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El Paso Shooting: We must combat hate speech and racism in church and society – Part 1

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EL PASO, TEXAS – AUGUST 07: A ‘Ban Assault Weapons Now’ sign is displayed near a voter registration table at a protest against President Trump’s visit, following a mass shooting which left at least 22 people dead, on August 7, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. Protestors also called for gun control and denounced white supremacy. A 21-year-old white male suspect remains in custody in El Paso which sits along the U.S.-Mexico border. Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have a love for one another.”-John 13:34-35 

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is with you all. Our Diocese is a racially and ethnically diverse diocese. As a result, we cannot avoid addressing the issue of race relations in our diocese. God, Who made us all in His image and with such diversity, desires that we live and act with love and harmony with one another. This is the first reason you are receiving this special message.  

The second reason has to do with the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas. Appropriately, this tragedy has caused us to look at our culture and contributory causes to the mass shootings around the world. We are once again confronted with the fact that our beliefs, ideas, and words regarding persons of other races and tribes lead to certain actions and behaviours toward them.

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When a person believes he is superior or better than people of other races and tribes because of his race or ethnicity, that person is a racist. If a person resents, hates or looks down on a person or group of people or thinks they are worse or inferior because of their race or tribe, that person is a racist or a tribalist. 

This is a problem each of us must combat in our lives together as brothers and sisters in Christ in this diocese and in North America. 

Sometimes, we try to rationalise and excuse our racism by using expressions such as cultural differences, nationalism, or patriotism. We can be very subtle in our sinning. Jeremiah the prophet was right when he wrote that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10). The Lord sees our hearts and knows our thoughts. 

Nationalism or patriotism is not a bad thing, but nationalism or patriotism that is based on race or ethnicity and that undermines the wellbeing of other racial/ethnic people is ungodly and contrary to Christ’s gospel.  When people who call themselves Christians ignore or rationalise racial arrogance, hate, prejudice and racism in the church, our gospel witness and integrity are seriously undermined and compromised. We must speak up against such behaviours in our Churches, communities, and in our countries. In recent months, I have seen subtle forms of racism justified by Christians in the Church and in our society. It makes me sick in my heart. 

(To be concluded next week)

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Felix Orji, OSB. Is the Diocesan Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the West and the Missionary Bishop of CANA – Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)’s Mission in the USA and Canada.
www.dioceseofthewest.org; www.canaconvocation.org


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