Healing or Hate? What Does the Local Church Sow and Water?
I am a supporting member of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, and, by purpose, “dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.” The organization, headed by a Baptist lawyer, first focused on racism, and challenged hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazis, and White Nationalist chapters. (Virginia is 11th as a state in regard to numbers of active hate groups; California, Florida, and Texas lead the numbers, with New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania not far behind).
One of the challenges of the local church has been that it often has been a quiet or vocal supporter of prejudice and hatred in the process of declaring its belief and faith. Jesus Christ himself had to struggle sometimes with believers and followers who maintained their staunch bias against any revelation that contradicted their learned prejudgments about individuals and groups of people. The local church has at times adopted the preconceptions of its surrounding society and resisted the opportunity to heal and mend the brokenness of human rejection and preferential treatment. Jesus didn’t seem to have trouble holding to the ideals of faith and embracing the devalued, the marginalized, and those judged inferior.
What we teach our children at home and in the church by our example, and our words, make us either the conveyors of God’s love ad healing, or instruments of hatred and rejection. May the home and the church take the lead in challenging dehumanizing prejudices!