Dear All Saints:
I grew up in Eastern North Carolina in a sleepy little town of fewer than 2,000 people, surrounded by tobacco fields and pig farms. One didn’t need to drive very far to pass a giant billboard announcing:
This is Klan Country
“Love It or Leave It”
Help fight Communism and Integration
Years later when I witnessed hundreds of mostly young, white men strutting down the lawn of the University of Virginia carrying tiki torches and wearing swastika armbands and chanting Nazi slogans, it did not feel as if we had progressed very far from my childhood days in North Carolina.
The roots of white supremacy and white nationalism run deep in our country. This year marks the 400thanniversary of the first Africans being brought as indentured servants to Jamestown. Within fifty years, they were in permanent bondage, chattel slavery, written into the laws of the colony of Virginia.
There is a straight, unbroken line from the enslavement of African people to Mother Emanuel to mass incarceration to what happened in Charlottesville in 2017 to the massacre of Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand. White supremacy and white nationalism are the natural progression, the by-product, of the oppression of those who are different than us. It is a cancer, and it must be confronted.
In my time in Charlottesville, there were those who thought that we should just ignore the purveyors of hate and they would go away. My response was always the same: how will they know we just don’t care if we stay away? And there is no faith tradition that says that one does not show up when hate rears its ugly head.
So we must be diligent in rooting out the insidious hate that arises from fear and hatred of Muslims, Jews, African Americans, immigrants, and anyone else we might call “other.” Throughout our scriptures, God calls us to care for the outsider and the oppressed.
When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
Blessings on your journey through Lent,