President Brian K. Blount: Violence has brought us here

As we collectively peer, yet again, into the abyss that is hatred for those who are different, I confess that I am cast into a weary and almost reclusive silence. I know that my words are insufficient to express the pain of those who are similarly wearied. They are certainly insufficient to express the horror we all feel for those who have lost their lives diving into the abyss with the hope of conquering, or at the very least, containing it. After all the speeches that I and others more eloquent than I have written and spoken, the darkness churns. Perhaps even more furiously from all the effort wielded against it. The words I have left are pale imitations of the prophet Habakkuk: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?”

It is the violence that has brought us here. The violence of hating others because they are different. The violence that comes from idolizing symbols in divisive and dangerous ways. The violence that comes from using those symbols as a pretense to foment hatred and sow discontent as if both were protected ideals of our body politic.

The dangerous and excluding visions of groups like the KKK, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists threaten violence both spiritual and physical. That violence and its effect has robbed Charlottesville of its sense of peace and security, taken Heather Heyer from all of us, and resulted in the deaths of Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates. We can hope that Heather’s mother, Susan Bro, was right when she said at Heather’s memorial service: “They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her.”

We can hope that the continuing spirit to resist the type of evil that marched in Charlottesville last weekend is indeed magnified in each of us as we talk together, pray together, and seek together the vision that Martin Luther King, Jr. so often called the beloved community. We must raise our voices even when we think we have little to say. We must move our political representatives even when they seem reluctant to move. We must stand when it comes our turn to stand.

At present, it is our turn to stand with the people of Charlottesville. They have been hard pressed by the evil of bigotry and racism that forced itself upon their community. Such evil is neither lethargic nor stationary. It will no doubt wander its way energetically into more cities and more lives within the near future. When it does, we must do all we can in the face of it to represent the light of God’s love as that love was expressed in the ministry and resurrection of a man who went out of his way to touch, heal, teach, revive and resurrect people from every gender, ethnic, racial, diseased, differently-abled and differently-positioned station in life. Directly, through the movement of God’s Presence that surely is at work, and responsively, through the words and actions of God’s people, I trust that the light of that love is even now, despite how it looks, coming into the world. Bathed in that light I feel a spiritual energy that transforms my weariness into a new and even more fervent resolve. It is such a transfiguration of weariness into work that King spoke of when, in 1955, he addressed a congregation preparing themselves for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. “And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression. There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair. There comes a time when a people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November. There comes a time.” Seems to me like, in Charlottesville and across our country, that time is just about now.

Rev. Brian K. Blount is President and Professor of New Testament in the Walter W. Moore and Charles E.S. Kraemer Presidential Chairs at Union Presbyterian Seminary.

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