Racism is sin.
There’s no question about it, racism is destructive to a society and seeks to divide rather than unify. Racism is the antithesis to community. There is no place for it in a country that once boasted being a melting pot with immigrants from nearly every nation on earth.
As the events in Charlottesville, Virginia unfolded Saturday, Facebook rightly exploded with condemnation against the racists who marched proclaiming the superiority of the white race and carrying Nazi, Confederate and KKK flags, the sight of which alone is sufficient to recall lynchings and fear the inevitable outcome of the return to power of any one of these groups.
Counter-protesters were also out in force with signs proclaiming “Death to KKK” and “F**K Nazi Sympathy” as well as the now familiar “Back Lives Matter,” sentiments that have also stirred up violence in past protests.
Local clergy got involved as a silent and peaceful protest to the hate and division that Saturday was in Charlottesville, but we’ve seen increasingly around our country over the last several years.
However, there are a few things that have struck me about the Facebook explosion against racism, both political and religious.
Politically, I found it interesting that Saturday’s white racism is what has been primarily denounced. I don’t mean to imply that white racism is OK, because it certainly is not, but neither is black racism (or what some have called “reverse-racism”). Some of Saturday’s counter-protesters carried signs just as inflammatory as the white supremacists. It seems that blacks who have violently protested against white privilege, vandalized and looted businesses and blocked traffic barely got an “ahem” while Saturday’s white racism produced a national outcry. This may be mainly a media problem, but it’s also reflected in Facebook posts. Perhaps it’s that we’re afraid to “appear” racist by denouncing racism practiced by blacks but don’t have the same fear to denounce racism found in whites. Maybe since there’s such a long history of white racism in the United States (which has been institutionally empowered) we feel that it’s only natural that blacks should feel as they do, and so have the right to violently protest. Again, don’t misunderstand me, any form of racism is wrong and should be denounced, but all racism not just when it is practiced by whites.
But bigger than the racism, the hate that spews from the mouths and hearts of many of the protesters is alarming. Hate, along with racism, will continue to resist any form of unity or community. Hate will not allow relationships that could lead to a better understanding among different races. Hate will eat away at the haters, like a cancer devouring the health of its host.
Another political oddity is that it seems to have been decided by many that Saturday’s white supremacist march was not protected by the First Amendment. Our outcry suggests that these people need to just shut up, that they don’t have a right to speak. Everyone else does, but not them. I agree that what they believe is sick. What they say is despicable. What they do divides. But whether we like it or not, until it becomes violent it is protected by our Constitution. It is this freedom, along with all the others, which I and millions of other Service Members have fought for, and some have died for, over the years. It is this freedom that allows those who disagree with them to also have a voice.
Let me quickly say that I’m not proposing that citizens should be silent in the face of destructive attitudes like racism and hate. Just as those who espouse racism have a Constitutional right to hold their beliefs and protest, so do we have the right to hold contrary beliefs and counter-protest. What I am suggesting is that we should do so peacefully without name-calling, throwing back racial slurs or making violent threats. We should be more like the group of clergy in Charlottesville who peacefully and lovingly marched in protest of what they felt so strongly against.
On the religious side, it is interesting how it has fired up so many Christians to declare it as sin (which it is) and denounce those who practice it (which they should). But I have to ask, “why racism?”
Of course racism is sin, I’m not suggesting it’s not. I find it curious though, because over the last few years if Christians attempted to declare other things as sin and denounce people who practice those sins without repentance, they were rebuked by other Christians who said they should just love and let the Holy Spirit convict of sin; that it is not the Christian’s place to judge others but only to examine themselves; and that Christians should accept people as they are and just love them. They often go on to question why whatever sin is being spoken against is being elevated in importance over all the others, because sin is sin, Christians shouldn’t highlight any one over the others, they say.
I’m not saying that Christians should be quiet in the face of sin, but on the contrary, we need to declare it and denounce it wherever we find it. But not just the sin of racism, all sin. Not in the Westboro Baptist Church way but in a wise, loving, compassionate and Christ-like way. If we’re going to love sinners and let the Holy Spirit convict, then let’s love all sinners. Or does love just win with certain sins or certain sinners? I don’t think it does.
Photo with KKK flags from Reuters website.
Photo with Black Lives Matters from CSC Media Group website.
Photo of clergy marching from the CAIR website.