In worship on Sunday, we joyfully celebrated the sacrament of baptism at Avery United Methodist church. As we do at every baptism, we asked the parents and sponsors to respond affirmatively to the following questions:
“Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?”
“Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?”
“Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?”
Evil powers present themselves in a variety of forms. In our nation last week, evil once again presented itself in the form of white nationalism and white supremacy. And while our laws protect the freedom to express our opinions, there is a limit to what is acceptable within the bounds of American ideals, and more importantly Christian belief and practice.
The idea that one group of people is superior to, better than, or even more important than another group is very openly being expressed in this nation right now, from the highest places of power all the way down to the smallest communities. This idea is entirely un-American and un-Christian. As Christians, we must resist such ideas and expressions without reserve. It is no longer acceptable to stand by silently while these forms of evil continue to fester, and eventually gain legitimacy and power to the point where they gain a national audience with a public rally as they did last week.
In response, it is tempting for the American and/or Christian to avoid the conflict and take the lukewarm political position of defending or denouncing “all sides.” It’s even more tempting to remain silent, becoming a passive observer of someone else’s struggle. There are times such avoidance may be acceptable. But let me be clear: this is absolutely NOT one of those times.
In the demonstrations in Charlottesville which led to violence and loss of life, there is clearly a side fighting for good and a side fighting for evil. To say otherwise, or to say nothing, is to give legitimacy to beliefs that are anti-American and more importantly, anti-Christian.
Declaring that white nationalism is evil and must be stopped at all costs is not a political statement. It is a theological statement rooted in our Christian belief that all persons are created by God and have equal sacred worth. It’s rooted in the Bible we so dearly love, which consistently teaches us to welcome those unlike us, consider others as better than ourselves, choose love over hate, defend the cause of those without power, and live compassionately in the example of Jesus. As the writer of Romans 12:9 implores, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” White nationalism (and the racism it’s fueled by) is entirely evil. Hate it. God is good and loving. Cling to God.
You may agree with all of this. I hope you do. But it’s not enough to nod your head in agreement. We MUST go further than passive agreement or nervous avoidance. This is one of those moments when we are called not only to believe the right things, but to live them out.
So I implore you: in social media and other places where you have the ability to influence others, speak out as clearly and forcefully as possible. In private conversations and social settings, don’t be afraid to call this out for what it is: evil and sinful and lacking any redemptive value. You have the capability to influence others around you, even simply by lending your voice to the side of justice and love. Will you remain silent as hate grows, or will you take up your cross and make a difference with your Christian witness?
I know it’s easier and safer to stay silent. I know because far too many times in the past I’ve chosen that option too. But our silence is what allows the space for hateful voices to speak up. Instead, be courageous! Resist evil as publicly and loudly as you can, and let the power of God swiftly defeat the powers of evil.
And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”