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September 2017

PINE TREE LETTERSeptember 2017“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” This is a rough translation of a quote from Dante’s Inferno quoted numerous times by President Kennedy and similarly quoted by President Teddy Roosevelt.  Unfortunately, it seems appropriate once again.  We certainly are in a “period of moral crisis,” and we are encouraged to assume a neutral moral equivalency between the “Alt Right” and “Antifa”.  The former include Nazis and white supremacists.  The later are a loosely organized group who oppose fascists, thus: “antifascist”.  Both sides in one form or another espouse violence.The Alt Right openly supports elimination of all people of color from the United States by deportation or physical violence.  Many of them emulate the Nazi movement of the WWII by dress, language, and action.  They find their historical roots in the Rebels of the Civil War, as they see it: a noble crusade for democracy for white people.  In the words of Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy in his “ Cornerstone Address” shortly after the beginning of the war: “…its (the Confederacy’s) cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.” The goal of Antifa is to counteract the actions of the Alt Right by peaceful means or violent if necessary.  In Charlottesville, those coming to “Unite the Right” came with torches and guns.  Antifa came with pepper spray.  Some Alt Right protesters may have been bloodied when they were stopped from attacking peaceful protesters.  None of the Alt Right was killed by a rampaging vehicle, a tactic encouraged by at least one Alt Right website.  There is no equivalency here.  Is this to say that the tactics of Antifa are morally correct?Jesus faced a similar dilemma.  The Roman soldiers with the support of the religious hierarchy brutally oppressed the people of Israel.  Some including some of Jesus’ disciples advocated violent revolt.  In contrast, Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  And “If a Roman soldier requires you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two.  If he asks for your cloak, give him your undergarment also.”  Jesus understood, as did Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., that violence breeds violence.  When a protester struck a speaker in the head stopping his advocacy of violence against minorities, the protester gave the racist speaker credence and encouraged more violence in response. If it was not morally wrong, it was at least ineffective in the end.  On the other hand, Jesus did not avoid violence.  He went to the heart of it in Jerusalem and turned over the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple.  In the past when faced with the threat of violence from white racists or Nazis, we have responded with appeasement until a violent response seemed the only rational response.  Perhaps this time we should take Jesus’ words seriously and follow his lead being willing to bear our own crosses as we stand against evil in whatever form it takes.