This important message from Rev. Dominic:
Hate Finds its Voice
Over the course of this summer, events have transpired in our country that have elevated our anxiety, fear and desperation. Beyond the alarming escalation of a possible military confrontation with North Korea, the vilest form of hatred and evil has found its voice and has crept from the shadows: American neo-Nazism and white supremacists/nationalists.
As we struggle to process and react appropriately to this new environment, it is important to remain rooted in our faith and allow our discipleship to guide us. To that end, let me offer this reflection.
First and foremost, I want to remind everyone that though these are very challenging times, there is good news to be had; even in the events themselves. Whenever evil slithers into the light, it can be named and confronted. For many politically unware folks, the idea that our country is home to organized Nazi’s and unabashed, proud racists was a rumor at best but more likely a despicable aspect of our history. What happened in Charlottesville, allowed the truth to be known. They are here and they are working their violence right now. There is, then, no longer a need to convince anyone that this evil a reality. The “outing” of such a truth can only aid in its elimination.
The most troubling part of what has happened, however, is the fact that American bigotry and hate has been emboldened by the person occupying our country’s highest office. I won’t recount Mr. Trump’s many statements and counter-statements, but the evidence is overwhelming that—from his campaign rallies to his Charlottesville comments—he has generated an atmosphere that gives license to white nationalists and neo-Nazis to act.
In many ways, all of this should not be surprising. It should be shocking, to be sure, but not surprising. It is on a trajectory that goes back to the normalization of debasement of women, religious minorities, immigrants and gender-diverse people. The descent continues. It is one thing for a society to have hate-filled people. But we are witnessing the qualitative difference that occurs when the President provides a green light to these forces.
Back to the good news. If Nazism has found its voice in America, the rest of the country has as well. And it is an absolute chorus of opposition to such an ideology from every quarter. From every level of society and government (save the Executive Branch) has come condemnation of racism, hatred and bigotry along with, most importantly, a resolve to contain and eliminate it like we have never heard before.
Going forward, I believe two overarching things are going to be important. First, we are going to have to reconsider the First Amendment in light of a distinction between free speech and hate speech. The death of Heather Heyer at the Charlottesville rally is proof that there is a difference between free speech and hate speech. One uplifts our culture and the other tears it down; taking people’s lives with it. When hate speech is legitimized as free speech, public safety is simply not possible.
Secondly, hate groups always find success when those that oppose them are divided. In the end, what is important is that we are all Americans; regardless of our races, religions, ethnicities, and gender orientations. These distinctions, this diversity is our strength not our weakness and we should confront the alt right as Americans and as patriots.
Lastly (and always firstly), our church will always stand in opposition to hate. First Congregational Church will always be a place of positivity in a world of too much negativity. That in itself is a needed act of defiance these days. Also, our wider United Church of Christ will always stand up for inclusivity and the empowerment of the weak. We stand forever with “the least of these” and those who are targets of hate, violence and disenfranchisement.
We do so, quite simply, because that’s what Jesus did and we follow him.