From the time I was ten until the present moment I’ve had a little sister. I’m sure she prefers the term “younger” and not “little” at this stage in life. My sister was born into poverty in Seoul, South Korea. At some point, her birth mother could no longer care for her. Consequently, my sister was left on the steps of an orphanage and when she was nine months old she was lovingly and excitedly welcomed into our family in the small county seat town of Walnut Ridge in Lawrence County. I must say that in appearance she did not look like the majority of the people in Lawrence County. However, it didn’t take long for her to begin saying words with a long southern drawl. She grew up adopting the important values of that area of faith, family, and friends. While in almost every respect, she was like those around her in speech and values, she still faced judgment because of her appearance. I know that she still faces this reality from time to time, though she doesn’t necessarily talk about it. When I think about someone I love and care about being discriminated against I get a sick feeling in my stomach.
The events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, August 12 give me that same sick feeling. How in the world a large group of people can believe that their ancestry and the color of their skin makes them superior to others is beyond me. And when a group of people attempts to justify racism with scripture and the Christian faith, it is well beyond the “beyond me” category. It breaks my heart all the more.
As much as my heart breaks over the tragic violence of Charlottesville, God’s heart breaks even more. He is the one who creates all people with beauty, uniqueness, and sacredness. He made every tribe, every tongue, and every nation. It was his idea to do so. And guess what? God doesn’t have any bad ideas. In fact, when John is given a vision of worship in heaven he reports, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). God’s desire is that all people will experience the joy of a relationship with him. There is no hierarchy in God’s family.
The tragedy of Charlottesville reinforces the importance of God’s people raising their prophetic voices against such evil. Recently, I’ve been reading Eugene Peterson’s book, Run with the Horses. It is a book based on the reluctant prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah didn’t think he was adequate to be a prophet for God but God gave him words to speak, as well as actions, to make known God’s heart and desire. Peterson writes this about prophets, “A prophet lets people know who God is and what he is like, what he says and what he is doing. A prophet wakes us up from our sleepy complacency so that we see the great and stunning drama that is our existence…” (49). The true prophetic voice of the Church is needed to proclaim God’s love for all people and to denounce anything that is contrary to God’s love. The Church must not go to sleep on this, nor let the rest of the world go to sleep on this.
In the United Methodist Church the first baptismal vows ask about our intentionality of living with a prophetic voice in our speech and action. Take a moment to ponder these questions:
- Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sins?
- Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
- Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races? (United Methodist Hymnal 34).
If we answer these questions by saying, “I do” we are committing to be a prophetic voice for God in a world that is all too often complacent about racism and hatred that breeds violence like the tragedy of Charlottesville, Virginia. May God’s people not be complicit through silence. God’s love is for ALL people.
-Dr. Steve Pulliam
Central’s Executive Pastor
Peterson, Eugene. Run With the Horses. 1983. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press,
The United Methodist Hymnal. 1989. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House,