So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. (17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (18) All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (19) that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (20) We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (21) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” We are called as followers of Christ to be ambassadors for Christ into a ministry of reconciliation.
It’s hard not to allow producers of hate to stir in us also a cauldron of hatred but we must resist such a response. We must see God’s grace-filled potential in every person, for without that the gospel that we preach has no power. This Saturday my family will be celebrating the first birthday of my grandson, Roman. When I look at him I see all the potential for the greatest of possibilities that a life could ever have. You see, Roman’s father is Caucasian and his mother is African-American so I realize that I/we have to fight against prejudice, racism, and all other forms of hatred so that young people like him can fulfill whatever God calls them to be. Please pray, listen, and speak these truths in love so that grace wins!!!
By Pastor Jim Moon III
Rev. Jim Moon III serves as the Senior Pastor at Park Memorial UMC in Jeffersonville, Ind.