Finding Christ in Charlottesville

President Trump made clear on Monday that “anyone who acted criminally” during the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend would be held “fully accountable,” promising that “justice will be delivered.”

In his speech, Trump denounced “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” The president also urged all Americans to “rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together.”

Sadly, many of the comments espoused by Trump’s critics leading up to his speech on Monday were derogatory in nature.

Like many of you, I was shocked and disheartened when news broke of a car attack in Charlottesville on Saturday.

Shortly before the attack, I was watching and listening to news reports of a white nationalist rally that was taking place at a park in downtown Charlottesville. Instantly, I was struck by the growing crowd sizes: both the white nationalists, who were estimated to be in the thousands; and the counterprotesters — namely, Black Lives Matter and Antifa — who were quickly beginning to rival the white nationalists in number. I knew that it was only a matter of time before both sides clashed.

The Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had already tweeted that police would not intervene “until given command to do so.” This allowed what might have otherwise been minor dust-ups to escalate into full-fledged battles between the opposing groups, inevitably leading to three tragic deaths — one of whom was murdered by James Fields, a hateful, bigoted young man who drove his Dodge Charger through a group of unsuspecting protesters.

The violence that erupted in Charlottesville should serve as a stark and somber reminder of what results when people let hate displace love in their hearts.

Whatever their reasons — whether it be disillusionment with the system or outright hatred of another class, race or ethnic group — such attacks only succeed in deepening the divisions that threaten to tear our union apart. Thankfully, the vile evildoers who commit these attacks are not representative of the vast majority of honest, law-abiding Americans.

Aside from the attackers themselves, the media is also grievously culpable.

Articles with blaring headlines such as “Angry White Men Are Fueling Racial Violence,” “Most Of America’s Terrorists Are White, And Not Muslim,” and “How the GOP Can Prove It Isn’t a Party for White Supremacists” do absolutely nothing to improve race relations in America. These writers — and others like them — should be taken to task by their colleagues and peers for irresponsible journalism.

Using a horrifying event, like the one that occurred in Charlottesville, to question why the president didn’t directly call out white supremacists for instigating the violence, is not reasonable. Authorities had not yet released information on the suspect when President Trump delivered his speech. The driver, Fields, would not be identified until several hours later. However, by then, the media had ignited a firestorm of criticism.

Even worse, politicians who seek to blame the president for the violence carried out in Charlottesville are actively pushing a dangerous narrative. Painting the president of the United States as a racist is one step removed from labeling all of his supporters racists, too.

Frankly, many of the individuals who are openly criticizing the president for what he didn’t say in his speech on Saturday were likely already biased toward him, meaning these individuals were going to find something to revile no matter what he said (see: “The Unpresidential Complex”). Instead, these individuals should re-examine what the president did say.

Here is the transcript of President Trump’s remarks:

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The president had earlier sent out a tweet strongly condemning “all that hate stands for,” calling on all Americans to “come together as one!”

Despite promoting a message of love and unity, Trump’s critics immediately pounced on what he omitted from his speech: any mention of white supremacy. In their minds, it didn’t matter that Trump had called for all people to respect and love each other. Unlike his predecessor, Trump was making a point not to cast judgment on a specific group before all of the facts surfaced. This, coupled with his “many sides” comment, was enough to send his critics howling.

This drove me to ask the question: what did Jesus Christ teach about hate?

Before and up to the first century, Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) did not associate with one another. The promise that was delivered through Abraham — “I will make of you a great nation” — was unique to Israel and the Jewish people. But when Christ came and died for all mankind, he broke down that “dividing wall of hostility.”

eph2-11-14Later in the book of Ephesians, the inspired apostle Paul implores Christians to “put away” all evil thoughts and attitudes, and instead be “kind to one another.”

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Paul’s words hearken back to one of the proverbs, in which King Solomon drew a contrast between love and hate.

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Others may choose to lash out at President Trump for not uttering the words that they felt were necessary in that moment, but in doing so are they ignoring the important message that he did send? In their anger and frustration at the actions of others, they may be missing a valuable opportunity to make application in their own lives.

Like others before him, Trump used his platform to denounce all forms of hate, encouraging mankind to love one another instead. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

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