A Response to the Response to Charlottesville

By Matt Sapp

By Matt Sapp

Some events demand an immediate response. They demand swift and clear condemnation. They even demand our outrage. When white supremacists proudly march under Nazi banners and Confederate flags as they did in Charlottesville last weekend, that certainly qualifies as such an event.

After last Saturday, my social media feeds were filled with requests—demands even—from well-meaning Christians that pastors speak forcefully from their pulpits to condemn the actions of racists in Charlottesville, and many pastors courageously did just that last Sunday.

An immediate response was necessary. Our collective outrage was appropriate. But they are not enough.

There’s a quote currently making the rounds on the internet. It’s attributed as a Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” To those who are demanding a strong response to Charlottesville, remember that what you’re demanding is second-best.

The best time to stand firmly for justice, inclusion, love, peace, unity and equality is BEFORE the pot boils over—not after.

If you didn’t know how strongly I stand as a Christian minister against hatred, racism, prejudice and violence until AFTER Charlottesville, I’ve failed you as a pastor.

And if our community wasn’t aware that HERITAGE is a place for all people and that we stand specifically in opposition to discrimination, segregation, and white supremacy until AFTER Charlottesville, then we have failed our community as a church.

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The world deserves more than Christian outrage. The world deserves our proactive engagement week in and week out to make our communities look more like God’s kingdom.

So if well-meaning Christians have the right to demand outrage from their pulpits on Sunday mornings, then pastors have the right to demand action from their members on Monday morning.

Action to end workplace and employment discrimination. Actions to protect and enforce fair housing standards. Action to ensure that schools in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods receive the same level of funding that schools in affluent communities do--and that students in predominantly African-American and Latino communities receive the same high-quality educations that students in majority white communities do.

We have to be willing to hold our elected officials and corporate and civic leaders accountable to Christian standards of equality and decency regardless of party. And, when necessary, we have to be willing to toss aside long-held political allegiances to demonstrate that we are Christians first, Americans second, and partisan political loyalists last.

It’s not enough to condemn racism in response to the outrage of the week. We have to work against it—and all forms of prejudice—daily.

If we choose, we can live in a state of perpetually shocked outrage, responding with our hair on fire to every injustice, large and small. Or, we can get up each morning and do the hard work of racial reconciliation and actively support Christian standards of social justice with the prayerful hope that we will find no cause for outrage twenty years from now.

So be outraged. But move on quickly. Our outrage, while necessary, will by itself only serve to fan the flames of hatred, even giving some the cover to draw a false equivalency between our outrage and the hatred of those who sparked it.

Outrage must be paired with action. Not the Facebook kind of action. Not the courageous words from the pulpit kind of action. Not even the prayer vigil in the town square kind of action. But the Monday morning kind of action of the more than 200 million Christians in America.

You ought to expect to hear from your pastor on Sunday mornings about pressing issues that require strong moral leadership. But you should be more concerned with what your pastor and your fellow church members do on Monday and Tuesday.

See you Sunday.

What will you do on Monday?