A Christian Response to Hate Crimes

Emanuel-AME-ChurchLike so many others, I was horrified to hear of the shooting of 9 black parishioners at Bible Study in their church in Charleston, S.C. by a young white supremacist this week.

Why America always views “terrorists” as foreigners or foreign-born is beyond me. America needs to wake up to its long history of domestic terrorism – especially as perpetrated against blacks.

The horrific record of lynchings – that most characteristic form of terrorist act – continued on through the first half of the 20th century. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was met with firebombings, murders and brutal police intimidation. Racist comments and hate speech proliferates on social media even today. Why can’t Americans talk about this, or even acknowledge it?

Dylann Roof didn’t come up with his virulent racist views all on his own. He found ready support and encouragement from a community of like-minded individuals.

Worst of all, much of this overt racism comes from those who call themselves “Christians.” They even claim religious justification for their views. Why is there not an outcry from every pulpit denouncing such heresy? How can such attitudes be allowed to parade as “Christian” at all? How can churches and Christians allow such hatred to continue to exist under the guise of Christian belief?

I do not understand this at all. But sadly, I do understand why many young people are turning away from “Christianity” when this is their impression of what this religion represents.

Charleston shooting victimI was deeply moved by the response of the relatives of the slain victims who appeared at Dylann Roof’s bail hearing. One by one they addressed the accused and said, “I forgive you.” People in the black churches seem to understand much better than the rest of us how to bear suffering – and how to maintain hope in the midst of despair.

As Jesus demonstrated on the cross, redemption comes through suffering and forgiveness. I was raised in a Protestant Evangelical tradition that emphasized Christian “triumphalism.” That is our particular ‘heresy.’

We need to be reminded that salvation was not won on Palm Sunday with Christ triumphantly claiming power; it came through his “defeat” on the cross. Suffering for the sake of others; bearing his cross, forgiving his accusers and tormenters – that is the path Jesus took in bringing salvation.

The black churches in America understand this much better than the rest of us. They teach it to their members, and, as we saw so movingly in their court testimony, they embed it in their very lives. They offer a profound example to us all.

If there is anything that can rescue Christianity from its imposters, it is the Black American church and its path of faithfulness to Christ’s example. We saw that eloquently displayed this past week.

Guess Who’s Running for President

Republicanlogo.svgThere are now 10 Republicans who have announced their candidacy for president in 2016 and another 9 who whose announcements are pending, are exploring their candidacy or who have publicly expressed interest in running.

That number may grow in the weeks to come. It’s a “deep bench” and it will be interesting to see what will happen in the upcoming primary debates as they each try to convince voters that they are more right-wing in their views than their opponents.

DemocraticLogoOn the Democratic side there is now a total of 4 Democrats who have declared their candidacy for president: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, and Lincoln Chafee.

Hillary Clinton is the uncontested front runner, and it remains to be seen whether O’Malley and Chafee can get any traction. They may just be positioning themselves for the 2020 elections. (Looking back over the history of both parties one sees how often the successful nominee in a given year was an ‘also-ran’ in the prior election. That’s the usual pattern.

As an aside, it’s interesting to note that Lincoln Chafee and Hillary Clinton were at one time both committed Republicans. I wonder what happened to make them go over to the other side. Was it that the Republican Party has no room for ‘moderates’ any more? Just asking.

Bernie Sanders2The Democratic candidate who continues to receive the most attention apart from Hillary Clinton is Bernie Sanders. He has been regularly speaking to packed houses at his public events.

Yet the mainstream media continues to cast him as a fringe candidate who has little credibility. The fact that he is a self-declared “democratic socialist” (along the Scandinavian model) seems to be enough to guarantee that he will be dismissed as a serious contender in the presidential campaign.

It is difficult to understand what is so “extreme” about democratic socialism. It exists as a practical option in many European countries where socialist, labor parties, and (gasp) Christian Socialists abound. Even in Canada, which shares a 4,000 mile long border with the U.S., the (pro-labor socialist) New Democratic Party forms the official opposition in government.

The fact that there is only one ”democratic socialist” to be found among the 535 members of the U.S. Congress speaks volumes. It shows just how far to the right American government is compared to other Western democratic nations.

Bernie Sanders’ ideas have been broadly dismissed as both “extreme” and impractical. He is said to be out of touch with the American populace. Yet how extreme are his views really?

Sanders says that he wants to get big money out of politics. The vast majority of Americans agree with this, and a good half of Americans are in favor of federally financed political campaigns (such as exist is several states) to level the playing field.

Sanders strongly criticizes the growing gap between the richest 1% and the rest of the population. Polls show that some 63% of Americans also view the current distribution of wealth in the US as unfair.

Sanders has proposed raising taxes on the ultra-rich to fund government programs that will reduce this wealth disparity; 52% of Americans agree with this idea.

Sanders wants to take action to alleviate high student debts and make college education more affordable. 79% of Americans agree that education beyond high school is not affordable for many people, and 57% of those under 30 see student debt as a serious problem.

Bernie Sanders warns of the dire effects of global warming and wants to take effective action to combat it; 71% of Americans agree that global warming is a fact, and 57% are convinced that human activity is causing it.

So much with Sanders’ ideas being “extreme” and “out of touch” with the American public.

Rick PerryMeanwhile, I see that the mainstream media has no trouble treating former Texas governor Rick Perry as a credible Republican candidate for the presidency.

Perry has denounced both Social Security and Medicaid as unconstitutional. He has also denounced Obamacare and other federal health programs as unconstitutional. He sees federal education programs as unconstitutional as well as federal clean air laws and federal laws protecting workers.

Yet somehow the mainstream media doesn’t see Perry’s views as “extreme” or dismiss him as being “out of touch” with the views of the average American.

This is utterly bizarre!

Wake up people! The dangerous fringe candidates are all on the right. The extremists are all in the Republican Party. Get to know your candidates. And take care when you cast your ballot.

photo credit: Win McNamee/Getty