After Charlottesville’s disaster on Saturday, while waiting in my car for some friends with whom I was going into the park to try to love some people toward Jesus, I broke into tears. I just sat there and cried––overcome by the sadness of it all.
I’m appalled and grieved by the demonically inspired hate that one group of humans can have for another, by that hate turning violent and murderous, by our President’s wet noodle, obfuscating seesaw remarks about it, and by the adolescent rhetoric and sloganizing that, predictably, has followed in the media.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t about “free speech.” You can’t have “free speech” if someone brings a gun to intimidate those they despise. You can’t argue with the armed, especially if they have friends in the White House.
People in other countries call us “ugly Americans,” and for good reason. It’s usually because of how entitled and rude we are when we visit them. But today, among ourselves, it’s as ugly as I’ve ever known it to be. We’ve had seasons of civility to be proud of, but not today. Today I feel ashamed.
More toxic alt-right “Summer of Hate” rallies are planned in many cities around the country including in my own San Francisco and across the bay in Berkeley. How do we respond? One school of thought says don’t give them attention, as if attention were the oxygen that feeds their flaming torches. The other calls for direct confrontation: Show them they are unwelcome, outnumbered, and that the community is bravely united in disgust.
Whichever route you choose, here’s my advice––no, my plea––my brothers and sisters. Don’t take the bait! If you go as a counter protester, good on you, but don’t stoop to the same hate and violence to which you object. It only detracts from your––our––message. Don’t be like the “pro-lifer” who murders the abortion doctor or the Crusader who killed Muslims to liberate the city of God. “The nonviolent resister is willing to accept violence if necessary,” said Martin Luther King, “but never to inflict it.”
I appeal to every levelheaded person to refuse to add to the ugliness. Don’t take the bait––there’s a hook in it! The serpent is baiting you with hate. While it may taste delicious at first bite, he wants to set his hook in your jaw and lead you around like his very own little puppet. Don’t let him! Fighting fire with fire is a bad idea, that is, unless you’re talking about the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns away all hate and bigotry so that love and mercy can emerge.
“Violence solves no social problems;” said King, “it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Through the vistas of time a voice still cries to every potential Peter, ‘Put up your sword!’ The shores of history are white with the bleached bones of nations and communities that failed to follow this command. If the American Negro and other victims of oppression succumb to the temptation of using violence in the struggle for justice, unborn generations will live in a desolate night of bitterness, and their chief legacy will be an endless reign of chaos.”
Stop and read that paragraph again, and the again if necessary. Please.
King also said, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.”
Jesus modeled and taught that nonviolent way, his upside down kingdom way. He said his kingdom doesn’t come from this world and that if it did his disciples would fight. As it is they put away their swords and turn them into plows.
We all want change, but it won’t come if you ruin it for the rest of us by lowering yourself to their methods and their spirit. That spirit is absolutely NOT the Holy Spirit.
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. . . . Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4)
Lay down your arms and get on your knees, my friends. If you feel called to get up, stand up for justice, and even march, right on. But don’t throw things at the people who are marching in the opposite direction!
Speak up, but let your “speech be seasoned with grace.” March, but “keep in step with the Sprit.” Resist, but in keeping with a Christ-infused conscience. Be angry at injustice but in your anger “don’t sin.” MLK said that nonviolent resistance “avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit.”
Don’t add to the ugliness, my brothers and sisters! Instead, through words and deeds, broadcast the beauty of the Lord Jesus. Display his better way.
It’s been a long time, long time comin’
But I know change gonna come (Sam Cooke)