“With malice toward none, with charity for all...,” so President Lincoln wrote in his Second Inaugural Address, in 1865, with the devastating American Civil War not yet formally concluded. Mr. Lincoln’s ringing words fit with the commitment of Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as their leadership is properly, but too narrowly understood — a fundamental commitment to not making any person into an enemy. But the Mahatma and the Rev. Dr. King would have never stopped with the partial quotation, above, that we know so well; they would have also have gone on to say, with President Lincoln, “...with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right...”
That is, at this moment we are clear that hatred of and violence toward people of color, of women, of the LGBTQ community, of the poor, of immigrants must be named as unequivocally wrong. The truth, as God gives us to see the truth, is that God is love, and all that is not love needs to be held up in the light of love, and opposed.
For my part, I will, to the best of my abilities hold to the dual practices of not demonizing or making enemies of people, of holding to non-violence and the way of love, and at the same time of resolutely naming evil for what it is, and for resisting the wrong wherever it shows itself. Sadly, evil and wrong have, in these latest manifestations, wrapped themselves in the clothing of faith. The perversity of white supremacists appropriating the cross, a symbol of a very real instrument of torture and death used against a member of a subjugated people, a person of color, is beyond ironic — it is deeply distorted.
Finally, let me say that all you who would walk the path of love and resist evil, please hear the admonition of Jesus of Nazareth — “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Too often those who choose the path of love are models of innocence but lacking in the prepared wisdom of the serpent. In the coming days we will work with faith-based and civil society partners to offer training in non-violent resistance. Remember, Rosa Parks was not just a hard-working Black woman who was so tired that she determined, in the moment, to not move to the back of the bus. Rosa Parks was a woman who had prepared through months of training and was part of a close community of activists.
Take hope — God does give us the light to see what is right. We see the right through the light cast by the lamp of history, through the wisdom of sacred writings, through the living examples of veterans of past struggles, such as Representative John Lewis, by the prompting of God in our midst, in our hearts. Let us heed the light and follow the right.