August 12, 2017.

My family moved to Charlottesville about five months after I was born in Maryland, so this little town in central VA has been home to me my whole life. I grew up attending Friday’s after Five downtown, hiking Humpback rock, going to concerts at JPJ, living off of Bodos Bagels, walking the strip of the downtown mall about a million times, especially when I was a teenager and thought that my friends and I were the coolest kids around all because we were finally allowed to be down there without our parents. I grew up attending UVA football games not because anyone in my family went there or because I desired to go there, but because growing up in Charlottesville, it was just something you did. It’s funny, back in high school, kids would always talk about how badly they could not wait to get out of this town; “it’s too boring, there’s nothing to do, it’s too small.” And that last part is true – it is small. You can’t go out anywhere without seeing at least one person you know. But no matter how badly a person wants to leave, it’s amazing the sense of pride people carry with them when they say they’re from here. Charlottesville is the type of town that you tell people you’re from, and they go on & on just raving about how much they love it. My friends at other schools including my own love traveling here to escape the norm. I’ve always loved this place, and can’t imagine having grown up anyplace else. Am I glad to attend college elsewhere, and do I want to venture away from here and experience new places? Yes & yes. But this place is home; spend 21 years anywhere and it’s kind of hard not to feel that way. But myself and everyone whose grown up here, did so with the idea that Charlottesville was just this little town in central Virginia that nobody really knew about. Never in a million years did we think Charlottesville would be a nation wide topic of discussion. But here we are, approaching the anniversary of something not only our city but also our country will remember always, and one day have in textbooks, no doubt.

As I sit here thinking about how vividly I remember this weekend, it’s still kind of surreal to grasp that something like what happened, actually happened here, in Charlottesville.

On the evening of August 11th last year, I sat at home watching live footage on Facebook of the white supremacists marching through UVA’s campus with lit torches. They were chanting, “you will not replace us” in reference to those urging the removal of the Robert E. Lee Statue from one of our parks downtown. There was this knot in my stomach that would remain there over the course of the weekend as I watched everything unfold. I knew there were going to be rally’s downtown on the 12th that would be present to counter the Unite the Right rally, spreading love in the midst of the hate that the white supremacists brought with them, and I wanted so badly to go downtown the morning of the 12th to participate in the counter walks being held, but I ended up not being able to find anyone who could go with me, and with safety being a concern, I opted to stay home. I think everyone knew from the start that this day was not going to play out well.

On the 12th, I was attending a rehearsal dinner for a wedding that would take place the next day. The dinner was on Pantops for this rehearsal dinner, which is about 5 minutes from downtown, where the rally was taking place. I kept updated through Facebook on my phone about all that was going on downtown. I got word that a car had plowed through a crowd of people on the downtown mall, killing Heather Heyer, and then not long after, I saw that there had been a helicopter crash which took the lives of two Virginia State troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, III and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, who were in the helicopter to get visual of what was happening on the ground around Charlottesville. That knot in my stomach grew. What made my heart sink even more during all of this was that I was scheduled to fill in for my pastor & preach the next day — the day after numerous white supremacists had come into our city and held a hate-filled rally which ultimately resulted in the death of three individuals, right in our church’s backyard. My pastor called me while I was at the rehearsal dinner, and when I saw his name pop up on my phone, I knew before I even answered the call that it would be about what was going on. Though he was technically on vacation, he told me that I would still be preaching, but that he was going to be there at church due to everything that had happened. I have to say, that was the first sigh of relief I had taken all day because I was not prepared to lead church through something as horrible as that all on my own. In hindsight, I am grateful that God allowed me to experience what it’s like to lead a congregation through such a devastating time, and as usual, he was faithful in showing up and doing what only he can do in worship.

