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Brooding Over Charlottesville

By August 17, 2017Culture14 min read

“With all thy getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7).

Last Saturday, smartphones around the world buzzed and brimmed with newsflashes surrounding all that unfolded at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Leading this rally were those under the banner, “Unite the Right”—a movement seeking to unite all white supremacists from different groups, including the Alt Right, Vanguard America, Identity Europa and the KKK. They were gathering in Charlottesville to protest the city’s decision to remove the historical monument of Confederate Civil War General, Robert E. Lee. This was one of the largest white supremacist gatherings in recent U.S. history, as a small army chanted “Blood and Soil”—Hitler’s famed Nazi slogan—and some even carried submachine guns, shields and other military gear.

As counterprotestors—composed of different races—arrived in large numbers, violent clashes ensued between the opposing groups, leaving many bloody, others incensed with even more anger, and many simply crying out of despondency. And if that’s not enough, what nearly sucked the oxygen from the clash was when a white supremacist raced his sports car into a crowd of counterprotesters, sending human bodies flying like rag dolls, and leaving 19 people hospitalized and 32-year-old Heather Heyer—a young, white woman, known for weeping over racial inequality and the disenfranchised—killed in cold blood

Yes, all of this actually took place in what’s supposed to be a post-Black-POTUS, post-racial society, in the year 2017.

Yet, why do these times suddenly feel so reminiscent of the 1960s, back when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community? What I believe scares people the most right now is the big question: Are we devolving as a society? Are we literally going backwards; and if so, how far will we go and when will it stop?

As people scramble for answers, people are also scrambling to locate the roots of our problems. Some say, it’s all President Trump’s fault, for adding lumber to the fires of racism during his campaign with emboldening language that would secure votes for the big win. Others say social media is largely to blame, with this “information age” injecting ideologies into people’s minds and creating “copycats” where there otherwise might be none. Still others blame the epidemic of overlooked injustices and the killings of unarmed black men by the police, resulting in The Washington Post and [London-based] The Guardian conducting independent studies that concluded that a black man was 2.5 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a white man.

Lastly, many will say that it’s all of the above and so much more, as captured in the spellbinding article published in the May 5, 2015, issue of U.S. News & World Report, “Institutional Racism Is Our Way Of Life”—an issue highlighted by many musicians over several decades: from Bob Marley and Buju Banton, to Public Enemy and The Fugees, even to Jay Z’s latest video [covered by The New York Times], “The War On Drugs Is An Epic Fail.”

So then, who is the enemy? And back to the original question: Are we devolving as a people and a society?

Well, the Bible makes it clear that the true ROOT cause of all that is diabolical in this world is EVIL—first hatched in the heart of a malevolent fallen angel named Satan—and SIN, hatched in the heart of Adam and Eve when they abused their gift of free moral agency in rebelling against their Creator and Friend, and following the same “self” path of Satan, whereby the human race became the “fallen” human race. And to this day, wherever there is SIN, there will always be SELF; wherever there is SELF, there will be SELF-CENTEREDNESS; wherever there is SELF-CENTEREDNESS, there will be SELF-EXALTATION; and wherever there is SELF-EXALTATION, there will be the exalting of oneself (e.g., one’s ideology, people-group, race/ethnicity, etc.), at the expense of putting down (including subjugating/oppressing) someone else or some other group. Not to mention the devil’s ability to fill men’s hearts (Acts 5:3) and use them for his evil purposes—to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). This why the Bible declares that we don’t war against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12).

This is what the late, great Ethiopian king, Haile Selassie—a follower of Christ and the biblical worldview—shared at the United Nations back in 1963 (the speech Bob Marley would later sing, word-for-word, in his song, “War”):

“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned;…until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes;…until bigotry and prejudice and malice and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and good-will; until all [people] stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; until that day, [we] will not know peace.”

I am biracial, Native American and African American, the proud son of a “successful” father who was raised in the South as a poor farm boy, wearing potato sacks for diapers, only to attend dilapidated, “separate but equal” Jim Crow schooling. The first time my father sat in an integrated classroom was when he came up North, at 18 years old, to matriculate at Seton Hall University. Years later, my father would pay for me and my brothers to attend one of New Jersey’s most expensive prep schools, where I also had to contend with both overt and covert forms of racism. During college, my knowledge and awareness of systematic and institutionalized racism greatly expanded—creating in me an anger and rage at this unrelenting “Babylon system” of racism. Before I came to Christ, I met racial hatred with hatred of my own, in retaliation and self-defense; and in all honesty, I would most likely have attended a racial counterprotest, like we just witnessed in Charlottesville, ready for whatever.

However, after receiving an Ivy League education but still finding that I lacked so much, including answers to life’s most pressing dilemmas and questions, I finally learned the true meaning of the cross of Christ:

How God so loved a [divided] world of self-exaltation and diabolical oppression (while so hating oppression in all forms), that He sent His only begotten Son to die for all (John 3:16), including those who hated Him without a reason (Psalm 69:4)—even those who hated Him strictly because of His Israelite blood and Middle Eastern skin tone—as he cried from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

At that point, my own need for God’s forgiveness became my most pressing concern—my own hatred and lack of love, my own subtle traces of racism, my own rejection of Christ and God. Christ [supernaturally] made me a “new man” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and with that package came a “new mind” and a “new heart,” fashioned after the mind and heart of Christ.

