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  • Writer's pictureRev. Christopher Tweel

To whom do you belong?

In the wake of the vile and disgusting display of hate by Alt-Right Neo-Nazi and KKK groups in Charlottesville, this question seems to take center stage.

There are other reports and blogs of first hand accounts, and I could give you mine. I was there handing out water, running to intervene in attacks made by the Neo-Nazis, being called names and spit on, watching as KKK members with hoods and "Make America Great Again" ball caps, pulled a handgun on people 10 feet from the church that was our home base and safe space. There are other more eloquent and braver people that me who can tell that story better. I've preached on it already and I went to do small work. To help hand out water, and pray, and offer hospitality to the folks that I saw as doing the real work and fighting against injustice. We sang in the streets together, and we rallied along-side those who were bloodied and broken by an invading army of hate. I was a small part of 1,000 clergy people who rallied around other folks making peace and reconciliation their focus. Don't believe what you read. I saw Antifa in the streets, and I saw the KKK and Nazi groups. The latter were girded for battle and armed with handguns and assault rifles and metal poles used as flagstaff meant to be weapons. They had helmets and full riot shields and batons; their clear goal and intent was battle. The counter-protesters had the odd shield, but were forced to improvise on the fly as they were sought out by the hate groups for attack. I don't have the eloquence to accurately represent what went on.

In the aftermath I can ask this question. As I read and hear "Sons of the Confederacy" come out and say, rightly, that they do not endorse violence. Great. But what they do endorse is a silence on the injustice and odious hate that the confederate states and their generals represented as a way of not "drawing the attention" of hate groups like the KKK. Six of one, half dozen of another. Silence is just as bad as active injustice. In Richmond's forums you got a taste of what hidden racism sounds like. You heard people calling the generals of the confederacy, who I refuse to even name here, were "heroes" and needed to be revered for their part in history. That is a lie and a disgusting ideal of the first order. It's nothing but a veneer of gentility covering hate and anger and a festering sin that ever disciple of Jesus Christ should be working to drive out and destroy. Saying that the city brought this on itself is ludicrous. There are not many sides to this issue. There are only varying levels of people who are on the side of hate and sin, who argue for the memorials and their "right" to believe in the confederate mandate, and the people who are righteous and good. That's it.

Let's ignore for the moment the obvious arguments that are rooted in trying to pull apart a mentality that is obsessed with the loosing side of a war fought over a hundred years ago, of which they no longer understand the historical context, which was one of slavery. We can continue to ask the questions, "What kind of sick mind would align themselves with the symbols of a fallen government that rose and stood for the rights of states to own people?" Chattel slavery was backed by the southern theology that God had made the African race as inherently inferior and that it was in fat the God given command of every white person to own the "Negro" for their own good.

Jefferson Davis’ two volume book, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, was published in 1881, here it is from the horses mouth just some of his thoughts on the African slaves: "...these negro soldiers were gathered from the torrid plains and malarial swamps of inhospitable Africa. Generally they were born the slaves of barbarian masters, untaught in all the useful arts and occupations, reared in heathen darkness, they were transferred to shores enlightened by the rays of Christianity." That's what the flags represent. Not heritage, unless you mean the bigoted heritage that has no place in American society and the beliefs of someone who now sounds like a racist lunatic. Let's set all of that aside.

Instead, from the mouths of their own, from General Lee and Davis, we can hear their wisdom in saying that there should be no monuments. In their own words they knew that monuments would continue to incite revolt against a nation that had defeated them. They knew that they had to join the union wholly or risk being constantly torn apart by skirmishes. They lost. They knew it. Lee even called the VA battle flag's use after the war treasonous. No confederate uniforms were allowed to be worn at his funeral at his order. Even Davis, the failed president of the confederacy, specifically called for the flags to be "folded up and used no more" after the war.

When the people you are fighting to have statues about, and are waving flags to honor, specifically said "Do not put up statues and stop waving the flags around" and you are still doing it? You have to analyze why you are doing it. Not to honor the fallen, because they wanted no part of your actions and saw them as seditious and treasonous to the United States. So it must be another reason.

It must be to protect a racist way of life. It must be to guard your hate. It must be to mask your senseless fear and create and feeling of legitimacy for your petty and gross natures.

To whom do you belong? America? Or some other state? Christians, do you belong to God? Or to a failed ideology of hate? There can be no middle path. These questions have to be asked and answered because the illegitimate mindset that defends the flags and the statues on Monument Avenue are responsible for birthing children of hate that killed people and broke lives and bones this past weekend in Charlottesville. And we are all responsible for keeping silence about the enormous undertones of racism that lurk beneath the surface of our micro-aggressions, and for not fully resonating with the privileged that our whiteness, or passing for white, has earned us in this life. For every uncaring boot-straps comment, or turned nose at the other or the alien. We are responsible for the outcome of Charlottesville. And we can do better.

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