Charlottesville, Harvey and Compassion

Photo credit: South Carolina National Guard via photopin

The unsettling rally in Charlottesville took place over three weeks ago, and in its wake we saw protests, removal of confederate statues, and a number of thoughtful news stories and editorials.

Hurricane Harvey blew through southern Texas dumping massive amounts of rain two weeks ago. Instead of protesting and arguing, however, we saw people sacrificially giving, compassionately helping, coming together and praying for the flooded sufferers.


It took me a while to fully understand, as much as possible, what happened in Charlottesville. What I noticed by following  the story for a couple weeks was that it takes time, multiple perspectives and the willingness to put politics aside to piece together the entire story.

The takeaway for me is that this country has not thoroughly dealt with racism. (Some of you are saying, DUH!) It has been smoldering for years, and only those who have experienced its devastation really understand how prevalent it is. And they are understandably angry.

Racism needs to be clearly called out. Unaccepted, even reprehensible, opinions have a right to be held and expressed in this country, but it seems to me that those who hold them should be ignored. It sounds like the situation in Charlottesville escalated beyond what anyone expected.

The best advice I read about how to change this sad story was in the Chicago Tribune about Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist who now runs an organization to detox extremists of their hateful ideology. Picciolini said that positive engagement with the people he claimed to hate changed his perspective, and it can do the same for others.

Picciolini said, “Blacks and Jews showed me compassion and they were the ones I least deserved it from…” Compassionate interaction, one individual at a time, is a lot more effective than social media for real change.

In another article, Picciolini pointed out the good that can result from a nasty event. “I believe that the world has now seen what we have been sweeping under the rug for many many years — thinking we were in a post-racial society….” He’s correct, and the sooner we face it, the sooner we can deal with it.


On to a disaster of a different sort. Harvey’s damage in Texas left me dazed, like the woman I saw interviewed next to a pile of water-logged rubbish that used to be in her house. She was stunned. I would be too. The woman said that she was grateful to be alive.

The interview caused me to think of how we might feel at the end of time, when each of us will stand before God, and the possessions that we valued so highly in this life, if we’re even aware of them, may have the eternal value of wrecked rubble. It won’t matter what race or ethnicity we were, how much money we made or how much stuff we accumulated.

In the end, each of us will stand alone before God, and he will have only one question for us: Do you know my Son? Those who know Jesus will be welcomed into God’s eternal kingdom, and those who don’t will be stuck with the litter of their lives.

God created every individual as a unique and valuable member of the human race. No one is superior to anyone else. Jesus is loving, compassionate and merciful, and when we know him, when we allow him into our lives, then we will treat every individual as he would; with love and respect.




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