by Brandon Pickett
“Words cannot express my sadness over all the hatred, anger, fear, and pain expressed over the weekend in my town, Charlottesville.”
These words from Pastor Kyle Hoover, Charlottesville Community Church, come after white nationalist protests and ensuing riots between them and counter-protestors. 32-year old Heather Heyer died Saturday when a car rammed into a crowd of protesters and two state police officers died in a helicopter crash not far away.
The chaos and violence in the hometown of the University of Virginia started Friday night and centered on white nationalist protests over the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.
“In a town that likes to project an idyllic image violence that is brewing in the hearts of people has bubbled out.” Hoover said. “I weep, grieve, and lament over all that has happened on the streets I walk daily.”
Virginia State Police say that they have 20-year old James Alex Fields, Jr. in custody for intentionally driving his silver Dodge Challenger into a crowd, killing Heyer and protestors and injuring at least two dozen more.
Rob Pochek, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlottesville on Park Street, spoke out very clearly against racism before and after the protests but says he feels painted into a corner.
“We clearly despise racism but we also despise hatred of any kind. It reminds me of Joshua 5 where Joshua asks the Commander of the Lord’s army ‘who’s side are you on,’ and he says ‘neither I am on the Lord’s side.’”
“There is no way to get involved in this political fight happening in Charlottesville and proclaim the Gospel. Our Gospel centered work should not be drawn into a political battle.”
“Pray for us that we can stand apart from both of the opposing groups in our city and clearly proclaim the Gospel in the face of the hatred that is being spewed from both sides,” Pochek said.
As the violence was in full display Saturday, SBC of Virginia Executive Director, Dr. Brian Autry, tweeted, “Racism and hatred is wrong and evil. Bigotry and violence on display in Charlottesville is sad and sinful.”
While calling for prayer for law enforcement, Autry spoke out against those that came to Charlottesville to sow hate and dissention.
“The SBC of Virginia opposes every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy and neo-Nazism, as heresy and contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ethnic hatred must be viewed as a scheme of the devil intended to foster violence, division, and suffering in our society.”
SBC of Virginia president, Bryan Smith, Pastor of First Baptist Roanoke said, “For twenty years we have made it clear that we stand for biblical inerrancy, and we must make it clear for as long as it takes that we stand opposed to all forms of racism, white supremacy, and any doctrine of racial superiority.”
Autry was thankful for the stand SBCV churches took the entire weekend, “Southern Baptist churches were a strong voice of truth and grace across Charlottesville on Sunday, with visible examples of churches of various racial diversity coming together for prayer and and mutual support.”
Hoover went on to say that although this past weekend’s events are heartbreaking, he has hope in the battle against darkness because Jesus is the ultimate source of hope and the source of final victory.
“I have hope in the gospel of Jesus,” Hoover said. “That the grand story will culminate in people from every tribe, tongue, ethnicity, and race circled around Jesus. So we weep, but not without hope. And hope tells us that we need to be about the serious work of telling people that Jesus is the only way to hope. Our battle is not against people, flesh and blood, but against rulers and principalities of darkness. The only answer is Jesus. He is all we have and all we need. He is the true answer to bring people to life and bring down the dividing wall of hostility. We, followers of Jesus, are the only ones who have an answer to what happened today in Charlottesville. So let’s not enter the fray with anger, but with love and compassion for those hurting.”
Contributing author: Timothy Cockes