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Body Politics

A Roundup Of Statements Of American Religious Leaders On Charlottesville

The violence that left one dead and 19 injured at a rally organized by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia – home of the University of Virginia – this past weekend was a shock that has roused the nation and set off an ongoing controversy over the response of President Donald Trump and state and local officials.  The following is a roundup of statements by various American religious groups in the aftermath of the events in Charlottesville.

The Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia

The Department of Religious Studies denounces the violence and terror perpetrated by the gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA on August 11th and 12th, 2017. As a faculty, we are particularly horrified that our University Grounds were used to promote this agenda and that students, who were exercising their constitutionally protected right to protest, were physically attacked a short distance from their dormitories.

The Department of Religious Studies rejects the white supremacist ideology of intolerance and its practice of hateful speech, as well as the violence it engenders. We stand in solidarity with the victims of these events and with those who courageously resisted the hate groups and their virulent messages; we stand with the community of Charlottesville and with all those at whom hate continues to be directed. We cherish the diversity of our student body and commit ourselves to supporting students who are targeted by hate groups. We promise to be available to students who seek support from us, even as we actively develop new initiatives to support them.

As a department, we advocate for no single religious faith or political point of view. Our faculty comprises scholars who practice different religions or no religion at all. Our professors, all of whom serve the Commonwealth of Virginia, hold a range of political views. Those who are American citizens vote their consciences individually in elections, for a wide array of political parties. Amid this political and national diversity, we stand united in our unanimous and unequivocal condemnation of those who promote hate, by way of violent speech and action—the white supremacists, the neo-Nazis, the neo-Fascists, the anti-Semites. And we regard this condemnation as the expression of a simple, moral truth rather than a political statement.

We must not hesitate to name and condemn the intimidation, terror, and violence that convulsed and profaned our city and university this weekend. We consider the groups who organized and participated in the “Unite the Right” rally to be hate groups. We do not take their views to represent a legitimate, alternative political perspective: they are dangerous, and they perpetuate what is universally condemned by all the world’s religions and ethical systems. We feel morally compelled to call out those who afflicted our community with their night-time mob on the University’s Grounds and with their violence on our city’s streets the following day. Burning torches, aggressive chanting, and racist, homophobic, and antisemitic slogans echo the symbolism, and messages, of Nazi-era Germany and of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. This is not a time for equivocation. We stand firmly and explicitly against the views and actions of those espousing hate, terror, and violence in Charlottesville over this past weekend, and any other day…

Christian Ethicists Without Borders

As followers of Jesus Christ and as Christian ethicists representing a range of denominations and schools of thought, we stand in resolute agreement in firmly condemning racist, anti-Semitic,and anti-Muslim,  neo-Nazi ideology as a sin against God that divides the human family created in God’s image.

In January of 2017, white nationalist groups emboldened by the 2016 election planned an armed march against the Jews of Whitefish, Montana. On August 11th and 12th, hundreds of armed neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. As we mourn the deaths of 32-year old counter-protester Heather Heyer and state troopers H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates from this most recent incident, we unequivocally denounce racist speech and actions against people of any race, religion, or national origin.

White supremacy and racism deny the dignity of each human being revealed through the Incarnation. The evil of white supremacy and racism must be brought face-to-face before the figure of Jesus Christ, who cannot be confined to any one culture or nationality. Through faith we proclaim that God the Creator is the origin of all human persons. In the words of Frederick Douglass, “Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference…

The Commission of Religious Leaders (Statement by Monsignor Kevin Sullivan)

While words are never enough but at least some need to be said to make certain that the actions, attitudes and speech such as those in Charlottesville are rejected as beyond the pale of human decency.  Last Sunday in my hominy I spoke to this point: there is no room for racism, hatred and supremacy in our Christian faith. I provide a link to the statement of the Commission of Religious Leaders of which I am a member. We need to commit ourselves over long term to those words and actions of reconciliation and solidarity that are a necessary antidote to hate and violence.

The Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis

With deep sorrow in our hearts, the Cabinet of Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis, comprised of the leaders of twenty-eight religious communities, expresses prayers of condolence and solidarity to the family members and people of Charlottesville, Virginia, directly affected by the recent horrific events that resulted in loss of life and significant physical injury.

