Let’s be like them
Like many parents, I’m selective about the images my children see. They’re little enough that in their limited screen time, the things they watch or see comes filtered through us. But this weekend, our five-year-old daughter overheard us talking about the neo-Nazis and white supremacists marching through Charlottesville, Virginia, armed with torches and weapons and hate. It’s not the kind of world I want her or any child to live in, much less hear about or see. But it’s real, and I’m convinced that we have to know our stories in order to write a different future. So we talked about it, racism and hate, and how some people think they are better than others, simply because of the color of their skin. When she heard this, she said, “Mom, they aren’t listening to God, are they?”
“No, they’re not,” I said. “Over and over again God tells us to love people, especially those who are different than us.”
And then, with hope in her voice, she said, “but we listen to God, don’t we?”
I took a deep breath, knowing full well my own failures to love as boldly and fully as God would have me. “We try,” I said, “but can I show you a picture of people who do?”
So I pulled out my phone, and scrolled through news articles until I found a picture of a line of religious leaders walking together through the streets of Charlottesville, old and young, of all colors and creeds. People in robes and stoles, collars and suits, with their arms linked, to bear witness to love. Despite a very real threat of danger, they stood up to hate, with peaceful presence and love. They interrupted violence without mirroring it.
We looked at the image together, and I talked about how faith gives people courage to do hard things. In part because I needed to hear it myself, I told her that despite how loud and powerful hate seems sometimes, love is always stronger. As South African priest Desmond Tutu prayed, trusting in the power of Christ’s resurrection: “Goodness is stronger than evil; Love is stronger than hate; Light is stronger than darkness; Life is stronger than death.”
Even if we have the privilege of ignoring it, we can’t turn away from the realities of racism and systemic oppression in the United States. We have to know this story of ours before we can write a new future together. But if this is all we see, we’ll end up paralyzed by shame and divisiveness and despair. In order to strengthen our faith made active in love, we have to filter out fear and discover hope, maybe in images of brave and loving people building a better world.
We are followers of Jesus, after all, who told us to take courage, who reminded us that the greatest commandment was to love one another. We’ve committed our lives to our Savior who gave his life so that all people (no exceptions) could have life and have it abundantly.
“Let’s be like them,” my daughter said, as we looked at the picture, a bit impatient. She was ready to get back to playing.
Yes. Let’s. Let’s follow the lead of those clergy in Charlottesville and countless other people of faith throughout history, listening to God’s call to love. Let’s walk one step at a time toward the world God dreams for us, steeped in prayer and hope, with our arms and hearts and futures linked together.
– Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor