The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia are a good example (and we can think of many, many more unfortunately…) of how a relatively small group of people with deeply held biases and beliefs can impact not only a community, but a nation. What you believe matters.
White supremacy groups are just a fraction of the thousands (millions?) of different belief systems in the world. Have you seen those funky “coexist” bumper stickers? Are we to tolerate such behavior as a means to “coexist”? Absolutely not. Their actions are hateful and their words are tremendously destructive. Such labels as “hate group” or “domestic terrorism” have been used to characterize these beliefs as wrong.
If there is a wrong, there must be a right. We can’t ALL be right, can we? Why does our society mourn the deaths of those killed in Charlottesville and Barcelona, but praise the doctors in Iceland for “eradicating” down syndrome through murder? (Not to mention the millions of lives lost through Planned Parenthood.) How do we get on the right side of history? Who holds the measuring stick and gets to judge the thoughts and intentions of people’s hearts? What standards are we using to split the hairs of certain religious and radical groups?
What you believe will determine who you become and where you go. As an individual apart of a greater community, my beliefs will impact those around me. My beliefs will motivate me to a certain worldview, actions, and goals. So far, my beliefs have lead me to my marriage, seminary, and a job I love. More specifically, my beliefs have lead me to seek forgiveness, rest in Christ’s peace, and pursue truth.
The reason why I studied social justice during my undergrad and the reason why I will study religion, theology, and ethics in grad school are the same — I want to dedicate my life to helping people understand the consequences behind their (agnostic, polytheistic, atheistic, monotheistic, pantheistic, humanistic, etc.) beliefs and graciously lead them to Truth.
There is only one way to freedom — one way out of this mess we find ourselves buried in. The healing from the violence and confusion in our homes, our streets, our courts, our sanctuaries can only be found through trusting Jesus, the living Son of God. Of course, that sounds rather abstract and overwhelming if we’re looking for practical ways to help our cities heal. And I don’t really have a good answer for you. Our families, communities, and nations have different needs — so I’ll share a quote from Madeleine L’Engle that has encouraged me:
“We don’t have to know everything at once. We just do one thing at a time, as it is given us to do.”
When light is present, darkness has to leave. The same concept applies to truth. Truth will stand the test of time. Truth will survive your hard questions and awkward conversations. You’ll need to get vulnerable and you’ll need to surrender your lifelong assumptions in order to live in Truth. Once you commit to that, the rest will follow.
From my limited (privileged) perspective, I would say one last thing. If you believe in the Truth I would ask you to stand up for Truth. Have a conversation and ask those questions, make that phone call and ask for their forgiveness, change an old habit, stand and shout on the streets if you have to – whatever it may be, let it honor Christ and invite those in darkness to stand in the Light.
“learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:17