Statement by Bishop Peggy Johnson on the tragic weekend events in Charlottesville, Virginia
Our terrorism: fears within, fighting without
Our world has been rocked with many forms of terrorism in recent years. Long before the events of September 11, 2001, and ever since, we have seen an unprecedented number of bombings, mass shootings and other violence.
The world once again witnessed acts of extreme violence and rage in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. Once again, as all too often, the heinous cause is racism--in fact, racism born of a demented, demonic belief in white supremacy.
It is beyond strange and deeply disturbing when some misguided malcontents feel racially superior but also fearful; when they pose as strong and dominant to hide the inferiority and weakness of their world views that are doomed to extinction. Meanwhile, memorials to paragons of the slave-holding Confederacy disappear, as God's beloved community comes more clearly into view.
Much of the cause for acts of terror in our world--especially this weekend's racial violence in Charlottesville --i s fear-induced rage: fear of the "other," fear of someone taking away something we value, or fear of false, perceived threats. Often, it's fear of losing something that is already lost--indeed, something born of human hate and the enemy's lies that was lost from the beginning.
Such fear and rage within gives birth to terrorism without. And this outgrowth of animus comes in overt acts of violence but also in subversive acts or verbal and attitudinal assaults.
I see it all the time, even in the church when people decide for whatever reason that certain people or certain beliefs are not to their way of thinking. The result is a call for righteous indignation, insults, rejection, division and strife.
The Lord shakes his head at our church, the Body of Christ, whose many different parts are God's divine plan for accomplishing the mission of the church most effectively. We are called to work together in love and humility; but instead, some parts of the body are calling out other parts of the body because of fear. And the verbal violence and schism are not far behind.
As I John 4:18 reminds us, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." Our mission needs to be to teach and model for the world the perfect love of Christ that casts out fear: fear of the "other," fear of want, the fear, pride and ignorance of having to have our own way at any price.
We must celebrate and find ways to enhance our marvelous diversity. This is slow and heart-searching, heart-changing work. The "terrorism within" us is deep-seated and can only be cleansed by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.