Standing against hate is not nearly enough

by Rucker Preston

After the events that unfolded just a few days ago in Charlottesville, it is encouraging to hear people, especially faith leaders across our state and country, speak out in opposition to hate speech and the groups that advance such ideas. In my own church on Sunday, I heard these words preached from the pulpit, that we cannot claim the cross of Jesus while using it as a symbol of hate. As James (chapter 3) put it, cursing people, who are made in the image of God, is a paradox, like a spring that puts forth fresh and salty water.

This cannot be.

While I am thankful for these first steps to condemn such hateful actions and evil ideologies, we as followers of Jesus…especially those of us who are white, will find it easy to stand only against the most egregious acts of racism and hate.

This cannot be.

When contemplating how to live humbly and justly before God and all people, I find myself going back to a parable that is considered easy to remember and understand. While the parable of the good Samaritan may not be difficult to recall, for us to truly understand the lesson told by Jesus and to fully live it is much more challenging.

I imagine that any priest or Levite who carefully walked around a man on the treacherous road to Jericho had many thoughts in their minds, besides having to hurry off to the temple. I imagine there was a certain amount of pity, but not enough empathy to do anything about the man’s situation. Self-preservation must have been another thought, as that steep, windy road was dangerous; it had a reputation for thieves and bandits who frequented the route. Would helping the man cause their lives to be in danger as well? I also envision the religious leaders in the parable thinking about how terrible and deplorable it is to rob and beat another man senseless. Even if it were only in their minds, they would have likely condemned such actions. When the hero, the good Samaritan, came along he did not only condemn what had happened, did something about it. He went further than the minimum, which caused him to get dirty and entangled.

This must be so for us too.

For those of us who call upon and claim the name of Jesus, we must go further. Just as the good Samaritan went further and just as Jesus continued to call his disciples to go further, in travel, in thought, in action, and in belief, we are called to do more than just condemn white supremacy.

You see, white supremacy is at one end of the spectrum of racism. What we witnessed in Charlottesville was overt racism. However, racism takes many forms and is very silent for much of the time. From public & private policies that negatively affect minorities both socially and economically, to where we live and with whom we associate & worship, all of these factors contribute to the systemic racism that exists today. For us to only call out the most obvious forms of hate is not enough. It is too easy to have a moment of pity and move on, or out of self-preservation remain silent because of what it might cost us.

This is not the example of Jesus.

Instead of staying silent, Jesus healed. He exemplified and taught people to love one another and to move beyond the status quo.

This is what He calls us to do.

While reading this parable, however, those of us who are white must be very careful not to think that we are a savior or healer for any minority communities. In fact, just the opposite is true. Through the power of Jesus, the white community can contribute to the healing process through confession. By confessing our sins, we will find healing for ourselves and the reconciliation process with people of color can begin to move forward. This, I believe, is the next step beyond condemning white supremacy and hateful behavior.

This is what we can do.

Standing against hate is not nearly enough. We must advance love by humbly confessing before, listening to, and learning from one another.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power and is working. – James 5:16

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