Last week, I wrote a post called, “I’m sorry” and then I left on vacation.
I wrote about the belovedness of all people, from God’s point of view, as demonstrated by Jesus, and about the churches’ frequent failures to realize that is the starting point, and that without that, what we busy ourselves with is not the gospel.
After I posted that and left town…came Charlottesville. The torchlit parade of Nazis! The counter protest. The clergy kneeling. The sickening sound of bodies being hit by a speeding car. A name – Heather Heyer – memorialized as one who gave her life to tell white supremacists, white nationalists, that they are wrong. To declare the belovedness of all people.
So what about these neo-Nazis? These people who want to declare the “White race” superior, people of color (and Jews) inferior? Who think Heather Heyer was “worthless” because she hadnt bred children for the Master Race? Who literally raised Nazi salutes and shouted “Hail Trump”?
Well, theyre wrong. They are not only incorrect but they are immoral, because they deny the first truth about human beings – that we are all made in the image of God. They also deny the Christian hope of the “kingdom of God” to come, where there are no hierarchy distinctions but people of “every nation, tribe and tongue ” will be one in the Lord.
Not only that but they enacted hatred and intimidation, the very antithesis of loving one’s neighbor. Everything they did was calculated to scare people, even if you leave out the actions of the one driver who literally copied from the ISIS playbook. These were domestic terrorists.They showed up to make a display of force and they were there hoping for trouble. Why else did some arrive wearing body armor, armed to the teeth?
When they encircled a mostly black congregation having a prayer meeting, holding torches in their hands, they were not there to pray. When they poured lighter fluid on a female in a wheelchair and waved their torches near her, they werent there to explain their point of view. And anyone who joined their number thinking this was not about terror and at least implied violence, should have got out of there once they realized what was really going on. There is no excuse for what happened.
Were there others who sought violence? Yes, there were some who stood against this protest who fought back, or maybe initiated actual fights. But they didnt start the terrorism. The White Supremacists did. And they’re thrilled with the outcome – look how much attention they got!
But that brings me back to my original claim: are even Nazis beloved of God? Even White Nationalists chanting “Jew will not replace me!”?
Well, yeah. All people are beloved of God. All people are made in the image of God. What we do with that image, how people sully it with hatred and greed and selfishness, among other things, breaks the heart of God. Thats not what we were made for. God hates that hatred, greed, selfishness.
But the nature of the “good news” in Christ is that people can start over. People can be forgiven and made new. And as much i as i am disgusted by the claims of NAZIS marching our streets, i know it is my job not just to denounce their cause, but to pray for their forgiveness. For their repentance. For their renewal. And mine.
It can feel really good to my “flesh,” to use Paul’s word, to consign them to hell as though i were the judge. But if God’s grace cannot be true for them, then can it be true for me? “There is no one righteous, no not one.”
I will make no excuses for their hatred and terror. They must not be permitted to gain any quarter in our society.
But i will, and do, pray for their souls even as i pray for protection and peace for their intended victims. I must, because Jesus did.