Charlottesville: Is it Time to Take Sides?

 

After Charlottesville, is it time to take sides? President Trump has been roundly criticized for his alleged refusal to do so, both in his initial response to the violence there and in his follow-up news conference. He has been reproached for implying that there is a moral equivalency between the parties involved, and challenged to formally renounce the KKK and other white nationalists.

Many Republicans have joined their colleagues across the aisle in choosing a side – sort of. They’ve come out against neo-Nazism, white supremacy and hate groups. But that’s like taking a stand against beating children and robbing little old ladies – who would disagree?

So, politicians are rushing to take a side – and it happens to be the one on which almost every voter in their district stands. Not a lot of courage there. President Trump is trying (or is being represented as trying) to avoid taking a side. Perhaps there is more courage there, but a startling lack of moral cognizance. Meanwhile, our nation is being torn apart, and not between Antifa and Neo-Nazis movements, but between whites and people of color, conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans.

So, after Charlottesville, is it time to take a side? After Michael Brown in Ferguson, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Eric Garner in New York, is it time to take a side? After the brutal killing of praying Christians at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, is it time to take a side? Yes, it’s time to take a side: the side of justice over injustice, love over hate, peace over violence, listening over shouting, humility over pride, and self-sacrifice over self-promotion.

But which side is more likely to provide all these things – the Antifa or the white supremacists? The Right or the Left? The Republicans or the Democrats? If this were a multiple-choice test, everyone would be skipping through A, B, and C in a rush to circle D: “None of the above.” These groups have been ratcheting up the hatred, not reducing it. They have benefited from divisiveness – why would they want to end it?

It’s not that I don’t believe in choosing a side – I do. As a student of the Scriptures, I know that Christianity is a side-taking religion. The claim against Christians has always been that they are side-takers; they are exclusive. They have the chutzpah to claim that they are right.

That claim is not quite accurate. Christians don’t claim they are right, but that Jesus is, and they take his side. They will work with anyone who genuinely desires love, justice and peace, but they won’t take their side. They’ve already taken one, and proclaimed it in their baptism. They’ve taken sides with Jesus Christ.

But isn’t taking sides what’s wrong with the world? Doesn’t taking sides make a person combative and malicious towards people on the other side? Isn’t this the whole problem with militant Islam – they’ve taken sides? Wouldn’t we be better off with a more “spherical” religion – one in which there are no sides, where no one is wrong, and all paths lead to God?

I think not. Better to take a stand and choose a side with Jesus Christ and the non-ethnic people of God. But do not mistake this with choosing a side in the culture wars, which is not at all the same thing. We don’t take a side by baptizing the latest liberal cause and giving it a Christian name, nor by proclaiming the gospel of traditional values. We take a side by being faithful to the God of Jesus, no matter what.

Right now, everyone is in a hurry to renounce white supremacy. Good – it’s repulsive. But who is in a hurry to love their enemies, even those white supremacists? Only those who’ve taken sides with Jesus. Who prays for those who misuse them? The Christians do. Who makes “every effort to do what leads to peace”? The people who call Jesus “Lord.”

I take my side with those people – all of them, whatever their ethnicity, whatever the cost. I take my side with them, and with the one we together call “Lord.”

First published in The Coldwater Daily Reporter, 8/17/2017

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