I was up at 11pm Saturday night, the 12th, and then up at 5am Sunday morning, the 13th, editing my sermon, because what I had as my sermon before all of this happened was most certainly not the sermon that I could preach on Sunday anymore. There was so much hate, anger, intolerance, ignorance that weekend, love was absent. There were people downtown on the 12th who came to counter the hate filled Unite the Right Rally with love, but with such evident hatred being spewed from those white supremacists, I think everyone, including myself needed to be reminded of love, so that is what my sermon was about more than anything else that Sunday — Jesus & love. My heart had never been as heavy as it was before, during, & after preaching on that Sunday. I seldom get nervous when I preach, but that Sunday, I had never been more filled with nerves. But God showed up, like I said, and I’m thankful, because our congregation, our city, needed that. God is love and love is what will trump the hate.

I went downtown a few days after the rally with a couple friends after things had calmed down a bit. It was eerily quiet. The street that the car had plowed through was blocked off, and there laid a memorial for Heather Heyer which was covered with flowers and sweet messages written out in chalk, along with news cameras & many Charlottesville natives there to pay our respects.

Walking the downtown mall felt different, always will now, I think. I believe this event brought out city together more than it tore it apart because in the midst of such a tragic & trying time, people here felt as though they could do nothing more but come together, to grieve, to talk, to give hope to one another that what happened here does not define our city — that we can help be the change even stronger now that this has happened. We acknowledge that this hate is not welcome here. So the question remains:

What we are going to do about it?

Well what if we challenged ourselves to embrace differences, & talk about those differences, rather than attack one another for those differences? What if we willingly sat down for coffee or lunch with people whom we disagree with, and heard each other out, rather than ignorantly refusing to have our minds expanded by others? What if we opened up our own minds wide enough to believe that we could actually learn from people who are different from us? What if we let ourselves learn from people we disagree with, rather than write them off because we disagree? What if, instead of ‘agreeing to disagree’ we agreed to talk about our disagreements, and vowed to not get up from the table until we agree that we will love one another despite our disagreements? What if we let ourselves be vulnerable enough to admit that we don’t know everything? What if we listened — truly & intently listened, to what other people have to say when they speak, rather than just thinking of how we’re going to respond when they’re finished? What if we acknowledged that racism is real instead of ignoring it merely because it doesn’t affect you or me? What if we acknowledged that white privilege is real, rather than telling ourselves it’s not just to make ourselves feel better?

If you are white, you and I have privilege whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. What if we took the time to listen to the stories those of color have; stories about their experiences with racism, words they have about how our history makes them feel & what if we asked & then listened to the ideas our brothers & sisters of color have for how we can move forward, so as not to repeat that history. If you’re white, remember nobody is asking you to apologize for the color of your skin. We can’t control what our skin looks like, but we can control what we do with the privilege we have because of it. 

We also can’t control the actions of others — those who carry out acts of pure hate like the one’s we witnessed around this time last year. But we can control how we respond, and remember that tolerating it, is a response (& not a good one). That is not how we’re going to move forward as a nation. We move forward when we come together, and talk. Otherwise, we’ll continue to live in our own bubbles, with our own experiences & own perspectives & views of the world, separated, and incapable of reaching unity. (And remember, unity is not something that is capable of being reached only if we are all in agreement! Our unity is tighter when diversity exists!) Don’t have yourself convinced that the only way to enact change is to do something huge and extravagant. The simplest acts often make the biggest change, don’t forget that. Start by loving a little more. Go carry our random acts of kindness. Pay for the person behind you’s meal or coffee. Smile at stranger more. Give compliments more. Go hug somebody. Lift people up more than you tear them down.

Pray.

God, today, I pray — I pray that there would be more conversation;  more civil conversations and less shouting, less threatening, & less violence. I pray for such an abundant amount of peace that there would not even be room left for any violence. May we all be filled with such an extravagant amount of love that there would be no room left for hate. God, give us patience when we are speaking to one another. God, help us, your children, to use this anniversary as a way to remember the three beautiful lives lost last year, and also to reflect on what we can do, individually and together, to ensure that this hate & violence does not happen ever again, here or anywhere.


If you are looking for an outlet to express your thoughts as we approach this anniversary, as I have just done through this post, please feel free to comment below and share.

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loving all our neighbors.