We are deeply grieved by the violent conflict that has occurred. We are outraged at the demonstration of racial and religious hatred expressed by white nationalist, Neo-Nazi, and Ku Klux Klan groups. As people of faith and citizens of this great nation, we condemn this act of domestic terrorism, bigotry, racism and senseless violence. We stand firm in our conviction that hate-filled rhetoric and actions have no place in our society and must be met with the best of our moral and ethical ideals and values.

As leaders of Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis, we remain committed to our work for the common good. We will continue to pursue partnerships with people of good will in order to bring to greater light the best of the human spirit. We pray for racial equality and broad acceptance of religious pluralism. We call on all members of our St. Louis religious communities and our elected officials to join us in rejecting hatred as violating the very principles of each of our religions…

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

It has been called to our attention that there are some among the various pro-white and white supremacy communities who assert that the Church is neutral toward or in support of their views. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the New Testament, Jesus said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39). The Book of Mormon teaches “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).

White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a “white culture” or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church…

US Catholic Bishops

As we learn more about the horrible events of yesterday, our prayer turns today, on the Lord’s Day, to the people of Charlottesville who offered a counter example to the hate marching in the streets. Let us unite ourselves in the spirit of hope offered by the clergy, people of faith, and all people of good will who peacefully defended their city and country.

We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-nazism. We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love’s victory over every form of evil is assured.  At Mass, let us offer a special prayer of gratitude for the brave souls who sought to protect us from the violent ideology displayed yesterday. Let us especially remember those who lost their lives.  Let us join their witness and stand against every form of oppression…

Yale Divinity School Dean Greg Sterling

I am writing from South Africa, where I have just learned of the events in Charlottesville, Va. It is hard to think that the same racism that produced apartheid lives in America, but it clearly does. It is harder yet to think that it is defended by some who claim to be Christians.

Do we believe that Jesus Christ died for all? Do we believe that the distinctions we make among ourselves are irrelevant in the eyes of God? Do we believe in the ethic of love rather than hatred? We cannot believe in these fundamental principles—we cannot believe the core principles of the gospel—while either directly or indirectly supporting racism.

It is past time for all ministers and religious leaders to denounce acts of hatred that are rationalized through religion. It is past time for all ministers and religious leaders to raise our voices against racism and the violence it promotes. It is past time to be silent while immoral individuals hijack Christianity (or another religion) to advance a cause antithetical to it…

The Presbyterian Church USA

In the aftermath of the events of August 11 and 12 in Charlottesville, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) reaffirms its condemnation of white supremacy and racism, names them as sin, and renews its commitment to disrupting them and working for justice and equity.

We give thanks for the presence and faithful witness of church members who stand against white supremacy and racism. Individually and collectively the church, including Presbyterians, stood against hate in Charlottesville. Individually and collectively the church, including Presbyterians, works to disrupt racism and to build racial equity in places across the country. We grieve for Heather Heyer, who was killed while standing witness; we grieve for state police officers H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, who died in a helicopter crash while monitoring events in Charlottesville; we pray for the recovery of all who were injured.

We acknowledge that Scripture has been misused to justify white supremacy and racism. However, we proclaim that the Bible’s message presents a far more consistent and insistent witness to God’s love for diversity and justice. This may be observed in God’s delight in the varied creation; heard in the words of prophets who reject oppression and commend justice as true worship; seen in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, who values all persons regardless of any aspect of their identity; and experienced through the work of the Holy Spirit, who consistently blows through all the divisions we create, to reveal God’s love for all humanity.

White supremacy and racism stand in stark, irreconcilable contradiction to God’s intention for humanity. They reject part of the human family and are utterly contrary to God’s Word made incarnate in Jesus. They are idolatries that elevate human-created hierarchies over God’s freely given grace and love. They are lies about the human family, for they seek to say that some people are less than other people. They are lies about God because they falsely claim that God favors some people over the entirety of creation…

Articles summarizing the reactions of various religious leaders, including those from the Evangelical churches can be found also in The Atlantic, Christianity TodayReligion News Serviceand the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

-Carl Raschke

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