The violent protesters gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend are not espousing Christian doctrine. One only need to look to the statements from Christian leaders, many of them who are President Trump’s advisers.
Social media became a popular platform for many to share their thoughts, with these Christian leaders no different.
Dr. Ronnie Floyd is the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is currently the senior pastor of the Cross Church. He shared a graphic on his Facebook page that Saturday evening.
Responses from Franklin Graham came in Facebook posts. He issued a call to prayer for Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, law enforcement, “everyone struggling,” also writing:
It is such a tragedy—life was lost and many people were injured. Violence and hatred aren’t the answer. God’s Word tells us, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Join me in praying for the injured, the families of those who died—and for peace to be restored.
A more recent post criticized those blaming the violence as “absurd” and continued in part:
Really, this boils down to evil in people’s hearts. Satan is behind it all. He wants division, he wants unrest, he wants violence and hatred. He’s the enemy of peace and unity. I denounce bigotry and racism of every form, be it black, white or any other. My prayer is that our nation will come together. We are stronger together, and our answers lie in turning to God. It was good to hear that several Virginia and Charlottesville leaders attended church today at Mt. Zion. CNN said, “The racial divides that fueled Saturday’s violence were replaced by unity Sunday…” Continue to pray for peace and for all those impacted by Saturday’s tragedies.
Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, Ed Stetzer described how “my heart is grieving” and “I am crushed” in his article for Christianity Today.
On Charlottesville, he noted “my heart grieves for what this movement stands for. It is the antithesis of who we are called to be, and the plans that God has for us, and for the world.”
His article was not merely lamentations, but rather a call to action. “Silence is simply not an option,” he wrote, and called on the president to “call out the evildoers.”
In his conclusion he spoke to pastors, and noted that “For us, this is not about politics or free speech. It is about evil and the gospel that defeats it. The time to stand up—and speak up—is now.”
Others regarded the issue as about free speech, however, and spoke from a political angle, while also denouncing the rally.
In a video posted to Twitter, Pastor Mark Burns referred to David Duke as “a domestic terrorist” and to the groups rallying as “hate groups.” He also discussed the appropriate use of free speech, including that “we should [fight for] it in the spirit of unity and never division, never division.” While white supremacist groups may have the right to free speech, he said, Burns reminded them that they “do not have the right to give off false claims,” including likening their goals to President Trump’s goal to “Make America Great Again.”
Towards the end, Burns emphasized his call for unity and national pride. “Racists don’t represent America,” he said. “Racism is a form of hate and belongs in hell.”
Minister Samuel Rodriguez, who was part of the inauguration, also called out both the racism and politics:
I condemn the forces of white nationalism, white supremacy and anti-Semitism that divide our country today and I also condemn those who seek to politicize it all for their political gain. Unless, we bridge this senseless and partisan divide there will be more horrors to come. It’s on each of us to be a part of solution and it begins with turning our political swords into plowshares. We must begin to work together to heal our nation.
Many other Christian leaders took to social media, including:
- Consultant Johnnie Moore, who retweeted several denouncements of racism
- Jay Strack of Student Leadership University:
Those who twist the cross of Christ into a swastika exchange His message of love and redemption for one of hatred and evil.
— Ralph Reed (@ralphreed) August 13, 2017
Let there be no misunderstanding. Racism is sin. Period.
— Dr. Robert Jeffress (@robertjeffress) August 13, 2017
Denouncing racism was a theme for many, regardless of their platform. In his op-ed for Fox News, Bruce Riley Ashford, of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, started off strong and simple. “God is not a racist,” his piece began. “Torch-wielding white nationalists and white supremacists marching through Charlottesville, Virginia, Friday night and rallying again Saturday failed to learn that important lesson.”
His article focused on a call to Christians noting:
White conservatives – especially white Christian conservatives – should speak out openly against white nationalism and white supremacy. This is racism pure and simple, and it represents a frontal assault on the Christian gospel, a denial of human dignity and a subversion of our democracy.
His article closed on an encouraging note, however, in that this presents an opportunity:
Events like the one in Charlottesville give good-willed conservatives – especially Christian conservatives – an excellent opportunity to begin rectifying the situation by speaking a good word in the midst of a bad moment.
One of the most telling responses came in the form of a letter from R. Albert Mohler Jr., who published his response Sunday in Berlin. “This is America?” he asked of the events.
Acknowledging that he did not use the word casually, Mohler wrote that “Christians must see much more than the lessons of history, though we dare not miss them. We must see claims of racial superiority–and mainly that means claims of white superiority–as heresy.”
Most urgently, it is a rejection of the gospel of Christ–the great good news of God’s saving purpose in the atonement accomplished by Christ. A claim of racial superiority denies our common humanity, our common sinfulness, our common salvation through faith in Christ, and God’s purpose to create a common new humanity in Christ.
You cannot preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and hold to any notion of racial superiority. It is impossible.
There has been widespread condemnation of the events of the weekend. Pray this hateful movement fails to gain any momentum, and is relegated to the dustbins of history.