The recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been shocking and dismaying to so many of us. I’ve been to that city only once, just nine weeks ago, and we walked in the very places where the protests and violence took place. The reverberations it has caused in the days since seem a testimony to the wisdom of southern author William Faulkner in Requiem for a Nun: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” In many quarters, we seem to be wrestling over the soul of our nation, confirming the wisdom in Lincoln’s Gettsyburg Address: that dedication to the proposition that all people are created equal requires renewal in every generation if it is to endure.
How can a Christian respond in such a time? Christians know that only God is supreme, not any human being or race of human beings. God has no skin, let alone skin color. We have no business judging others “by the color of their skin, rather than the content of their character.” And speaking of Martin Luther King, Jr., I wonder whether this may be a key time to renew our knowledge of nonviolent resistance, the force which effectively thwarted dangerous hatred fifty years ago.
Diversity is a byproduct of freedom, yet diversity of any kind is often hard. Just ask a Buckeye in Ann Arbor. It can be hard to rub elbows with others from whom I differ, with whom I disagree, and even sometimes in whom I find distaste or dismay. Our Scriptures, however, offer a wealth of help for such a challenge. Try Ephesians 4, with Paul’s call to “bear with one another,” or the first chapter of James, when he reminds us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.”
Perhaps the easiest to bring to mind in the heat of the moment would be familiar words from the end of the worship service, all drawn from Scripture: “Go into the world in peace. Have courage. Hold on to what is good. Return to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak, help the suffering. Honor all people. Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.” And as you remember, hear also the blessing that comes next: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you, now and forever.”
May our responses express Christ’s love and build up the soul of our nation.
Grace and peace,
Julia Wharff Piermont