taking the words of Jesus seriously

Abraham Lincoln once said, quoting scripture, that a house divided against itself cannot stand. It is increasingly obvious that our country, right now, is a nation divided against itself. The divisions are becoming pronounced and now, after the riots in Charlottesville, the anger between white nationalists, KKK members, neo-Nazis and those who stand against them are reaching a violent stage.

As you likely know, the conflict in Charlottesville started when a group of white racists, many of them posting Nazi symbols, gathered to protest the dismantling of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the primary general of the Confederate Armies during the Civil War. African-American citizens along with sympathizers wanted such statues removed since they do not want to see those who opposed the abolition of slavery honored in a memorial fashion. While standing up against racism and such symbols of hatred, Heather Heyer was killed and dozens were injured as a white supremacist plowed his vehicle into the peaceful crowd.

READ: Salvation for White People

President Trump, in responding to the riots that ensued, said that we must remember our history. If by that he meant honoring those who fought to maintain the institution of slavery, I along with many others have to disagree with them. However, if remembering history, is America facing up to the reality that this country of ours established much of its prosperity on the backs of African people who were uprooted from their homeland and enslaved on plantations here in America, then honoring those who struggled to maintain the institution of slavery is something that Red Letter Christians very much call into question.

It’s sometimes difficult to know where to start in joining efforts to fight against the racism and Nazi values that led to the Charlottesville riots, but Red Letter Christians know that a good place to begin is to pray for those who define themselves as white supremacists. We do so in the name of the Christ in whom there are no divisions of people and certainly no indication that one racial group is superior to others. We need to pray for the brothers and sisters who articulate the ugly values that were broadcast over television sets around the world, demonstrating that in America the problem of racism has been in no way resolved.

SIGN ON: Charlottesville Call to Conscience

We who oppose white supremacists and the Nazi flag must also be careful. It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said, “When you fight a dragon, be sure that you do not become a dragon.” When we struggle against the racism and violence of our time, we must be careful lest we become violent and our methods of opposition do not represent the values set forth in the red letters of the Bible.

Each of us must join together with friends and ask the question, “What can we do on our local level to stand against racism?” Before things can change nationally and globally, they have to change locally.

Let the events in Charlottesville stimulate a reaction among us that makes Christ known. May we become known as Jesus wants us to be known – as peacemakers. Only then can we be called the children of God. Being peacemakers does not call for weak responses to evil. But we must, like Jesus on the cross, pray “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.”

And we must oppose racism wherever and however we can.

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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