People gather for a vigil in response to the death of a counter-demonstrator at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, outside the White House in Washington, U.S. August 13, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)
This is not the article I set out to write this month. But then Charlottesville happened, and I watched in horror as our leader defended the cause the nazis and fascists had rallied around and laid equal blame for the violence of that day at the feet of those who had gathered to resist them.
His response was applauded by neo-nazi leaders, and defended by far too many Christians.
Good people before monsters
A year ago I visited Germany for the first time. I stayed with a kind family who kept me laughing over home-made liquor around their kitchen table, and showed me their charming village and neighboring towns. Walking through a pretty town with cobblestone streets, we climbed up to a stately, castle-like building overlooking rolling green hills. My hostess solemnly told me it had been a Nazi headquarters during WWII. “That was a very dark time,” she said, as we sat together on a park bench out front, “We must always remember.”
I looked around that sunny hilltop, filled with ordinary people - families and couples and grandparents with dogs - and it hit me that somehow, not so very long ago, people just like these had been convinced en mass that the greatest atrocities in modern history were acceptable because the people they were committed against were not like them.
And that terrified me, because these nice, normal people were no different from me and my loved ones. And if they had somehow become complicit in such evil, the same could happen to us.
And now, a year later, this old evil is more emboldened in the United States than it’s been in a long time. So much so that it’s followers rally with lit torches to illuminate their uncovered faces. This reborn boldness is chilling, but what frightens me more is how so many people - especially Christians - rather than condemning these evil groups point-blank, have instead found ways to blame the very people these groups hate. The people they would put in death camps if they had the power to do so.
To be sure, violence in the face of evil is not the right or constructive response. Martin Luther King Jr and the brave men and women who stood beside him taught us that.
But the anger behind the violence makes perfect sense. I can’t watch ‘12 Years a Slave’ or ‘Mississipi Burning’, or listen to my Black friends’ stories without coming away gritting my teeth, eyes burning at the injustice. And to see so many people who actually outright approve of those things rallying proudly in the streets around statues built to men who fought to keep them enslaved… that should make us all angry. Anger and resistance are the right and good responses to this blatant, historical evil.
Fuzzied battle lines
How did we get to this place where the good and evil of a situation where one side bears Nazi flags is not absolutely clear? Why are Christians actually agreeing with the president that both the Nazis and the people who resist them are equally responsible for what happened in Charlottesville? How are Christians actually still standing beside the president in defense of the very confederate memorials Nazis and fascists rallied proudly around in Charlottesville, chanting their hellish mantras?
This isn’t about conservatives versus liberals. Plenty of Republican leaders have done what the president refuses to do and point-blank condemned the racists that rallied at Charlottesville and the symbols they rallied around.
My fear is that Trump’s supporters have given the president and his people so many passes, that to abandon them now has become difficult on a deeply personal level. Because if Trump and his people truly are empowering and now defending racist causes, what does that say about those who have been defending and supporting him until now? For people in that position, I can see how it’s easier to keep making excuses for greater and greater evils than to face the prospect of being so firmly on the wrong side of history.
Out of the shadows
I don’t think this is what the Trump supporters I know wanted. I imagine for them it’s like they’ve been standing in a crowd of people they thought shared their values, waving signs about family values and pro-life issues, when suddenly they look to the side and notice people next to them waving swastikas and chanting old Nazi slogans. That must be terrifying.
So I understand it’s easier to defend the side they’ve accidentally found themselves on - and by so doing defend themselves - than it is to reject it for the evil it is revealing itself to be.
But the Jesus I know has drawn his people out of far deeper shadows. So I am praying that Christians now would have the faith to face having got it wrong this time, trusting that our God is good and strong enough to make it right when we lay down our pride and step away from the shadows.
Because unlike the president I don’t think there were any good people at the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville. No matter their political leaning, the second a person wanting to be good found themselves standing side-by-side with a Nazi, they would walk away.
This is not a question of right or left, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat.
This is good or evil.
Christina Jones is recuperating from graduate school by watching far too much TV and ignoring the many very good books waiting to be read and re-read on her shelf. She recently moved to Spokane, Washington where she works for a non-profit that prepares for and responds to natural disasters. She is usually running late and has a background in international relief work, and has become very good at sprinting through airports. When not watching TV, working or running through airports, Christina enjoys Latin dancing, solitary evening jogs, old buildings, too much ice cream and long conversations with good friends.
Christina Jones’ previous articles may be viewed at
Christina Jones is a Press Service International young writer from the USA.