A Response to Violence in Charlottesville

A UCC pastor's response to the violence in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend. Thank you, Reverend Tara Wilkins.

"Dear CWC Members and Friends,

The heinous acts of violence over the weekend reveal a sickness that lurks in our society. The disease is active, not extinct. It impacts more than half of our population, and yet, it continues like an unchecked pathogen. 
The world watched the horror unfold in real time in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. It wasn't a movie or lesson in history, it was the contemporary implementation of intentional terrorism meant to employ fear and chaos. I hesitate (in this letter) to use words like white supremacy, neo-Nazi, KKK etc., for fear that their mention is reducing them to jargon that we easily can distance ourselves from.

We mustn't pull away from the atrocity, we step forward so that we can learn and understand just exactly what happened, so we will no longer continue to be complicit in creating the environment where this disease can be incubated.

What can we do to make it be different? First, we have to ask ourselves different questions. When we know that we live in a white dominant society, why haven't we made more progress in systemic change? The question may not be why don't we change, the question more appropriately is who benefits if we don't change? The question isn't why does the KKK still exist? It is rather, what conditions exist that make their sort of belief system thrive and grow? The question isn't what can we do for the people in Charlottesville? The question is how are we going to change the culture of Oregon, Washington and Idaho?

Before we can change our society, we have to change our thinking. Changing our thinking is hard work. I've started down that path and now I know why it took me so long to begin to get it. This is painful. But as religious leaders and people of faith, we must be engaged at a different level, for different reasons, because if not us, who?

Tonight, I want lift up our Jewish siblings. We recognize, to whatever degree we can, what it must have been like to watch these men actively engage in terror. We imagine how traumatic this might feel for you and your members. I cannot think of a word strong enough to capture the pain of the annihilation of your families. We hold you in prayer and peace and love. Know that you are not alone, we are with you.

Tonight, I want to lift up our black and brown siblings. What you have had to endure at the hands of the dominant culture is inexcusable. The daily barrage of disrespect and emotional violence, let alone physical and spiritual lynching, is unacceptable and we all must do more to change that reality. We hold you in prayer and peace and love. Know that you are not alone, we are with you.

Tonight, I want to also lift up our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, non-binary, gender queer, and gender nonconforming siblings. We know that the pervasive everyday attacks on our community wound us in ways that are hard to articulate. The battle cry this weekend that called for our death is terrifying. It is difficult to be born into a society where you are ostracized for living into who God created us to be. We hold you in prayer and peace and love. Know that you are not alone, we are with you.

There is more to be done and more to come. But for tonight, let's light a candle of peace, let's agree to ask different questions and to begin to change our thinking. And let's create community wherever we can. Because we are all in this together.

With a heavy heart,
In peace,
Rev. Tara"