Jesus Christ gave countless sermons before His crucifixion, drawing all hearers to our common link to Adam and Eve, and how we have all been created of one blood. Jesus also stressed that we ALL have the same sinful nature, and ALL need to seek the same forgiveness through His atoning blood, thereby receiving a spiritual regeneration that also mystically unites believers as “one body” of brothers and sisters—from all nations, kindreds, people and tongues (Revelation 7:9). More so, the Bible gives the followers of Christ a charge to be “salt and light” in a broken and divided world, having given us the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18), whereby we are to be ready to give an answer to every man (1 Peter 3:15), of how Christ’s death abolishes the enmity or “middle wall of separation” between us all (Ephesians 2:14).

So then, do “White Lives Matter?” Christ declares that they do. That’s why I can’t get 32-year-old Heather Heyer off my mind, and my prayers continue to go out to her family. Do “Black Lives Matter?” Christ declares that they do, and there are multitudes who still desire to support and advocate an oppressive system—built on the backs of slave labor and the crippling effects of Reconstruction, as well as today’s “New Jim Crow” (mass incarceration)—and that needs to be acknowledged. Do “Blue Lives Matter?” Christ declares that they do, and there are spouses and kids who worry for the safety of their loved ones “in blue” every single day. Not to mention how many survived the “9-11” terrorist attack only because “Blue Lives” ran into those collapsing towers—laying down their own lives, so that others could live, regardless of whether they were black, white or other.

However, all this being said, we must also remember that “Context Matters” and “Timing Matters,” as well. Therefore, a vigil for another black person unjustly killed by a police officer is not the context or the time to proclaim “White Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter.” Similarly, the upcoming memorial service for precious 32-year-old Heather Heyes will not be the context or time to proclaim “Black Lives Matter.”

So in closing, I will now seek to address that gnawing question, once and for all: Are we devolving as a society? Are we literally going backwards; and if so, how far will we go, and when will it stop? The Bible declares that in “the days” preceding Christ’s eminent return to earth, that the times would be “perilous” (i.e., “hard to deal with”), because men would be “lovers of themselves … more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:2,4). The idea is that this would continue at increasingly high levels.

So, following this Bible proclamation—and the inseparable nature of sin, self and self-exaltation—is it any wonder we are now seeing more overt levels of racism?

So then, are we “devolving?” Well, as a God-rejecting human race, I believe we have never “evolved” to begin with, but have only been recipients of the grace (i.e., unmerited favor) of a benevolent God, who gives sunshine and beautiful rain—and even things like peace of mind and blessings of racial healing—both “on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45), in the hope that people might “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). All that being said, what if God, in His infinite wisdom, is now simply permitting us to see more of what sinful mankind quickly becomes without that [abused] daily grace, in an “unthankful” society where it is increasingly popular to demand God’s blessings, yet reject God from our daily lives?

So, as Christian philosopher, Francis Schaeffer, posed the question, “How shall we then live?” Well, here is what the Bible declares: we should be deeply angered at injustice and oppression in all forms, yet at the same time not allow ourselves to become hateful, vengeful, or embittered (Ephesians. 4:26). God says vengeance belongs to Him and He will repay (Romans 12:19). We should not to be overcome with evil, but rather overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). We must truly take the time to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), just as Christ did, and even place ourselves in other people’s shoes by “sitting where they sit” (Ezekiel 3:15). We must finally begin having real discussions about things that have been suppressed, ignored or simply made light of, for far too long. We need to “examine ourselves” (Psalm 139:23-24) and see where we have somehow become arrogant and unteachable when it comes to learning about the burdens and struggles of those of another race, ethnicity or creed. Once and for all, we need to drop ignorant statements, like, “but that’s old history now,” and “that happened so long ago,” when retracing and even relearning the horrific blights in our nation’s tattered history.

We need to build and intentionally invest in honest friendships with those of other races, ethnicities and creeds, seeking to get as much understanding as we possibly can (Proverbs 4:7).

That means, someone may find themselves asking the Native American why the issue of “big oil” at Standing Rock Reservation is such a big deal, and so painful and potentially dangerous. That means, we should all be appalled at the racial and cultural ignorance shown by environmentalist Paul Watson, member of Greenpeace and key figure in TV’s “Whale Wars,” with his recent cyber-bullying of 16-year-old, Alaskan native, Chris Appassingok, who heroically killed a bowhead whale—a diet Alaskan natives have been living on for thousands of years—in order to provide food for his poor village. This heroic 16-year-old has been psychologically affected by this bullying and public shaming from the culturally-ignorant rantings of a man in Washington D.C., who has refused to apologize.

Last but not least, to my “minority” brothers and sisters: We need to reject any thinking that racism towards whites isn’t just as real, and that we somehow have “the trademark,” if you will, on being the recipients of racial hatred. I once counseled the sweetest, petite white woman, who was still deeply scarred as an adult from being constantly rejected and bullied as a child—strictly because of the color of her skin—as she was the only white kid in her all-black school, somewhere in the Deep South.

Does acknowledging her pain, giving value to her experience, and condemning it as “racism,” somehow take away from other pressing issues and systemic societal ills? Christ would say, of course not.

Saints of God, the world needs the wisdom, peace, power and grace of Christ like never before. The world, and our nation, needs the Gospel like never before. The harvest truly is plentiful, and Christ commands us to pray—first and foremost. So let us pray like never before, both for our nation’s leaders and decision makers, and for all people (1 Timothy 2:1-3). It is time to check our hearts, let God break our hearts, and be ready. Grace and Peace.

​Aaron Campbell is the founder/lead pastor of Antioch Christian Fellowship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is also the founder/executive director of Level Up Philly.