"Racism is a poison of the soul." Making sense of Charlottesville through the words of clergy. | Editorial

The Daily News Editorial Board, The Inquirer Editorial Board

Updated: Tuesday, August 15, 2017, 12:35 PM

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

Finding meaning and eloquence after an event like this weekend’s disturbance in Charlottesville is often a challenge — one that the Editorial Board faces after every violent episode in this country, whether it’s driven by guns, terrorism, or political strife. In the last few days, we have been struck by the many powerful and eloquent statements issued by the nation’s clergy on Charlottesville. Here are excerpts of some of their statements:

Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia:

“Racism is a poison of the soul. It’s the ugly, original sin of our country, an illness that has never fully healed. Blending it with the Nazi salute, the relic of a regime that murdered millions, compounds the obscenity. …

Charlottesville matters. It’s a snapshot of our public unraveling into real hatreds brutally expressed; a collapse of restraint and mutual respect now taking place across the country. We need to keep the images of Charlottesville alive in our memories. If we want a different kind of country in the future, we need to start today with a conversion in our own hearts, and an insistence on the same in others.”

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Wyncote:

I think it is no accident that our nation is so polarized at the time that we have the largest wealth and income gap since the Civil War. … It is clear from studying American history that white populism emerges in these moments and undermines the formation of a multiracial, multiethnic coalition that can bring about economic and social justice. …

“This overt assertion of white supremacy is occurring at the same time that the challenge to structural racism has become more powerful through the organizing of the Black Lives Matter movement, the resistance at Standing Rock, the struggle for immigrant rights and the growing awareness of white privilege among many whites. This will inevitably cause more confrontations. …

“We are faced with a difficult challenge: we cannot tolerate white supremacy and we must listen to the fear and pain that many of its supporters carry. …

“History shows that a society with extreme wealth inequality will collapse, and it is usually ugly. The extremism of wealth gives rise to all other forms of extremism. We need to understand how white supremacy is at the root of the inequities in our schools and legal system. We must stand up against hate and for love, while we advocate for policies that bring about more justice.”

The Rev. Robin Weinstein, pastor, Bethany Grace Community Church, Bridgeton, N.J.:

“In working for justice, we must recall our collective past — the good, the bad, and the ugly. The American story is not always a nice one. From its beginning, our nation has exploited, dehumanized, and hated various groups of people. … Many times, oppression, slavery, discrimination, and hatred have been justified by Holy Scripture and sanctioned by our churches. This is wrong. …

“We must resist evil in all its forms, and everywhere it makes itself known. We must recognize the evil that we have within us: the constant propensity to make someone the ‘other’ as a means to justify ourselves.”

Read more ongoing coverage of the violence in Charlottesville on Philly.com.

The Daily News Editorial Board, The Inquirer Editorial Board

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