I haven’t said much during this week following the violence in Charlottesville. I have followed the rhetoric on social media and have been saddened by what we have become. But I felt it unwise to say anything, even if it meant not expressing sadness. In truth, I really don’t know what to say that wouldn’t merely contribute to the growing cesspool that is social media. I have no idea how to fix this ugliness.
But my heart is churning.
Although I lean conservative, I am finding it impossible to take sides. I cannot, in the name of Jesus, stand with the white nationalist groups. Their ideology is repulsive and un-Christlike. Any attempts to hijack the name of Christ to their cause is an abomination. And nothing could justify the violence done.
On the other hand, I have watched the violence, intimidation, and hate perpetrated by the Antifa movement over the last several months, and also despise what they stand for. Using violence and silencing people who don’t agree with you isn’t the best way to persuade. Oppression used in the name of fighting oppression is still oppression.
Both groups are two sides of the extremist coin, one that historically never goes well. If either side truly gets their way, freedom ceases to exist. There seems to be no heroes, no “good guys.” Both sides effectively dehumanizes the other so successfully that when one group physically attacks the other, it becomes nearly impossible to express any kind of grief or outrage—even when an individual’s life is tragically snuffed out.
It is imperative to remember the person who was killed as a person and call out the violence against her for what it was—evil.
It is also imperative, as Christ-followers, to not allow ourselves to take sides. Both the Evangelical Right and Progressives are making the exact same mistake: instead of calling out the evil of the extremes for what it is, we are minimizing, justifying, or ignoring the evil if it comes out of the narrative with which we identify. We sacrifice our prophetic voice in the name of what we consider the “greater good.”
Karl Barth once said, “When the church weds itself to the spirit of the age, it will find itself a widow in the next.” Our nation, and even our church itself, is experiencing a serious identity crisis. We don’t know who we are anymore. We must not give in to the temptation to side with one extreme or the other.
Church, in the name of Jesus, be the church.
We are not the church if we allow our prophetic voice to fall under the submission of a political cause or politician. We are not the church if we justify or minimize evil acts from either extreme of the political spectrum. We are not the church if we are selective in our outrage. We are not the church if we liken the kingdom of God to any political cause. We are not the church if we take any side to the left and right extremisms for the cause of the “greater good” no matter how we define it.
We must be the church. We are the church when we are a church of love, loving and showing that love in the face of all forms of extremism. We are the church only when Jesus is our cause, not a political side (note: there is not a single political cause worth fighting for can fully represent the Kingdom of God). We are the church only when we are a church of prayer. We are the church only when we sacrifice our political voice at the expense of conservatism or liberalism. We are the church only when we look to Jesus as the answer and not some political cause.
We don’t know what this nation will look like if or when we ever solve this identity crisis. But rest assured that no matter how it turns out, Barth’s warning is accurate: if we allow our churches to wed to the spirit of the age—whether political conservativism or progressivism, then the entire body of Christ will be a widow in the years to come.
That is something we cannot allow to happen.