August 14, 2017
Monday after the 10th Sunday after Pentecost
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I urge Lower Susquehanna Lutherans and people of goodwill everywhere to join me in condemning the bigotry, racism and hatred we witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend. We denounce the violence that left a woman dead and dozens of people injured. We lift our prayers for all involved and pledge ourselves to work for peace.
We watched the news coverage with horror as neo-Nazis, KKK members, “white supremacists” and other figures from the so-called “alt-Right” from around the country -- many wearing uniforms and helmets and carrying shields -- converged on that University town. Ostensibly to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a public park, the “Unite the Right” rally served as a megaphone from which they spewed their abhorrent messages of intolerance and hate.
Our condemnation does not merely spring from the soil of common human decency, but also is deeply rooted in the teachings of our faith:
• ALL people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
• Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).
• Jesus teaches us that neighbor includes people who are different from us, and that being a neighbor means actively caring for them Luke 10:25 ff).
We applaud the courage and strength of counter-protesters who faced the purveyors of hatred and proclaimed a message of peace. Many were Christians and fellow Lutherans who provided witness in the name of the God of justice, mercy, and equality that we have come to know in Jesus.
At great risk to themselves, they summoned the courage to confront evil face-to-face in Charlottesville by marching, chanting, praying, carrying signs and signaling with their very bodies – this is NOT okay. But counter-protesting is not all they did. Some, such as Bishop William Gohl of the Delaware-Maryland Synod, also served water to thirsty people from both sides and offered prayer, conversation and a word of hope.
Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Our brothers and sisters who were there in Charlottesville remind us that it often takes real guts to be a peacemaker.
Like them, we, too, need to be fearless in speaking the truth when we hear lies, proclaiming peace amid violence, invoking the power of love to condemn the timidity of hate, to strike the light that the darkness cannot overcome. And we need to do all this not only with our lips, but with our actions and our very lives.
Sitting in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, following his arrest for nonviolent protest, Martin Luther King Jr. was bewildered by the silence of fellow Christians amid the struggle for civil rights for African Americans. He observed, “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God.”
Let us be peacemakers and co-workers with God.
Yours in Christ,
†James S. Dunlop, bishop
Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA