Lessons in Love Over Hate from Charlottesville

Lessons in Love Over Hate from Charlottesville

By the Rev. James Richardson

The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, struck especially close. Seeing photographs of young men holding torches and giving Nazi salutes directly across the street from my former church, St. Paul’s Memorial, made this feel exceptionally personal.

White supremacists descended upon what is normally a bucolic university town that has worked very hard to lower racial barriers and become an community for all people and many faiths. The white supremacists were in Charlottesville ostensibly to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. But they came looking for a fight. Three people - including two police officers - lost their lives. A deranged young man with Nazi sympathies drove his car into a crowd, killing a young woman and injuring many others.                         

We need to name it: What happened in Charlottesville is evil.

These events are a reminder that the moral stain of slavery, segregation and racism still lives in our country. The demons of hatred, bigotry and homegrown terrorism are still with us. We cannot, and should not, remain silent. The Gospel of Jesus Christ demands that we oppose such hatred with love, strength and decency. When the fabric of our nation is torn, all of us are torn.
Yet something else happened in Charlottesville last weekend that is also deserving of your notice.

Even while white supremacists were gathering across the street from my former church, many more people of many faiths, from far and wide, gathered inside the church to meet evil with courage and resolve. They prayed, sang hymns, and walked peacefully in the streets showing the path of peace and love. 

My music director in Charlottesville, Daniel Hine, wrote a reflection Saturday evening, and I’d like to share what he wrote with you: “What you aren't seeing on the news media: the hundreds - no, thousands of people who were there, on the ground, bringing medical care, sunscreen, water bottles, washing off chemical attacks, giving hugs, singing songs of peace, truly showing forth God's love in this hurting world!” 

“What else didn't you see? You didn't see how respectfully people were parking, keeping our narrow downtown roads (all colonial, I believe) cleared so ambulances could rush where they needed to go - all day long. You didn't see how perfect strangers would form small groups so that everyone could get back to their cars or bus stops safely.” 

“While I pray that my town will never again have to suffer through another such outpouring of pure hatred (and this was the 2nd this summer!!), I am beyond proud of how the Lord used us and moved through us to show the kind of GOOD people that live in this town!” 

What does this mean for us in our community? Let me suggest we too are called to stand up to racism, hatred and bigotry with love, courage and strength. We need to repent of our own evils, whatever they are, and seek God’s forgiveness. Then we need to form alliances in our community with those who are also standing against these evils, and we need to reach across racial, economic and religious barriers to do so. 

This is hard work, and long-term work, but this is nothing less than the call of the Gospel. 

In the days ahead, please keep the people of Charlottesville in your prayers, and please keep the leaders of our community, our faith communities and our state and nation in your prayers. 

A collect for social justice (BCP, p. 823):

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Rev. James Richardson is the priest-in-charge at Incarnation, Santa Rosa. He was the rector of St. Paul’s Memorial Church at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, from 2008 to 2015. He was ordained in the Diocese of Northern California in 2000. He can be reached at revjimr@yahoo.com.

3 comments (Add your own)

1. Helen Rogers wrote:
What happened was unbelievable! I have been in shock since I heard the first news report. I go from being mad to praying. I have asked myself many times 'Why?' Then I read your article, Father Richardson. I realize we just have to keep praying. Thank you for putting all of this in perspective. Your article really touched my heart. I will keep praying.

Tue, August 15, 2017 @ 5:18 PM

2. johanna Knaus wrote:
Thank you for this beautiful article of people showing love, care and concern after the deaths in Charlottesville and terrible demonstration. I will continue to pray for peace in our country, that hatred would cease, and for all people to know we are all God's children.

Tue, August 15, 2017 @ 7:46 PM

3. Bill Endicott wrote:
My old friend and Sacramento Bee colleague, Jim Richardson, still writes with clarity and passion, the same talents he exhibited in his years as a reporter. I am proud of him.

Thu, August 17, 2017 @ 3:50 PM

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