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Charlottesville: A Pastor's Reflections

by Alan Newton

The violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia have exposed the deep seated racially sins, which have been with us from the birth of this nation. These hate groups exist in every part of our nation, even here in the state of New York. Pull off of the highways and venture through rural communities, as I do often, and you will see evidence of their presence. 

These groups have remained hidden for many years, carrying out covert actions seeking to intimidate or terrorize immigrants and religious minorities. Only recently, have these groups been emboldened by political rhetoric, which resonates with their bitterness and anger. They claim that they would like to "take American back" when in truth it was never theirs to own.

My hope lies in stories of persons who were a part of these hate groups who have through the years recognized that their fears of the "other" are unfounded. The love of Jesus Christ is powerful. It has the power to transform. My hope also lies in the willingness of greater numbers of people who have stood up to resist and renounce such hate.

Many have responded to the events of the weekend with anger. I have felt a little of that too. Yet my overwhelming feeling is one of sadness. I am sad for those who died this weekend in Charlottesville. I grieve with their loved ones who are shocked by their loses. I am sad for those who were injured and who have days if not weeks of recovery ahead of them. 

But I am also sad that there are so many people who remain trapped by anger and loathing. It is miserable to be so entombed by hate. My prayer is that one day soon they may be released from these prisons and embrace life in its fullness.

The anti-racism protests are encouraging. However, we must realize that these will do little to change the hearts and minds of those caught up in these racist ideologies. Isolating these people will likely embolden their resolve. 

And yet it is important that we let them know that we are watching, that we will protect those they wish to harm, that we will prosecute them when they break the law, but we must also let them know that we love them and desire that they be free from the hatred that has captured their souls.


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