On Charlottesville

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

            Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
            Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

It is Saturday, August 12, 2017. Like many of you, I woke up to news reports out of Charlottesville, Virginia describing “columns of white nationalists…carrying Confederate flags and Nazi symbols” parading down one of the city’s main streets. As I am writing this, a state of emergency has just been declared in that idyllic community, home of the University of Virginia. There are reports of numerous injuries.

It has been fifty-four years since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King sat “alone in a narrow jail cell” and wrote his now famous letter. Fifty-four years of waiting for that “not too distant tomorrow.” That tomorrow did not come in his lifetime. He knew that it probably would not. But, he prayed it would happen in the lifetime of his children, of all children, and today we are once again reminded that evil does exist in this world; and, today, the tomorrow Dr. King described seems very far off, indeed.

Last night, our Dr. Reggie Williams logged this post on Facebook:

"Praying for friends in Charlottesville Virginia who are, tonight, standing bravely in the presence of evil. White supremacists surrounded their church as they worshipped, and at least one of the worshippers was maced by racists. Security asked the worshippers to conclude their service this evening as the white supremacists swarmed like zombies from The Walking Dead outside of their gathering. My sister, Rev. Traci Blackmon, is reporting that their numbers are large, and their sheets are off. The swarming white supremacists are wearing polo shirts and baseball caps, looking like boardroom members and college students, armed with torches, baseball bats, mace, white nationalism, and enthusiasm for 45."

The white, racist, nationalism on full display today, has more than a few echoes of another time. As I read Reggie’s post, it is hard not to think of his work on Bonhoeffer, and to think of our Dr. Jenny McBride, who received both her Masters and Doctorate degrees from the University of Virginia. As she noted in an exchange earlier today, Charlottesville is where she studied Bonhoeffer’s resistance to Nazism, making the events there all the more surreal.

This story will not end today. It will not end in Charlottesville. Sadly, it will play out again in other towns, and cities, and states across the country.

Friends, as we go about our work, let us pray for all those sisters and brothers who confront this evil. Let us pray with Reggie for Rev. Traci Blackmon, let us pray for all of Jenny’s friends and colleagues, and let us pray for all those in harm’s way. We pray for our friend and colleague, Brandy Daniels, standing on the frontline in Charlottesville. We pray, too, for those who hate and for those who commit violence, remembering again Dr. King’s admonition that violence merely increases hate, and returning violence for violence multiplies violence. We pray for the safety of all, we pray for God’s healing spirit, and we pray that our work, our prayers, and our actions will help bring closer that new day when love will prevail.

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