Charlottesville Statement from the Rev. Scot McComas
This past Saturday, over 50 interfaith religious leaders and pastors marched arm-in-arm in silence to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia and knelt on the ground in silent prayer. They then sang, “This Little Light of Mine,” and each pastor offered a prayer, one after the other.
Leading the march was Dr. Cornel West, a philosopher, theologian and political activist. I remember seeing him around the halls of Harvard Divinity School in the late 1990s and was in awe. In his prayer, he said, “Let us never be afraid of facing hate and let us bear witness to love, knowing that justice is what love looks like in public.”
Love was the common theme and prayers were offered for the victims who were hurt in the act of domestic terrorism; for the Neo-Nazi, KKK, and the white supremacists; and for our own sins, whether active or passive.
In our confession, we mention “things done (our active sins) and left undone (our passive sins)” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 360). What we might want to consider praying about is asking God to show us what additional work we might need to do in ourselves with regard to our active or passive sins in order to love God fully and our neighbor fully, as Jesus taught. Most of us are not racist, and yet no one is without sin. Prejudice and hate are taught. Newborn babies are born with neither. It is up to us to live like newborns. After all, we are born anew in our Baptism.
Our nation is still aching from the Civil War and many have mixed feelings about removing statues of Confederate leaders. The rally was protesting the removal of the statue of General Robert E. Lee. Many people, including me, have ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War. My maternal great-great grandfather was a colonel in the Confederate Army in Mississippi while my paternal great-great uncle was an Aide-de-Camp in the Union Army. All of us have our history to deal with, or sometimes we choose not to do so.
But what we cannot and should not have mixed feelings about are racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and the list goes on. All of it is wrong—no equivocation or prevarication.
Our Baptismal Covenant (Book of Common Prayer, pp. 304-305) reminds us, as Christians, to “persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.” What happened in Charlottesville was evil—pure and simple. There is nothing God-like or life-giving about the KKK, Neo-Nazis or white supremacists.
We cannot dress up what happened this weekend and claim, “Those white men were trying to reclaim an America they have lost through their jobs going to Mexico or China.” We cannot dress it up and claim, “Those white men are being oppressed because of reverse racism.” We cannot dress it up and claim anything to justify their abhorrent and repugnant views turned into hateful actions.
Also, Christians do not condone violence of any kind. It should be noted that the anti-protesters contributed to violence in the streets and that was wrong. But the act of the person who plowed his car into others was calculated and intent on killing and injuring people. The environment of hate and anger was ripe for a tragedy. Three people lost their lives. Dozens of others are recovering from their wounds.
The man in the car and the other white supremacists live in a world of fear, intimidation and destruction. And yes, we are to pray for him and all who espouse hate. As we “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves,” can we ask God for help in turning our own swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks? Our country is at a crossroads. Where are you on the continuum of issues of race? Where am I? Where is St. Martin’s?
The final part of the Baptismal Covenant asks the question, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” The link between love and justice is unbreakable in the world of Jesus and, thus, in our world. Jesus taught us to love not hate. Jesus taught us to stand up for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. Jesus also taught us to speak up and speak out against injustice and hate. Cornel West connects love and justice. So does our Baptismal Covenant.
God is always near us, and we must remember Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.”
Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to him from generation to generation in the church, and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
May we continue to pray for our nation.
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, p. 820)
A prayer for the diversity of races and cultures:
O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world. Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellowship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, p. 840)
The Rev. Scot McComas
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church