When Hate Comes Out: A Sermon in the Wake of Charlottesville

In my sermon this week I chose to address the hatred and violence on display in Charlottesville last week were clear and present signs of the reign of violence and hate that grips the world. Being white grants no privilege or power in the gentle reign of God. Instead, Jesus proclaims that what comes out of our mouths reveals our true selves. If hate comes out, there is hate within. In his exchange with a Canaanite woman, Jesus reveals that he is bound and determined to welcome those we hate into the reign of God – and that is good news. God’s love is big enough to cleanse our hearts of our hate and our privilege.

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After the sermon I was asked why I didn’t address the violence of the “other side.” First, I believe I denounced all violence in this sermon. Second, my task, because of the treatment of “outsiders” by the privileged in the text, called for attention to those who are privileged and powerful in our world – that bill is filled at Charlottesville by the White Right. Third, eyewitness accounts from people like Brian McLaren testify to the fact that describing this as a conflict between two armed camps is false. The lion’s share of counter protests were courageous and peaceful. Trying to ameliorate the wrongness of White hate groups by saying that there was violence on the “other side” makes this sound like an argument when it is not. It is the moral failure of our nation that it cannot simply declare White privilege and power wrong. Saying there were “sides” to an assertion of hate based on race is like saying there are “sides” when a woman or child is abused. The only “sides” are right and wrong.

May God’s gentle reign of peace prevail.


The rectangular foundations of the barracks at Dachau.

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No Room for Hate

Last week a letter was delivered – anonymously, secretly, under cover of dark – to the Islamic Center of Des Moines. The letter was filled with hateful speech and threats. The Des Moines Register has reported on the content, and I will not give it space here. It is enough to say that any Christian should be outraged and grieved by such an attack. It is cowardly; it is of the darkness of the human heart, it is contrary to a faith rooted in the grace, mercy, peace and justice of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

There are many people who see all Muslim’s as potential terrorists and live in fear (fear is the root of hate, not love or courage). The perception is misguided. No one who is a serious follower of Jesus would wish to be defined by the Ku Klux Klan (who claim to be a Christian organization), or by the shameful acts of radical “Christians” who led the Inquisition, supported the Holocaust, and drank the Kool-Aid at Jonestown. Jesus said  “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12). We should then never ascribe to all Muslims the acts of the fanatical or the misuse of faith to justify politics and violence.

I have written to the Islamic Center on behalf of the congregation to express our support and concern. Muslim brothers and sisters are “children of Abraham” and “people of the book” – we share this in common. We must act accordingly for the sake of our faith and the sake of the world. Here is my letter to our friends:

As-Salamu Alaykum, our dear neighbors,

On behalf of the whole congregation of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Ankeny, I wish to express our solidarity and support for you in the face of recent hate mail you received. Through whatever differences we may have, we are children of Abraham and called to be a blessing to each other and the world. We desire to be your brothers and sisters in this world; to work together for the good of humanity; for peace and justice; for understanding and reconciliation.

We will be offering prayers for you in our worship. We offer our aid in any other way that you might need.Please be assured that such hatred is not held in our hearts and that such acts are not acceptable among us.

May God’s peace and love be yours.

Pastor Timothy Olson


© 2017 Timothy V. Olson. All rights reserved.