How ‘United By Love’ Trumps ‘Unite The Right’
By Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
On August 12, there will be several events worth noting across our nation’s capital.
One is a Unite the Right 2 rally, organized by white supremacists on the anniversary of the deadly events in Charlottesville, the violence of which resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, who was protesting the event. When refused a permit to hold the rally again in Charlottesville, they moved their racism rally to a park across from the White House in Washington D.C., whose current occupant, to his shame, refused to unequivocally condemn last year’s actions.
While that event will attract the majority of the attention, it is not the only event happening in DC, and certainly not the most worthy of the nation’s focus.
Another gathering calling itself United By Love will take place just a mile away in the shadow of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial where two Christian churches will meet for a prayer walk and communion in a faithful protest of the racist rally down the street. Nineteenth Street Baptist Church—a historically Black church—and First Baptist Church of the City of Washington D.C.,—a historically White church—will join together for a public event under the banner of New Baptist Covenant, an organization convened by President Jimmy Carter to advance racial justice in and through the Baptist church.
The pastors of the two churches both feel called to stand up and speak out in this moment. The Rev. Dr. Darryl Roberts, Senior Pastor, Nineteenth Street Baptist Church explains,
In dangerous times like these, all who ‘act justly, and love mercy and walk humbly with our God,’ must speak truth to power for the purpose of providing strength to the weak and protection to the vulnerable. We are are living in dark period in our nation’s history. The sickness of racial hatred that has laid dormant in the margins of American society for the last fifty or so years has once again infected the centers of power with impunity.”
Dr. Robert’s colleague, Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell, agrees and believes that the historically White Christian church that she represents has a special responsibility:
In the fight against racism and white supremacy, White Christians have a special obligation to act as unambiguous allies. To acknowledge our privilege. To challenge our own prejudice. To educate ourselves about the experiences of Black and brown sisters and brothers, preferably in personal relationships with them. And to act—humbly receiving our cues from those who know what it means to resist injustice on a daily basis.”
Both Roberts and Pennington-Russell turn to the mandate within their Christian tradition to love. But this is not an easy or fragile love, but a love that has weight and consequence. It is a faithful love, inspired by their religious beliefs and the wisdom of America’s great prophet, Dr. King, to whom Pennington-Russell turns for inspiration,
This week the words of Dr. King have been pulsing in my heart: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ Also, Jesus’ seemingly impossible words about loving our enemies. Trying to out-shout white supremacists heals nothing. But we can love. This Sunday we are coming together to bear witness to the power of love. And with the Spirit’s help we may even find within ourselves the strength to love and to pray for those who are saying and doing appalling things, even as we resist that spirit of hate with all the moral courage we possess.”
Rev Roberts agrees, “As we gather together for prayer and communion, we are reaffirming our commitment to love unconditionally, welcome all people and work to root out the cancer of racism that betrays our faith and country’s highest principles.”
United by Love will gather this Sunday, August 12, at 2:00 pm at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial 1964 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20024.
All are welcome.