Richard Spencer is coming to town and Gainesville is nervous.
Every time I hear the story of our nation’s racial past I struggle with understanding how so many people could stand by and do so little. Until I watch how deeply we struggle acknowledging our racial present. We have a problem, and it won’t evaporate with the passage of time.
So how do we respond to Richard Spencer and the fear-fueled hatred of the alt-right?
We are not calling you to complacency, inaction, or silence. We must resist hate and white supremacy in all its forms. We are just calling you to resist in ways that will demonstrate true power.
Use our heads.
First, don’t show up and physically protest. To do that you are walking into a trap that has been set for you. You are an extra in a play where Richard Spencer is the playwright. You are on his turf. He’s set this stage on many university campuses across the nation. Violence and even death have been his applause. You don’t have show up to the set. You don’t have to take cues from Spencer and company.
Think about it. If a handful of people show up to his gathering, its impact is quelled right then and there. The press would expose that type of hate for the powerless movement it is without real clout or sway.
If 3,000 protestors show up and violence erupts, hate is the ultimate victor and Spencer gets exactly what he wants: national/international coverage, a bolstering of confidence for his white supremacy base, and the impregnating of thousands of counter-protestors with hate.
Don’t fight hate with hate. Don’t give hate the momentum of a home turf contest. Don’t stoke the flame by walking directly into the publicity trap.
Resist this. Fight it. Do not give in.
Let me clear. Doing nothing is not an option. Saying nothing is not an option. But let’s do the right thing. And let’s say the right thing.
Acts 12 tells the story of the apostle Peter being imprisoned by King Herod and surrounded by squads of guards in preparation for his public execution after Passover, “but the church spent the night earnestly praying to God for him.” Acts 12:5. How did this story end? An angel of the Lord arrived at the prison and set Peter free.
Who held the most power in this story? King Herod? The prison guards? No. The church in constant prayer.
Don’t roll your eyes too quickly. Prayer is not the only thing we do, but it better be one of the first things we do. Otherwise everything else we do is impotent.
Pray for our city, it’s leadership, and law enforcement. Pray for the kingdom of God to come in Gainesville as it is in heaven. Pray for the safety of the citizens in our city and our uninvited visitors.
We are called to pray for our enemies. You and I both know that Richard Spencer is a hurting, broken and fearful person who has placed his hope in sin. We know it because we were once hurting, broken, fearful people who looked for life in sin. But with the grace of Jesus there is hope and power and freedom. We are now free to resist hate, even unto death. We know the King! Pray and intercede for the salvation of Richard Spencer and his followers.
Pray for the Church. This is our chance to talk about race and injustice. This is our chance to get right what the church got wrong during the days of slavery, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement. This is our chance to come into agreement. This is our chance to forsake all of the unbiblical, colonialized versions of Christianity and return to the world-changing, counter-cultural masterpiece we read about in Scripture. I don’t want conservative Jesus. Or liberal Jesus. I want the real Jesus. But it takes humility to see Him.
This is why believers from multiple churches all over our city are choosing a day to fast and pray this week. Ask the Lord to search our hearts for the ways in which these ills of racism and hate remain in us. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is true. If God’s people humble themselves and repent He will heal our land. Let’s be honest, our land is not healed.
Imagine what would happen if Christians did what nobody else in our culture does: humbled ourselves.
It would be a sign.
The absolute best resistance is to counter-protest far away from where Spencer wants us to be. Where we engage not with him, but the white supremacy that he stands for through a unified front in ways that will not feed into his publicity stunt. Without physical protest, he loses and his voice is silenced.
This coming week we will release a short talk about the insidious nature of hate. Of racism and how it divides us. We will also be talking about true reconciliation and what it means for us going forward in our city. These issues of tribalism and racism are common to man. It has destroyed many nations and kingdoms before us. Law enforcement has asked us not to hold any large gatherings in any form of counter protest as this will lead to a significant security risk. Security for Spencer’s event is already costing our government and the University of Florida over $500K.
Instead of one gathering we are asking you to imitate the early church. Meet house to house with your microchurch, with friends, with neighbors all throughout the week and watch this video together. Talk about it. I strongly urge you to gather with people of other racial backgrounds and listen to them. Hear them out. Be slow to speak. Become meek enough to inherit the earth.
Yes, things are tense. We acknowledge the clear and present danger. But something happened by 6:00 on Good Friday. The same Cross that tore down the wall of separation between God and humanity has the power to tear down the walls of fear and hatred and division. No more boasting in race; no more boasting in nationality. I agree with Paul: As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Galatians 6:14)