It is one of the tenets of pacifism that violence begets violence. Clearly, there are people on the far right who have violence in their soul and we have seen their behavior. By “the far right”, I mean people listed below. There are lots of people who are center-right, or at least there were pre-Reagan. Yes, it’s been that long.
Let me be clear here: neo-Nazis, the KKK, and White Supremacists and any administration that supports them are hateful, and I abhor their behavior and their rhetoric. Period. Full stop.
Ok. That said, I worry that anger — even righteous anger — might become hateful rhetoric and hateful speech. I don’t know what to say about the tearing down of statues by a mob, for a number of philosophical reasons, but I’m against the defacing of public property or art or historical statues. I will acknowledge that I don’t feel oppressed by them, and that bias may disqualify parts of my argument. I was always taught that Totalitarian regimes are all the same: They want to control everything… tell their story in glory and begin by removing everyone else’s. I swear with every fiber of my being: we don’t want to go down that path.
I think that if we delete history, we can’t learn from it. Twenty years from now, if all the statues of the Civil War are removed, some young person will deny that the Civil War ever happened, and say that there were never slaves in America, because “Americans could never be that mean. We’re too decent for that”. We’re not too decent for that. We need to always remember that evil can be a part of the human condition — even the American human condition.
Besides the history part, there’s the “art” part. If we can tear down one form of art (statues) because it offends us, what’s to say we can’t tear down any art? Who determines? Any tactic that Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, Hitler and ISIS use is not something a civilized country should be doing.
So what to do? As I understand it, the mayor of Charlottesville was not “taking down” a statue of Robert E. Lee. He was, after lengthy discussion, moving it to another park, and putting it next to another statue to add context. More perspective, more facts, more history is never a bad thing.
(To be honest, like the statue of the little girl in front of the “Market Bull” with her hand out, surrounding the Lee statue with statues of slaves giving it “the finger” would seem like appropriate context to me. I don’t think Jesus would agree, however, so that’s out.) In any case, there’s always more than one choice on how to respond to things. Deciding just using rage, with no intellect at all, is a bad idea most of the time. We need to avoid that.
So, what is a Christian response to the hateful people at Charlottesville? Jesus says we are supposed to “love our enemies and pray for those that persecute you”. I know that’s the goal, but I’m not there yet — right now, not even close. As a temporary measure, though, and one even non-Christians can do, I can love their enemies. Here’s my proposal: For every time that people are bullied, abused, threatened, demeaned or killed by a hateful person, we should support the person (or someone else like them in the case of killing) at least twice.
For instance, if a Jewish cemetery has ten graves destroyed, we should attend twenty synagogues to further our support. An Asian man is threatened with internment? We should guarantee his safety for twice the length of his possible jail term. If somebody insults a woman, the woman should get two hugs immediately afterwards. Fifty gay people shot in Orlando? One hundred Pride parades ought to help. An African-American is killed, society should take care of the person’s children twice as long as the person remains dead.
To practice this, let me use a real case. Last week, Rev. Traci Blackmon was in a church praying when a thousand guys showed up with tiki torches lit, scaring the daylights out of her. For every idiot with a torch, we should do two kind things for her, another African-American, woman, or pastor. Two thousand acts of kindness for her or in her name ought to balance things out a bit.
As I think about it, democracy being a relationship, psychology might have something to say. John Gottman, a world famous couples therapist, says that in order for a marriage to work, for every one negative experience, there must be at least five positive ones! Think about that! One hundred supportive acts for the synagogue, 5 periods of safety for the threatened Asian man, 5 hugs for the verbally abused woman, 250 Pride parades for every gay murder, 5 lifetimes of support for the families of lynching victims, and 5,000 acts of kindness for Traci Blackmon or for African-Americans, women, or pastors!
Yesterday’s event in Boston is a good start, it seems to me, but there’s still a lot of kindness needed to keep democracy afloat. We should get to work on that now.
Resisting with Peace,