White supremacists present the greatest terror threat to the United States. According to Politico, they are listed in a draft report from the Department of Homeland Security, above the immediate danger from foreign terrorist groups. We need to be standing together against terror.
On Saturday, December 12, a group of people identified as Proud Boys marched in Washington, DC, with a Black Lives Matter banner held above their heads, Then they cheered as it was set on fire. The banner was taken from Asbury United Methodist Church, one of the oldest Black churches in DC.
The Rev. Ianther M. Mills, the church’s senior pastor, said in a statement reported in The Washington Post: “It pained me especially to see our name, Asbury, in flames. For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings.”
Worship, liberate, serve
Another group of vandals tore down a Black Lives Matter sign from in front of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in DC. The group chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!” as they destroyed the sign in front of the church. And what was the response of the pastor, William H. Lamar IV? “We have not been distracted by signs, sounds, or fury for nearly two centuries. We worship. We liberate. We serve.”
An attack on a church is horrible at any time of the year, but it is especially heinous within two weeks of Christmas. People of peace and good will, whether Christian or not, need to be standing together against terror.
“D.C.’s faith-based organizations are at the very heart of our community, giving us hope in the face of darkness,” tweeted Muriel Bowser, the mayor of DC. “They embody our DC values of love and inclusivity. An attack on them is an attack on all of us.”
Whatever our background, we can stand up against hate and terror. Together, we can defend those who want to be free to worship, liberate and serve. When we see white supremacists attacking Black churches, we have to say, “No. We are better than this.” We need to take a stand.
A united community
In my novel City of Peace, an act of hate is directed toward an Iraqi Muslim family in Occoquan, Virginia. The front window of their bakery is smashed by a rock, and a member of the family goes to pastor Harley Camden for help. He encourages them to call the police, and then thinks about how he and his Methodist congregation should respond.
Standing before the congregation, Harley reads a scripture verse from First Corinthians. Then he admits that it is not the passage printed in the bulletin. “I changed my scripture and sermon because of what happened this morning at the bakery. As some of you may have heard, our neighbors were attacked once again. The Bayatis had a rock thrown through their window.” A murmur goes through the congregation, and Harley sees looks of concern.
“I have chosen First Corinthians,” he continus, “because we are a congregation with ‘varieties of gifts.’ Some of you are teachers, some are doctors, some are builders, some are analysts, some are caregivers, some are civil servants. There is virtually no challenge in our community that we cannot tackle and overcome, as a group. But I am afraid that we sometimes forget this, or at least I do. We try to face problems as individuals, forgetting that our skills and our strengths are seen most clearly in a united community.”
“Terrorism is a manifestation of evil,” Harley says. “It is an act that clearly shows the reality of hatred in the world. I have seen it and felt it. I know it. But fortunately for us, there are gifts available to us that are manifestations of the Spirit, gifts that advance the common good. I have found that when we work together as one community, using the full variety of our gifts, we act in ways that show the reality of God’s love to the world, a love that drives out darkness, a love that undermines hatred, a love that actually conquers evil.”
Harley gets an “amen” and a ripple of nervous laughter. Most are not accustomed to call-and-response preaching in their orderly suburban church.
“So here is what I challenge us to do today. After worship, let’s walk as a group to the Riverview Bakery. Let’s walk as one body, as the Body of Christ, as the physical presence of our Lord in the world today. Let’s line up and support this business as a manifestation of the Spirit, as an act that shows the reality of our love.” And so they do.
We have tremendous power as a united community. What should we be doing to stand together against terror, in these days before Christmas and throughout the year? Join the conversation through a comment below.