When I was in the seventh grade I attended a lily-white high school. We had, as far as I knew, three religious minorities — two Roman Catholics and a Jewish girl.
The next year that same school was around 45 percent African-American. We integrated, and we did it without incident. There were no khaki-clad marchers carrying tiki torches chanting racist slogans. There were no white power rallies. Sure, there were individual skirmishes around the state, but for the most part, most people recognized that education should be equal for all people.
Having grown up in that environment, perhaps it is understandable that I thought racism was mostly dead in America. Sure, there are a few fringe groups who advocate hate against African-Americans, Jews, Roman Catholics and anyone else who is not pure white and Protestant. But those people are far out on the fringes.
Last weekend was a wake-up call. The sight of white supremacists marching through the streets of Charlottesville, openly and proudly, was distressing. The fact that the president of the United States made no moral distinction between racists and those who opposed the racists was even more distressing.
As a pastor, I find it even worse that many of these people claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.
I should not have to say this, but I will. Anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but who feels that someone is inferior because of their skin color, nationality, sexual orientation or even their religion, has rejected the Gospel, and has embraced a false version of Christianity. One cannot be a neo-Nazi, white supremacist or ultra-nationalist and still follow the way of Jesus Christ. Again, I should not have to say this, but it seems the world has gone crazy, and the obvious needs restating.
There are times when we need to be tolerant of the beliefs of others. But this is not one of those times. The New Testament is so clear on this issue that there should be no question. From the beginnings of the church at Pentecost, where the Gospel was preached in many tongues, to the inclusion of outcasts, such as eunuchs, Samaritans and gentiles, the love of Jesus has known no boundaries. Those who preach a gospel of hate are betraying the very God they pretend to serve.
Christianity does not stand alone as the only religion that rejects racism as a core value. Malcolm X learned that Islam was not a racist religion while in Mecca. The civil rights movement in the South had many Jewish supporters, some of whom died defending the rights of all Americans to have equal rights. Gandhi was a Hindu who worked tirelessly to see the rights of all upheld. Buddhists, Baha’is, Sikhs, and many other religions teach and practice that all are worthy and that no one should be discriminated against because of race or national origin.
Like Christianity, many of these religions also have narrow-minded adherents who cannot see beyond their own prejudices. But it is time to set the record straight.
I do not speak for other religions, but I can say this: There is no room for hate in Christianity. There is no room for white supremacists, neo-Nazis, or anyone who feels they are superior simply because of where they were born or what color their skin is. No room at all.
— The Rev. Murray Richmond is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Medford.