The events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA have prompted me to write.
Philosophies, attitudes, and actions were on display Friday night and Saturday that we all hoped were dead and gone at the end of World War II when the Nazi regime was defeated, or in the 1960s when civil rights legislation was finally enacted after nearly a century of racist Jim Crow practices following the end of the Civil War. Unfortunately, the evil of hatred, bigotry, and violence have no expiration date. They are born of fear, resentment, and willful ignorance. The chants and slogans proclaimed at the Charlottesville rally were wide ranging, targeting African-Americans, Jews, women, gay and lesbian people, immigrants, and more.
There is no place in Christian faith and practice for the embrace or toleration of hatred or the attempt to demean, threaten, or terrify others. Jesus clearly taught us that the second most important thing we must do is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). To quote our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry that means “our black neighbor, our white neighbor, our Jewish neighbor, our Muslim neighbor, our gay neighbor, our Hispanic neighbor, our straight neighbor….”
The First Letter of John also says: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because God first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” (1 John 4:18-21).
If we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must work, pray, and act in love. Love is not just a feeling, but a steady and settled attitude and will to see Christ in all people and to work on their behalf, as well as our own. And we must speak and act in whatever ways the Holy Spirit leads us when hatred, bigotry, racism, and violence threaten the lives of those for whom Christ died – which is each human person.
I am sure that some of you will want to talk about this with me and with others in our parish family. I will be back from vacation and in the office on August 28, and look forward to hearing from you then and setting up a time when we can gather with parishioners for a conversation. In the meantime, here are the links to the diocesan website where you will find statements by our Bishop Mark Beckwith http://dioceseofnewark.org/bishops-blog/wake-charlottesville and by Canon Greg Jacobs http://dioceseofnewark.org/canons-blog/charlottesville.
Please keep our country, our community, and our parish in your prayers, and pray for me as I do for you, that we may be agents of God’s love and light and grace in our world.