Facing the Unthinkable – A Pastoral Letter from the Executive Minister of the Evergreen Baptist Association
I have spent the last 4 days trying to write something about the white terrorism act of sedition that was an attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government in the United States. At first, I wrote about how these 4 years have shown us that even white Americans can be radicalized, regardless of how smart and too rational to be radicalized we might think we are.
Then I wrote about how a radicalized minority could turn a country upside down. I mentioned the Iranian revolution, how Lebanon devolved into sectarian war, and how Yugoslavia was destroyed. I skipped Germany because of how easy it is for many to say they are not Nazis. I also wrote about how nearly all of the first attempts in these countries failed and the way the countries reacted helped the second attempts be successful.
Still unhappy, I wrote about how our prejudices have made it easier for many of us to believe the President’s lies about electoral fraud. How he and his enablers brilliantly kept their concerns and accusations exclusively to urban areas. Highlighting how they skillfully avoided talking about all the suburbs they lost decisively. Using our own racism to make their claims more believable has been a brilliant strategy. Sadly many white people are more likely to believe there was fraud committed in places they already think are riddled with criminal activity. Which would have not been the case if the suburbs had been part of the accusation as “we live there” and there is no way WE could have committed large scale election fraud.
Still, pages after pages, I was unhappy about what I had written. I think my dissatisfaction came from being unable to write a hopeful message that does not sound like the usual bashing of racism that tends to turn away the very people who need to hear the message most. But why should our public messages always attempt to avoid offending people who should, but cannot face, the unthinkable thought that they might be bad too?
We cannot escape the fact that racism has been an integral part of the radicalization process Trump and his principal racist, Stephen Miller, have craftily carried out. To which they have added Cold War fears to alienate their followers from the only people they would have listened to, other whites. Those two together have put our democracy in very real peril.
In the world they have created, only whites who are their type of conservative and are willing to follow Trump even against their own interests and never question him are real patriots. Anyone else is either a traitor who demands equal rights from a country that has been more than generous and given them too much. Or a white traitor who is a socialist communist.
Trump successfully radicalized thousands into an all or nothing world where winning means exclusively getting what Trump wants and losing is going against his will. He was also able to make millions believe that the only way whites will not be trampled and abused is to keep him in power. Millions voted in fear of losing their privileges, knowing and unknowingly. Many unknowingly because they cannot face the fact that their actions do support a “benevolent” white supremacy. So instead, they convinced themselves they voted against unfair and illegal immigration, against our suburbs being taken over by housing projects, against socialism giving their hard-earned money freely to poor people who are poor because they are too lazy to work.
But that might just be my anger speaking. So, I own these thoughts and comments aware that we do not all see the world in the same way. But I needed to tell you all that to tell you the following.
What we have seen these past four years is that hate gave its best shot to rule our country and it wasn’t enough. (Proverbs 10:12)
They thought taking the US Capitol would surely intimidate Congress into illegally installing Trump as the next President. It did not.
They thought taking our country’s seat of Government would free millions of American whites to join the revolution and shout for the installation the one white leader who will keep us in charge. It did not.
They thought appointing underserving and unqualified judges would guarantee their full loyalty. It did not. They thought an ambitious and enabling sycophant would ignore the Constitution and go beyond his authority to ignore the will of the people and states and install a dictator. He did not.
Hate gave its best shot while in power for four too long years but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough because hate is not life giving. Hate only destroys and once it’s done destroying something it needs to find something else to destroy.
Hate is still strong in our Country; it always has been. However, when people in key places saw that their choice was either to destroy all for one man or to preserve that which they love, they chose the latter. Some did it for love of self. Others did it for love of country and Constitution. It does not seem like anyone stopped this out of hate. Conservative leaders in GA, AZ, NV, PA and more were clear they supported and voted for Trump. But their love of country and the resulting respect for its laws kept them from installing a dictator who does not care for either (1 John 4:18).
Love stopped the most serious threat to democracy our country has faced in its entire history. It did so while disorganized, always a step behind, and out of official power.
Where do we go from here?
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
We must love in the hardest way possible. We must love those who are convinced we are weak, traitors to our own race. We must love those who think we are communist socialists who want to give it all away to lazy people. We must love those whose fear of no longer being on top shows up as anger. We must love.
But this is no adolescent misunderstanding of love that is so weak rejection ends it.
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:1).
This is an in-your-face type of love. One that stands firm when evil comes. A love that is unshakable in its no to evil, facing the worst hate can send it. This love takes strength because when hating evil, one must hold fast to what is good, lest one become what is being opposed.
We now face as tough a call as we have ever had. We must rebuild for all while the lines have been drawn. We must come together when many think we are at war and only the destruction of the other will ensure their safety. We must hate what is evil and fight hard, while never ever allowing hate to guide us.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all” (Romans 12:14-17).
Then, when the struggle is at its worst remember to,
“never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ’Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).
We have a fight ahead of us that will challenge us on many fronts. The immediate future remains dark and the forces of hate are strong. Nonetheless, always remember that a disorganized and unprepared love stopped the best hate could throw at it. Imagine how much better the love of God poured into the world in an organized way could do!
Let us do love this time.
Repeat as necessary.
Rev. Douglas Avilesbernal