Why the Church Can’t Stand on the Sidelines When it Comes to White Supremacists, Nazis and Moral Equivalency.

Like so many of you, I was horrified to see the events in Charlottesville that culminated in the deaths of three people, including Heather Heyer, who died protesting the alt-right rallies. She was murdered by a Nazi. That’s right, a Nazi. In 2017.

We have to take time to consider how this atrocious act was allowed to happen, and I need to look no further than my Facebook feed to see the roots. There were many posts from others disturbed at what they saw about the need to fight racism, often accompanied by pictures of white supremacists carrying torches to a gathering reminiscent of Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies. Others commented that the opposition protesters at Charlottesville were paid and that liberals were to blame for the violence.

President Trump, rather than unequivocally pointing the finger at the alt-right, blamed the violence in Charlottesville “on many sides”. He faced criticism for three days before finally making a statement to condemn the Nazis and KKK, but he then backtracked in a bizarre press conference, calling some of the white supremacist protestors “fine people”. [1] Many, including members of his own party, saw this as a nod to a core group of Trump supporters and reacted strongly against it, but whatever the reason, his prevarication was stunning and deeply troublesome.

The ground is being made fertile for a wave of racism and hatred, the like of which we have not seen for decades. One of the saddest parts of this for me is that, like it or not, many Christians have enabled this. Whether it’s comments on Facebook or statements in the media, there has been an attempt by some right-wing evangelicals to legitimize and draw a moral equivalency between those carrying semi-automatic weapons into a Nazi rally or driving cars into a crowd at an intersection, and those who stand up against injustice and racism. It reminds me of the rhetoric of the ‘Reich Church’, who supported a ‘Nazified’ version of Christianity in the Hitler years, a group thankfully consigned to the rubbish bin of history.

So let’s be clear.

There is no such thing as a fine Nazi. There is no moral equivalency between Nazis murdering people and advocating white supremacy, and those protesting against Nazis. Dietrich Bonhoeffer showed us that a long time ago and paid the ultimate sacrifice for standing up to Hitler and the Reich church for his beliefs as a Christian committed to justice, equality and the Kingdom of God. In case we’ve forgotten, Nazis used racial purity as an excuse to murder millions in the Second World War, so we have to understand that the fact that this debate is even taking place shows how far we have fallen. Can you imagine our forebears in the Forties sharing such opinions? Certainly my grandfathers who fought in the war might have something to say about it. After all, they were the original Antifa!

The simple truth is that we have to stand up and speak out. Click To Tweet

Further, it absolutely shows why so many millennials and others are fleeing the church in droves. They are disgusted that some who profess to follow Jesus can attach His name to such hatred and abuse. My feed is filled with such messages, most weaved with sadness and anger. This is a whirlwind that will be reaped in years to come in missing generations, as people walk away from churches that have become comfortable with equating political views with Kingdom truth and ‘othering’ those who have alternate perspectives. Those who blindly parrot the alt-right excuses, yet say they love the church and condemn people for walking away, will only have themselves to blame.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The simple truth is that we have to stand up and speak out.

We can no longer stay silent in the name of political expediency. We can no longer equate our political views with the Kingdom of God, something that we never should have done in the first place. And we absolutely can no longer tolerate any form of moral equivalency that equates the person of Jesus or those who say they claim to follow Him, with the resurgence of hatred, demagoguery, and violence in the name of white supremacy or far right extremism. Political views that seek to colonize the way of Jesus and make him a tame puppet for their ideologies can no longer have a place at the table.

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. - Heather Heyer Click To Tweet

Jesus is so much more than that, and his way of justice and grace does not accord with anything I’ve seen on my TV recently. So, I’m with the millennials and others who want to see justice and dignity for all and end racism, not those who want to find dog whistle ways to promote it. Every Christian should be standing against this vile resurgence of bigotry and racism, not making alt-right excuses about ‘paid protesters’ or prevaricating in any way about the morality of a political leadership that nods and winks when these things happen.

Heather Heyer’s last words on Facebook before she was murdered by a Nazi were “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” May they be a call to us as Christians to raise our heads above the parapets and speak the truth of the Kingdom into a world, and sadly, a church, that seems to have lost its way.

 

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/15/politics/trump-charlottesville-delay/index.html