Last Thursday, August 17, a vigil was held at Tallahassee’s Lake Ella to remember the victims of violence in Charlottesville and to stand for peace, justice, and inclusion. I was honored to be asked to speak. Here are my remarks:
Thank you for coming out on this warm evening to express our solidarity with the people of Charlottesville and our concern for the peace and welfare of our nation.
Tallahassee has a lot in common with Charlottesville. Both are centers of higher education and both play central roles in the history of their respective states.
But we have something far more important in common with Charlottesville.
Like Charlottesville, Tallahassee is populated by human beings –
people created in the image of God,
people who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,
people who are responsible for their behavior
and for the welfare of their communities.
What happened in Charlottesville last weekend exposed an ugly and shameful aspect of our common humanity.
We saw that some of our brothers and sisters – and it’s only a few – think of themselves as superior
to people of color,
to Jews and Muslims,
and to members of the LGBTQ community.
These people fancy themselves superior, but also somehow aggrieved, that America is becoming more and more racially, religiously, and culturally diverse.
They look at the rainbow and see storm clouds.
They see the world changing, and they would like to turn back the clock —
to a time when women knew their place,
when black lives didn’t matter,
when gay, lesbian, and transgender people hid in their closets
and feared for their jobs and even their lives.
These people feel so aggrieved that they are willing to take their Nazi banners, their clubs, their guns, and their fists to march lockstep into the past –
and they want America to march with them.
We are here tonight to say that we will not march with these folks.
We will not return hate for hate,
taunt for taunt,
blow for blow,
but we will not be silent.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said,
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies,
but the silence of our friends.
We will not be silent.
We will not pretend that racial and religious bigotry is OK.
We will not accept the warped and twisted notion that there is a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and people who stand up for human dignity, equality, and community.
Even if that bankrupt morality should be broadcast from the Whitehouse, we will not accept it.
We will not be trumped by those who would make America small again.
So, we must pray for our enemies and stand with our friends.
We must become the nation God wants us to be.
We must live up to our highest values, and not down to our lowest instincts.
We must make America great again –
great in mercy,
great in compassion,
great in concern for neighbor.
I believe that’s what the vast majority of Americans want –
regardless of their sect or party.
I know that’s what Tallahassee wants.
May God give us strength to face up to evil,
honesty to confront the evil within our own hearts,
and grace to live up to God’s best hopes for us
– and for this world which God loves.