When far right protestors picked Charlottesville, Virginia, to hold a rally, Leah Wise, who lives there, wondered what her response would be. She finally chose to go to her church, St. Paul’s Memorial, the evening the rally took place. (“Dispatches from Charlottesville: What Happens When Neo-Nazis Are Outside Your Church Doors,” Christianity Today, September, 2017.)
That evening a standing room only crowd of all religions and colors came together. “We came because we were scared, or at least confused. We didn’t know where else to go. We came because we shared a call to social justice and we knew we needed each other,” Wise wrote.
While protestors gathered in the city, the church group sang “This Little Light of Mine,” clapping and stomping as though in some Appalachian revival service. Their reaction to the chaos outside their doors provided peaceful encouragement to those opposed to hatred and racism.
In other commentary, Danny Westneat (The Seattle Times, “Stop Feeding the Neo-Nazi Beast,” August 16, 2017), cautions against shouting matches with the protestors or attacking them.
New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote: “Fight fanaticism with fire? No, with modesty and moderation,” (as quoted in The Seattle Times, August 20, 2017).
“Progress is not made by crushing some swarm of malevolent foes; it’s made by finding balance between competing truths—between freedom and security, diversity and solidarity,” Brooks wrote.
When the times are out of joint, dysfunctional groups take advantage of fear and uncertainty. It’s doubtful these groups will go away any time soon.
Moving society in the opposite direction—step by step, election by election, good work by good work—requires long term commitment. The missionary preacher Paul summed up this kind of activity in his letter to the Ephesians: “Be angry, but do not sin . . . ”