The following statement was delivered during the August 13, 2017 morning worship services of Calvary Memorial Church (CMC), Oak Park, IL. Professor Redmond serves CMC as Associate Pastor of Adult Ministries, and was scheduled to preach that morning. The statement is reprinted in its entirety with edits appropriate to convert it to a web document.
This statement intends for us to think Christianly about some of the things surrounding the melee in Charlottesville, VA, for the sake of the glory of God in all things. For Scripture says “from him, through him, and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever and ever.”
A few short weeks ago, our family was in Charlottesville for my daughter’s graduation from the University of Virginia School of Law. She, herself, only vacated her apartment and moved temporarily to Maryland last week. Had the Charlottesville incident happened earlier, she may have been caught in its madness. That is a scary thought to me. The Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists are scary to me, to Jewish people, and other people of color. A rally to support white supremacy in modern America greatly concerns me, as does anyone waving the symbol of Nazi Germany as a signpost to recruit people toward a supremacist ideology and world. I feel that every believer who intends to love his neighbor as himself should share my concern; you should share my concern because you love me and other people of color within this body, and you would not want us to live in a climate of fear and hate, of superiority and inferiority.
Someone died because a group wanted to protest the removal of a monument that honors someone who fought to keep slavery in the south. We all should feel sorrow over groups of people wanting to identify themselves as people who inherently are better than others. The cross and its followers look nothing like such arrogance; neither do we who love Christ embrace the bigotry and hatred of that worldview, because we serve the Savior of the world—the Savior of people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and land.
I am concerned about what appears to be a growing climate of racial hate and of greater boldness by those like the Alt-Right. I, or any other person of color in a pew near you, or any other descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, could be the next object of scorn from a vehicle driver with sympathies to white supremacy. In contrast, the gospel works to create climates of acceptance, grace, and holiness.
Incidents like the one in Charlottesville; or in Charleston, SC; or Ferguson, MO, and any high-profile news story of vandalism of an American mosque, synagogue, or Jewish cemetery, or of a woman of Middle Eastern descent being attacked for wearing a hijab, or of an unarmed African American losing life to white police officers – where often there is acquittal of the officer – sets me and many people of color on edge. We can become doubters and cynics, and wonder if things ever will change in America. We hope that you who are our brothers and sisters will understand if we hear your words and see your actions through our well-earned but fallen lenses of racial skepticism. We need patient love from you as we try to love you without reservations or fear of discrimination and racial mistreatment. We need you to keep seeking to understand our world, and to come participate in our worlds and lives. We need you to continue to examine your own hearts and actions, and to continue to challenge racial hatred in your extended family and friendships.
I hope that the voices of evangelical leaders will be even louder and clearer on the denunciation of the protesters, and of white supremacy. Yes, moral leadership is within the job description of some heads of state. But moral leadership, and having a moral voice, is inherent in the job description of every evangelical pastor, school president, and institution leader too. It is we who should lead the way in living morally and speaking out against injustice. It is we who say to you who embrace white supremacy: “unless you repent, there is no place for you in heaven, and there is no place for you among the people of Christ’s love who make up Calvary Memorial Church.”
Eric C. Redmond is Assistant Professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL.