As I watched the horrific events unfold in Charlottesville over the weekend, I found myself overwhelmed with both anger and heartbreak. Perhaps most painful was the uncomfortable realization that Charlottesville is far from unique in its susceptibility to this kind of violence: hate-fueled outbursts can and have occurred throughout history in communities across our country.
The true purpose of the White Nationalists’ demonstration and the violence that ensued are so completely contrary to how I was raised and so directly antithetical to everything I hold true and strive to live by. The hate that fueled the actions of the individuals involved in this senseless violence runs completely counter to both my faith and the principles on which our country was founded.
At Catholic Charities, our mission, vision and values position us in direct opposition to this kind of hatred. Here we recognize and cherish the Divine within all. We envision a society where each person can both recognize and achieve their God-given potential. Our mission and vision are fueled by our values to love, to serve, to teach, and to work for justice.
Love is innate, and hatred is learned. The White Supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, and others individuals and organizations like them espouse and promulgate hate. They are, in the most simple and direct terms, evil. We must stand up to them, reject them, and call them to task for their actions. We can do this by more fully and intentionally living our values.
Fr. James Martin, SJ offered a beautiful reflection in response to this weekend’s events. He said, in part:
“How many white supremacists who were in Charlottesville consider themselves Christian? Probably most of them. But ‘supremacy’ is the precise opposite of Jesus’s message.
In the Gospels, Jesus asks us to love one another, to place others’ needs before our own, even to die for one another. The idea of ‘supremacy’ is absurd to Jesus.
Indeed, Jesus tells us explicitly that we are never to ‘lord’ power over others, and that we are to be one another’s ‘servants’ (Mk. 10: 42-43
The idea that anyone is ‘less than’ because of his or her race is likewise antithetical to Jesus’s message. For example, in his day the Samaritans were avoided, despised and even shunned by the majority of the Jewish people.
Yet Jesus not only speaks to a Samaritan woman, and reveals his divinity to her; but he makes the hero of one of his most well-known parables the ‘Good Samaritan’ (Jn 4; Lk 10).
He even encounters a Roman centurion, someone completely outside of his religion, speaks with him, heals his servant, and praises his faith (Mt 8:5-13).
So for Jesus, there is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ No one should be made by the community into an ‘other,’ as white supremacists do to non-whites. There is only us.
More basically, racism goes against everything that Jesus taught. It promotes hatred, not love; anger not compassion; vengeance not mercy. It is a sin.
So ‘Christian white supremacist’ is an oxymoron. Every time you shout ‘White Power!’ you might as well be shouting ‘Crucify him!’
And any time you lift your hand in a Nazi salute, you might as well be lifting your hand to nail Jesus to the Cross.
And lest you miss the point, your Savior is Jewish.”
I am so grateful, honored, and humbled to be part of the Catholic Charities family. We can continue to create a more loving and just society through every encounter we have with every person, every day. May the consistency of our positive example and the outspoken nature of our movement become a living testament to the kind of world we hope to create. In the face of evil, we must always challenge ourselves to be more courageous in standing up for justice and against hatred and bigotry.
William J. McCarthy, Jr.