A Statement from the Acting Dean on the Violence in Charlottesville, Virginia

August 13, 2017

The following is from The Right Revered Clifton Daniel III, Acting Dean, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City.

The violence in Charlottesville, Virginia during white nationalist/“Unite the Right” rallies over this past weekend is beyond distressing and disturbing. Such hate-driven violence has no legitimate place in our life as a nation and stands in stark opposition to the Gospel we proclaim and to our values as a nation. The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers and to stand up to injustice and oppression. The right to peaceful assembly and protest is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution; the right to commit violence against those who disagree with us is not.

The message of hatred and exclusion such as we have seen expressed and acted out in Charlottesville since Friday night is contrary to the Gospel we proclaim. The message of hatred proclaimed by right wing groups points to an ugly streak of hatred that lives in the soul of this country. I am saddened beyond words that the sin of hate-driven violence persists in our national life.

As a Christian and as an American I am ashamed to see Nazi salutes and slogans used and anti-Semitic chants voiced at the white nationalist rallies. In the video clips of the rallies shown in the media, most of those participating appear to be young white males carrying torches in a style reminiscent of Ku Klux Klan gatherings in this nation in the last century in this country and Nazi rallies in Germany in the 1930s. Amid these demonstrations of racial hatred other forms of oppression are referenced and acted out and raise their ugly heads: patriarchy, white privilege and “Jim Crow.”

I pray that in the face of such hatred and violence our commitment as Christians to eradicate all forms of prejudice that cripple and damage human life grows more fierce. I pray that our witness and work toward the eradication of racism, prejudice, oppression of LGBT persons, religious persecution and sexism grows bolder.

It is time for our President to stand up and as our nation’s leader clearly and definitively proclaim his opposition to and condemnation of violence and all expressions of hatred. I am disappointed that the President has not stood up and been clear in his support for an end to racism and all forms of prejudice in terms at least as clear and strong as his threat of “fire and fury” to the North Korean leader.

To remain silent in the face of oppression and violence is to condone and further fear, hatred and violence. In the love of Jesus, we are all part of one another. One thing our baptism means is that we can never truly escape our bonds to one another established in our baptism, either in this life or the resurrected life in God’s kingdom. Over four hundred years ago the Dean of another great Cathedral (John Donne, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, 1624) proclaimed in a poem entitled “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “No man is an island, entire of itself … [we are all] a piece of the continent, a part of the main … Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” Either we wake up to Jesus’s call to love one another and claim our strength by acknowledging that in baptism we are entrusted to one another; or else we deny Gospel truth and our nation’s ideals.

On this day, let us proclaim and let us rededicate ourselves to ministering in this nation as healers, peacemakers, justice seekers and reconcilers in Jesus’s name. Let us commit ourselves to our Baptismal calling by displaying boldness in our efforts to live in peace with our neighbors; by working to enact justice for all people; by boldly striving to protect the dignity of every person. Let us join hands with all our brothers and sisters in proclaiming that what makes us one in the love of Jesus is greater than anything that might divide us.

Prayer: O God, through the gift of baptism you have grafted our lives into your life. Grant that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart that barriers which divide us may crumble and suspicions disappear and hatreds cease. And grant that, our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.