“The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.”
What we honor matters a great deal. And what our leaders honor by their speech sets the tone for what we honor as a nation. In the wake of Charlottesville and the ongoing conversation about the realities of racism and hatred in our nation it is incredibly important that we clearly name what is taking place.
The wicked strutted about freely in Charlottesville this week. In the 1950’s and 60’s, the racism was much more violent as young black men and women were lynched and raped. And yet the angry white men disguised themselves in pointy hoods. What was honored openly by our leaders and our society did not include vindictive, sharp and divisive rhetoric. It was a virtue to be polite and respectful. To be sure, the hypocrisy was deep and the hate and ugliness real. But we did not openly honor these things and even the racist leaders spoke in measured tones.
And yet this week we saw wicked white supremacists marching openly, brazenly and full of vile. No hoods. No shame. Why? How is this possible? There is no doubt that this is a deeply complex issue. But as a white man who loves Jesus and loves my neighbors I will not stand by silently as a deeply flawed man leads our nation and honors what is vile.
President Trump, you have spent your life honoring what is vile. You have degraded women with your words and your actions. You have called an entire group of people “rapists” and claimed a man was unfit to lead because of his ethnic heritage. You have openly called for violence against protestors and against your rivals. You elevate every petty dispute and take it personally, childishly calling out opponents on Twitter. It doesn’t matter if you were “joking.” You honor and promote what you speak out. All our words matter, but as the President of the United States your words matter probably more than any other human on the planet. President Trump, you have honored what is vile and because of it, the wicked strut about freely today. They are emboldened in ways we have not seen for decades. And there is direct correlation.
So what are we to do? We must call the vile by its name and declare that it has no place in our nation. We cannot honor it and we cannot let leaders who do so get away with it. Instead we must call on our leaders to honor what is good and right and true. What is kind and strong and pure. We must call them to account every time they honor and elevate any vile thing. And it must start with our President.
Do not tell me, “what more do you want? He condemned it in the strongest terms!” If he is serious about his condemnation he will change his tone. He will stop tweeting. He will apologize for his many vile comments and repent of his wicked acts. Just as I must first acknowledge the darkness and sin in my own heart if I hope to find redemption, so must he. And just as we would not say someone is a changed man if they were baptized and yet actively continue in sin for years with no attempt to change, we cannot say that one strong statement constitutes a sufficient response to this time in our nation.
I have opposed Donald Trump from the very beginning of his campaign not because of a single policy position he held but because of his character. That’s it. So many conservatives scoffed at me and gave me all the reasons why opposing him was foolish. I never wavered. Why? Because “when the righteous thrive, the people rejoice.” But “when what is vile is honored by men, the wicked freely strut about.” Leadership matters. Character matters. Words matter. Just ask Heather Heyer.
“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice.”