Today, the day after the acts of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia in which white nationalists staged a protest which turned very violent, my Sunday school class met, because it’s Sunday. It is a class of people mainly in there 60s and older (I am the one lone 31 year old). There are often over forty of us. Different people in the class take turns teaching (I teach once about every three months). We use the United Methodist Adult Bible Studies quarterly which follows the Uniform Series.
Today, the lesson title was “Called to Break Down Barriers.” The scripture was from Acts: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. At the beginning of the class a lady spoke up that we need to pray for what is going on in Virginia. The teacher did a good job providing background, and then the discussion of marginalized populations began. It eventually led to the discussion of Charlottesville.
Everyone agreed these sort of violent acts were wrong. Especially Klan, Nazi, and White Nationalist activities. Many of these people were growing up during World War II and were young adults raising kids during the Civil Rights movement. They know the things that occurred. The horrors and acts of evil which people faced and fought against.
They struggled with the fact that young people could be so filled with hate. They did regret the loss of history and historic monuments, they are southerners and this is still part of their heritage. However, they were honest that these are often become symbols and vessels of hate and violence and completely denounced any violence and hate. There was some comments on the #BlackLivesMatter protests needing not to be violent either — but they did acknowledge that it was not all the people in the movement who were violent, and that they had a right to protest. Still, there was struggle and discomfort. A desire to heritage preserved but a solemn acknowledgement that these are symbols of hate and oppression.
As we moved toward the end of class, one person shared that they had recently been approached by a white supremacist offering her literature, when she realized what it was she gave it back and adamantly assured the man that his not what she was about or believed. She then shared that she hoped we could all have the courage to stand up against this sort of hate.
These people are imperfect but want to understand and really do want to change. However, they need teachers, curricula, space, and time to discuss and explore appropriate responses. Can our churches, pastors, and leadership provide such space? This is my hope.