Dean Moore’s Response to Events in Charlottesville, Virginia

in Alumni/ae News, News
August 15th, 2017

Dear Beloved Community, 

I write today with a heaviness of spirit after the events in Charlottesville, VA, and the responses that have ensued. We live in a diseased society where gatherings of hate and white nationalism are increasing and people who gather in counter-protests are physically attacked. This IS TERRORISM, and any failure to name it as such is as evil as ignoring the murders of Muslims coming and going from their mosques and the desecration of synagogues and mosques across the United States. It is as evil as the history of stealing land from Native Americans and destroying their livelihoods and ways of life. It is as evil as slavery and all of the efforts that were made in this country to preserve that violent and dehumanizing system, leaving deep scars in our nation.

No march that flies under the banners of white supremacy, Nazism, the Klu Klux Klan, or the denigration of any group of people can be condoned or ignored. We live in a society in which these attitudes reflect the disease of hatred. To protest such action is to protest the prejudices and harshness of one people against others. To protest such action is to claim the dignity of all people and to protest any claims otherwise. To protest such action is to step beyond indifference and insist that the time is NOW to build a just society in which all persons are safe and all are guaranteed their rights as human beings For Christians to protest is to decry any acts of hatred that deny the image of God in all peoples.

The symbols of the Confederacy that white nationalists claim to protect are clearly more than historical objects. The power of the symbols is seen in the protest movements and in the wanton act of destruction of one person who drove a car into a crowd, leaving Heather Heyer dead and many others gravely wounded. The Confederate symbols have come to reinforce and protect the continuing identity of a supremacy movement that places whites above people of color. I, as a white Southern woman, deplore such a movement, which lifts up the worst of Southern heritage and ignores the best. These symbols belong in museums where they can be studied critically as windows into history; they do not belong in public spaces where they function as symbols to guide present and future values. People do have the right to peaceful protest, but words and acts of hatred are themselves acts of violence. 

Not one of us is clean of the evils of racism and hatred, but all of us have responsibility to act now for justice, most especially those of us who are white and able to avoid many of the immediate fears waged against people of color. Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “In a free society, some are guilty but all are responsible.”[i] Some people have intentionally perpetrated violence and injustice against others; others of us have participated by silence or indifference. All of us are capable of acting now for justice. We need not be beholden to our pasts, nor to the cultures of privilege and indifference that allow many of us to continue on paths where we ignore the intimidation and suffering of others. Heschel drew from the depths of his Jewish tradition to critique indifference – indifference to suffering and indifference to God.[ii] Christians draw deeply from the life and teachings of Jesus, whose central message was love for God and for the whole human family.

We have reached a moment in human history in which the very pillars of human decency are shaking – a moment in which people of color are made vulnerable every day. The School of Theology Students of Color have made that clear in their public letter (attached). This is an historical moment when acts of violence by Muslims are declared as terrorist, and acts of violence or declarations of hate by whites who claim white superiority are not so named. This has to stop. At his moment in history, we are all responsible to take up the challenge – to cry out for justice and rebuild our society into a home for ALL peoples. This begins with listening deeply to people with whom we disagree, while also decrying actions of injustice and hatred. It begins also with examining the injustice and hatred in ourselves. Our faith and our shared humanity ask us to comprehend the suffering and fear of others, especially those who are most vulnerable, and to build paths toward justice that guarantee protection of human rights and dignity for all people. The moment to act justly is now.

With prayer and hope,

Mary Elizabeth Moore


[i] Heschel, Moral Audacity and Spiritual Grandeur: Essays by Abraham Joshua Heschel, edited by Susannah Heschel (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996), xxiv.

[ii] Ibid., 213-215, 365.