It’s 2017, people, and we have just witnessed a grotesque manifestation of racism coming out of the shadows to flex its emaciated muscles in the mirror of its deluded sense of superiority.
The Charlottesville incident is revelatory. It shows us that there is a fomenting racism, boiling just beneath the surface with violent impulses, trying to climb out of its slimy hole to repeat past horrors that many of us imagine are impossible in our “enlightened” modern times.
As a member of the body of Christ, and of the larger human community, I cannot help but express myself on the matter. Quite frankly, I am outraged and saddened and sick to my stomach by the escalating pattern of open racial hatred we are seeing across American. Hardly a week passes that we are not confronted by some heart-rending display of racism, and now Charlottesville has confronted us with what we’ve tried not to believe—that this monster, so far from being composed of a few misguided individuals, is a grassroots movement that has been organizing itself behind the scenes, determined to mobilize as a unified political machine.
…they did not look like a bunch of unbathed, toothless, backwoods lunatics.
Please pause to soberly consider what just happened. A cohort4 of Americans—numbering between 1,000 and 1,500—came together to publicly “demonstrate” that they believe white people are superior to all other “races” and that they plan to “take back” their country and “make America great again” by either ruling over or expelling all non-whites. And when they came out of the shadows, they did not look like a bunch of unbathed, toothless, backwoods lunatics. Most of them appeared to be average, educated, employed, articulate people we rub shoulders with in offices, banks, and grocery stores on a daily basis. A chill travels my spine as I write the words.
So, what now?
Well, for starters, and at a bare minimum, white people of good conscience need to step into the public spotlight and let their voices be heard explicitly repudiating the wicked notion of “white supremacy” and affirming the equality and dignity of all human beings regardless of skin color. And if that does not happen, the reprehensible ideology of racial hatred will continue to gain adherents and momentum.
Nobody is quite sure of the source, but someone once articulated a most crucial truism of social justice:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
I don’t really care who said it. All truth bears witness to itself by its self-evident quality. But best we can tell, this vital insight was extracted by some anonymous person as a loose and excellent paraphrase of a letter written in 1770 by the Irish political theorist, Edmund Burke. The larger thought is worthy of our attention:
“Whilst men are linked together, they easily and speedily communicate the alarm of any evil design. They are enabled to fathom it with common counsel, and to oppose it with united strength. Whereas, when they lie dispersed, without concert, order, or discipline, communication is uncertain, counsel difficult, and resistance impracticable. Where men are not acquainted with each other’s principles, nor experienced in each other’s talents, nor at all practiced in their mutual habitudes and dispositions by joint efforts in business, no personal confidence, no friendship, no common interest, subsisting among them, it is evidently impossible that they can act a public part with uniformity, perseverance, or efficacy. In a connection (with others), the most inconsiderable man, by adding to the weight of the whole, has his value, and his use; out of it (that is, out of connection with others), the greatest talents are wholly unserviceable to the public. No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavors, are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united cabals of ambitious citizens (bent on evil). When bad men combine, the good must associate, else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”5
Allow me to summarize Burke’s point in modern terms:
Good must be more unified, better organized, and more deliberately activist than evil, or else evil will gain the upper hand and suddenly surprise us with its strength.
“White supremacy” has its origin in the deepest, ugliest, heinous depths of Satan’s twisted psyche…
It is not sufficient for believers in the Christ to simply despise racism privately in their hearts. Our positions must be forthrightly proclaimed through whatever mediums of communication we each have at our command. Silence is not an option. With straight talk we would all do well to contemplate, Ellen White, more than century ago, expressed how serious a matter it is to remain silent in the face of evil:
“If God abhors one sin above another, of which His people are guilty, it is doing nothing in case of an emergency. Indifference and neutrality in a religious crisis is regarded of God as a grievous crime and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God.”6
And make no mistake about it, this thing we are faced with is a “religious crisis.” Before it is political or social or economic, racism is an egregious violation of the heart of God and the gospel of Christ.
So let’s talk straight.
There is a word for the white supremacy movement: evil.
“White supremacy”7 has its origin in the deepest, ugliest, heinous depths of Satan’s twisted psyche, and those who subscribe to the vile notion are aligned with “spiritual wickedness in high places.”8 “White supremacy” should not be trivialized or normalized or dignified by even allowing those who represent it to explain it to us as if it were merely a perspective or an opinion that deserves a hearing and with which we might co-exist. The very idea that any one race is “superior” to any other is nothing short of diabolical,9 and any white person who fails to stand unequivocally against it is complicit in the evil.
For followers of Jesus, all of this would seem to be elementary. And yet, as the racist rhetoric has become more public over the last couple years, I’ve been shocked by what I’ve encountered as a white person when in the company of white Christians. On a number of occasions I’ve found myself in conversations with white people of my own denomination in which racist sentiments have been verbalized as if searching for a green light of agreement, and when I’ve revealed my offense at such talk an awkward backpedaling ensues with the empty assurance, “But, I’m not a racist, of course.”
Apparently, there is a lot more racism lurking in the shadows than we’d like to believe, and Charlottesville reveals that the monster is just waiting, yanking violently on its chain, looking for an organized movement through which to express itself.
…there is a lot more racism lurking in the shadows than we’d like to believe…
So this is me, Ty Gibson, telling everyone within the hearing of my voice exactly where I stand. I’m “Against the Wall”10 of racial separation and injustice wherever it raises its ugly head. And I believe that every one of us who know the heart of Jesus should consider it our moral duty to speak up in favor of racial equality and against racial walls. This is a call for each of us to deliberately make known within our circle of influence exactly what our position is so that those who sympathize with “white supremacy” find no friends for their demonic cause anywhere they turn.
Charlottesville is a brutal wakeup call.
Wake up, people, wake up!
Because “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
- The year of the first transatlantic slave trade voyage from Africa to America.
- The year of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
- The year of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- “A group of people with a common statistical characteristic” (dictionary.com).
- Edmund Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke, words in parenthesis supplied for clarity.
- Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 280.
- “White supremacy” is here in quote marks because there is no such thing.
- Ephesians 6:12, KJV
- “belonging to or so evil as to recall the Devil” (dictionary.com).
- Against the Wall is a new project soon to launch online. Please connect with us on Twitter (@WeAre_ATW) and Instagram (weare_atw).