When Hate Goes Viral

 

“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10 NRSV

I’d like to say I am surprised but I’m not.

On the days following Easter the members of Lincoln United Methodist Church and their pastors, Emma Lozano and Walter Coleman, in Chicago’s Pilsen community have faced the awful menace of hate. This hate has been in the form of the swastika symbol and the words “RAPE MEXICO” and “REAL POWER” painted on the glass of the church (written in all caps). Previously, the church has received threatening messages from people who dislike the church’s work on immigration and their attempts to keep immigrant families, documented and undocumented, together.

I’m not surprised that the church has experienced these messages of hate especially given the anti-immigrant, racist, and xenophobic rhetoric that fills the airwaves and our television screens each day. It is almost as if we wait with bated breath to see just how far the violent rhetoric and action will go. Even the words “tolerance” and “equality” have lost favor in some circles in what could be termed an anti- political correctness era. I too am troubled by the words tolerance and equality—but for completely different reasons. If someone merely tolerates another person then they are undiminished should that person cease to exist or in this case be detained or deported. Similarly, “equality” may recognize that we are all equals, or even that we are all created in God’s image, but “equity” means that we all have a share and calls for the deepest level of fundamental fairness that would lead us to remedy injustice and work toward transforming systems that lead to the oppression of persons and communities.

It has been nearly 15 years that the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church has been working for immigration reform through conference resolutions, legislative advocacy, prayer vigils, the creation of Northern Illinois Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON), and conferences. Churches like Adalberto, Lincoln, Amor de Dios, and other congregations have been at the forefront of the struggle.

Over ten years ago, I was part of a delegation with Pastor Walter Coleman, and the Reverend Oscar Carrasco as part of an ecumenical group that met with Congressman Henry Hyde’s staff to lend our support to a bi-partisan effort in Congress to bring long needed comprehensive immigration reform. We wanted to see people able to come out of the shadows and even more importantly we wanted to see families be able to stay together. We were following through on the conference’s resolution that passed the previous June. I recall Rev. Carrasco mentioning the fact that anti-immigrant groups were contacting their legislators and encouraging people of faith to search the scriptures and to contact their elected leaders as well. Christians may disagree on what constitutes good public policy but when we fail to see God in the face of another it may say more about our spiritual state than theirs.

I believed then, and I believe today that we, especially as Christians, must assert the dignity of every person and with fervor appeal to the conscience of all. We cannot sit idly by while our brothers and sisters are demonized, threatened, and attacked through violent words or violent actions. Nor can we promote violence ourselves. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, “Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all.”

It would be easy to give up because the battle is long or because the voices of hate speaks loudly, but let us not grow weary in doing good, and working for the good of ALL, in our faithfulness to one another and the God who promises us a bountiful harvest of righteousness, joy, and peace.

See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!

Galatians 6:11

 Pastor Chris