This has been a hard week. It began with the protests and ultimate violence in Charlottesville Virgina. Continued with the raw meat of President Trump’s comments which sparked a feeding frenzy of angst and anger in the media. And closed with the fatal attacks in Spain from a radicalized Islamic terror cell. I keep my nose out of current events and politics on the pages of Lambchow. But as I listened to the news, argued with the reactions, and sought God about these events a truth emerged.
The events in Charlottesville began when several groups that share the evil belief of white supremacy lawfully gathered. The stated goal was to protest the removal of a statue honoring a Confederate General. General Robert E. Lee led the Confederate army during America’s Civil War. After four years of terrible and bloody conflict, Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Virginia. The history involved is deep and complex with lessons missed by many.
In protest to the protest, other groups gathered. Their purposes and reasons varied. For example, one group present that day is called the Antifa or anti-fascist. A misnomer, they aren’t anti-fascists in the clinical term but anti-government. They are closer to the Bolsheviks and anarchists that gave rise to Communism in Russia a hundred years ago than those that resisted the Nazis in Germany. Other groups protesting the protest were Civil Rights based, such as Black Lives Matter.
There are clear racial fractures in the United States due to the southern black slavery of the past, the mistaken belief of white superiority, and the oppression of non-whites in the wake of the Civil War. Slavery is often called America’s original sin. The fruit from that sin is alive and well although progress and healing are evident. It could be said that the blood of patriots and slaves built America. Blood which still cries from the ground to be heard.
Who threw the first water bottle or the first punch at Charlottesville is perhaps unknowable but immaterial. Folks from both sides were ready, willing, and able to drink hatred and dive into the violence that broke out in the park and spilled out into the streets. One man from the white supremacist’s side took a page out of the ISIS playbook and rammed his car into the crowd killing one woman. Two police officers died in a helicopter crash that was monitoring the riot.
Trump and the Media
In the wake of these events, President Trump was initially silent. Two days after the riot he denounced the events and blamed both sides. The news media and seasoned politicians exploded. Trump came back the next day with a statement clearly denouncing white supremacists. The media and seasoned politicians exploded again. “Too late” they cried. The next day in an impromptu setting Trump commented again and returned to some of the themes of his first statement. And the news media and seasoned politicians exploded yet again with angst and anger.
Then Spain happened. A group of Islamic radicals related to ISIS carried off several attacks in and around Barcelona. Killing and wounding many. Europe has seen many such attacks in the past few years. As different as these events are there is still a common thread. A message that God wants us all to hear.
Racism, hatred, violence, bigotry, and judgementalism, regardless of the reason or justification, are all evil and born of Satan. During the week as I listened to the various reports and opinions, I couldn’t help but imagine Satan and his demons laughing. But it’s easy for us to point the finger at the extremes and miss God’s message.
The root of these events is as old as the hills. It was planted the day Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit. And sprouted when Cain killed Abel. It’s the sin, the lie, that says “I’m better than you.” That’s the root of racism, hatred, bigotry, and judgementalism. “I’m better than you” kept slavery alive, spawned Jim Crow laws, and pushed America’s native population onto reservations. “I’m better than you” fuels terrorist’s dreams. “I’m better than you” attempts to justify and make righteous unforgiveness and hatred. “I’m better than you” is a lie.
Sure, we are all different. We all have a different blend of gifts, talents, experiences, and abilities that make us unique. The problem is when we wrongly value them. Skin color, heritage, gender, experiences, religion, political leanings, finances, and age may make us different from each other, but not better than each other. That is the error of white supremacists, purveyors of hate, and radical Islamic terrorists. And yes, sometimes even those that name the name of Jesus or assume the mantle of justice warrior.
Whenever we judge others or ourselves based on these differences we sin before God and each other. Paul wrote, “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” (Romans 12:3, NLT)
As I look back over this past week, I see this root of “I’m better than you” in many places. I see it in the racism of the KKK and Neo-Nazis. I see it in the Antifa. I see it in President Trump. I see it in the news media. I see it on Facebook and in tweets. I see it in the values preached by CEO’s and corporations. I see it in political rhetoric and posturing. I see it in the terrorists. I see it in religion. I see it in myself.
This doesn’t mean we give up, but instead, recognize that something deeper is in play that can only be answered with something deeper still. We lose the battle when we only seek symbolic answers because the real answer is changed hearts, beginning with my own. We can, with practice, appear to be non-racists but that doesn’t change the heart or remove the root – only God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit can do that. That sin of pride, that root of “I’m better than you,” must encounter Jesus to be recognized, removed, and the scar healed — one heart at a time.