Words from the Bishop—“Good is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate.”
Once again racism has raised its ugly head in America, even overshadowing the threat of nuclear annihilation for a bit. Racism is not a new phenomenon—it is as old as sin. As we delve more deeply into the Doctrine of Discovery (which we formally repudiated as a Synod and at the Churchwide Assembly in 2016), we see that there is racism embedded into the European colonization of the Americas, racism embedded into our Indian policy, racism embedded into our history of slavery, racism embedded into our immigration policies.
Last winter, a particularly virulent strain of racism appeared in, of all places, Whitefish, Montana. A high profile White Supremacist with a political group behind him became the center of a controversy in the Flathead that included anti-Semitism. Religious groups, including our ELCA congregations, responded appropriately, condemning White Supremacy, anti-semitism, and all forms of racism as antithetical not only to common human decency, but to the Christian faith.
In the 1990s, the Montana Association of Churches (MAC) adopted a Declaration on the Distortions of the Gospel. Hate groups were claiming that their racist and violent theories and practices were a true interpretation of the Gospel. MAC took that on, and repudiated any connection between racism and hatred espoused by these groups and the Gospel. Eight mainline Christian denominations signed on—American Baptist, Christian Church Disciples of Christ, The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church USA ( Glacier and Yellowstone) Roman Catholic (Helena and Great Falls/Billings),United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church. Other Christians, from across the spectrum, asked to sign on as well. There was consensus that any attempt to justify bigotry by using religious language was simply wrong, misguided, even evil.
That was a quarter century ago, before the internet was a near constant part of nearly everyone’s lives, providing information and misinformation indiscriminately. Today’s hate groups spread demonize people of color, people of “other” faiths (especially Muslim), immigrants and more.
That widespread hatred was what was highlighted in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend, in the White Supremacist rally. People of faith—of all faiths—including ELCA Lutherans—were there to stand against bigotry, to stand against hate.
I have read many of your Facebook posts this week, lamenting what was going on in Charlottesville, and looking for ways to move forward. Confession is always good for the soul. Examining ways that we as individuals and we as a primarily white church benefit from White Privilege might be a start. The key is not getting defensive. We have had to do that as a Synod as we have taken our Apology to tribal councils.
When I was growing up in the 1960’s north of the Mason Dixon line, I thought racism was something that happened in the South. And then I saw the violence in Boston in response to busing, and I thought it was an urban thing. I know now that it is a human thing, a thing we must repent, and work hard to overcome.
As I struggle with the implications of racism in America, I remember Bishop Desmond Tutu’s words: “Good is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate.”
Jessica Crist, Bishop
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