The roots of our hatred are always fear.
I heard the White Supremacists say, “We’re taking it back” from the objects of their loathing.
“Was it ever taken from you?” I wondered. “What’s the it that was taken?”
The fear is the fear of losing what you (thought) you once had. The fear of diminishment.
That fear–it was so evident in their eyes–had utterly consumed their hearts. The pictures, to me, were the very image of 21st century demonic possession. Hatred like that is born of fear. And fear is from hell.
The Oyarsa of Malacandra in CS Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet responds to the reality of his own people’s diminishment by saying:
“But one thing we left behind [in the lands we no longer occupy]: fear. And with fear, murder and rebellion. The weakest my people does not fear death. It is the Bent One, the lord of your world, who wastes your lives and befouls them with flying from what you know will overtake you in the end. If you were subjects of Maleldil, you would have peace” (p140).
Fear of the unknown.
Fear of the other.
Here is the enemy to be resisted.
The Christian gospel declares without apology a story in which our God is the Lord of the whole earth, which he created to be inhabited by all people, flourishing under his reign. Every tribe and tongue and people and nation is a reflection of his image, a focal point of his infinite love, worth his own Son, bought with holy blood. And every person is promised an exceedingly-abundantly-more-than-enough share of his coming world if they want it. The meek–not the rapacious, not the bullies, not the power-hungry or self-preserving–will inherit the earth.
For this reason, there is no room in our story for fear. The fear of diminishment has no place among the people of God, for we believe that if we lose our lives we will find them. And the fear of the other likewise has no place, for we believe that it is total humanity–all of us–that God came in flesh to save, and that part of what is entailed by the notion of the “catholicitiy” (as in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”) is that our identities, far from being diminished by the other, are enriched by the other.
Catholicity–an “other-enriched identity”–is the reality of what God has done for us in Christ and is also the destiny of God’s world. It’s where the story is headed. Everything opposed to that catholicity will one day be cast back into the hell it crawled out of.
It should go without saying then that we, therefore–the Church!–should be the first to welcome and celebrate the rise of all manner of diversity in our midst, for there is nothing to lose and nothing to fear in it. In fact, if our story is true, there is everything to gain in it! And we should likewise be the most vigorously opposed to bigotry and hate. It is anti-God to the core. As my pastor said yesterday, what we saw in Charlottesville is the furthest possible thing from the love of God. There is nothing of Jesus in it–Jesus (let us remember) the dark-skinned man who welcomed all kinds and sorts of people into his company and died as a criminal outside the city gates to return all of us to the love of God and neighbor, making us whole.
THAT Jesus is a living repudiation of every form of bigotry and hatred and fear, and calls us to live aware. Aware that what we saw over the weekend did not come from nowhere. Like a cancer that suddenly metastasizes, evil like this tends to incubate quietly before it breaks out in hideous, public display. Our country’s history is a sad reminder of that. As our colored friends have urged us over this weekend (we white folks have much learn about this)–it is a poor strategy to only oppose racism when it suddenly rears its demonic head on CNN or when innocent blood is shed. We must resist it all times and in all places.
And that requires that we name it when we see it, wherever we see it, that we rebuke that foul thing in the Name of Jesus, and that we disciple ourselves and our children out of it, bearing witness in so doing to the world that is yet to come.
The great theologians have taught us that evil is “privative”–that it is parasitic, living only off of the good, using its negative energy to deconstruct the good. To that extent, it is a no-thing. It is destined to run its course, destined to be purged from God’s good world. It has no place in the future that God has designed for us. It will not last. It cannot.
Racism–with all evil–was condemned in the cross of Jesus.
Racism–with all evil–will one day be wiped from God’s good world.
Racism–with all evil–is demonic to the core and has no place in our lives.
To tolerate it, even for a moment, is to resist the Kingdom.
So God help us.
Give us new eyes to see how fear and hatred hide in our midst.
Help us resist this evil wherever we see it.
Help us leave our fears–all of them–behind.
Help us stand in new, courageous, creative solidarity with every victim of hate.
Teach us to have our lives enriched by those who are different from us.
And usher in your Kingdom where peace knows no end.