Rector’s Response to Charlottesville–August 17, 2017

The Danger of this Moment

I was enjoying my time in Maine with my family when hell broke loose in Charlottesville, rattling the national psyche. How is it possible for someone to think it is a good thing to follow ideologies that enslaved human beings in the 19th century and murdered millions in death camps in the 20th? It boggles the mind how some can imagine treating others as less than human can be good for one’s soul or one’s nation.

I have no worry whatsoever that The Episcopal Church and more specifically, All Saints’, Chelmsford, will ever buy into such a destructive, anti-Jesus agenda. I do worry, however, about how to confront such groups without becoming haters ourselves. It is too easy to fight evil in such a way that we become contaminated with evil in the process. Years ago, I was walking up to a special event in Lawrence, Kansas honoring Bob Dole for his many years of service as their U.S. Senator, when I was approached by a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka. The young woman, holding a sign attacking gays in the military, screamed at me and I felt my anger rising. I stifled my scream, but I didn’t stifle my hatred. In other words, in that moment, I too became a hater. I became exactly what she wanted and needed, because my hate fuels her hate, so the dance can go on.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said decades ago that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” So, my question is how do we reflect the love of Christ for all people, even our enemies, in ways that model his sacrificial love?

Certainly, it is not enough to get outraged at what we see on TV and then remain silent when we leave our homes, for Dr. King also said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

As followers of Jesus, we are called to do what we see our Master doing: standing with those who are marginalized, while, at the same time, loving those who hate him and those with whom he stands. We must remain self-aware of our own capacity to hate and our ongoing need for the forgiveness and healing of God.

So, we gather week by week as a community of faith, humbled by our need for Christ and his training to live as he lives. When hell breaks loose, we pray for the grace and guidance to let heaven break loose through us…for everyone.

Grace and Peace,