About six weeks ago in my psychology & culture class, we were assigned our groups for a project that we would be doing which focused on topics relating to social justice. For this project, each group would need to partner up with an organization either in our local community or on our university’s campus, in order to fulfill the project’s goal of helping spread awareness & education on these various topics.

My group of six partnered with our university’s Muslim Student Association, and the topic we chose to focus in on was religion, specifically, religious minorities and the stereotypes & misconceptions associated with Islam. Through out the course of this project, we attended meetings, as well as a couple of events during Islam Awareness Week, which occurred this past Tuesday through Friday. The events my group attended included a hijab workshop, as well as a talk given by a professor about the Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Yesterday, my group visited a local mosque to attend & observe a service consisting of prayer and a sermon, or, “Khutbah,”  followed by a Q&A.

This psych & culture class in and of itself has opened my eyes so wide & taken me out of my comfort zone all semester in ways I never expected a class to, and yesterday was no exception. As much as I would love to sit here and write that my decision to go to this mosque was one that I came to easily, that would be a lie. I wrestled a lot with my decision to go or not to go, mainly because, honestly, it made me uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable with the idea of wearing a headscarf, feeling as though doing so would be conforming to an aspect of a religion I don’t personally believe in. I was uncomfortable with the idea of going & being in a house of worship that I was so unfamiliar with. I was uncomfortable getting so up close & personal with a religion that I don’t practice & know so little about. These thoughts and feelings made me feel like a horrible person, but I’m not going to invalidate those thoughts & feelings or leave them out of this post, because it was all part of the process of me deciding to go. Though I understood all along that wearing the headscarf would be out of respect for their faith & that I would never even begin to think to be a guest in somebody else’s house of worship only to be disrespectful by not wearing the appropriate attire, and I knew that going wouldn’t somehow make me stop believing in Jesus or make Jesus mad at me. etc, the idea of going to a mosque simply just made me a little nervous. My initial thought was “I’m Christian – why would I go?” And that very question was the one I wrestled with the most, along with “why wouldn’t I go?” Something in me would not let me just say no or yes without first wrestling with the possibility of both. And so, I prayed, I talked with a couple friends, & I reached out to a pastor of mine. Because going would be pretty far out of my comfort zone, something I had on repeat in my head was a saying he told me, which was to, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Welp, that was exactly what I did yesterday. And honestly? There was not one ounce of comfort involved, so, aI simply chose to bask in the discomfort, and I am glad I did.

While my anxiety was vicious & I wish I could say I felt peace which surpassed my understanding as my pastor graciously prayed for me to have, I didn’t feel much peace, but that’s okay, and the reason I think that’s okay is because I realized, the whole time I was waiting to feel peace and comfort about going or not going, I was neglecting to remember that that is not at all what the Christian walk is about. It’s not comfortable. In fact it is seldom comfortable. I look down everyday and I see this bracelet that has not left my wrist since making it back in January, and its purpose is literally to remind me to ask God to take me and use me, whether it’s comfortable or not. Therefore, I have no business getting upset when he does just that. I’m allowed to be scared, but I need to try to do it scared. And so, I did.

 

cubablogg

I kept my nerves and my hesitancy to myself around my group members, but before we got out of the car upon arriving at the mosque, one of them expressed to me that he himself was nervous, in which I simply replied, “same” (while I, of course, was internally jumping for joy at the fact that someone else was feeling what I was feeling).

We walked into the mosque together as a group and were warmly welcomed and told how their Friday services usually go. We then placed our shoes on the shelf and entered the room where the prayer & sermon would take place. Upon entering that room, the women were directed to the back right of the room, behind a tall curtain, and the men were directed to the front of the room. We, the women, were then given headscarves to put on, and those of us not participating in the prayer were asked to sit towards the corner, so as not to get in the way as they carried out their prayer(s).

Was I comfortable? No. But I went & stayed through the service, through that not so fun feeling of discomfort, and left the mosque feeling glad to have gone, and eager to process it.

See up until an hour or two before we left for the mosque, I still was not sure I wanted to go, so, it goes without saying that I definitely wished that I had had somebody there to tell me Ashley, just go or Ashley, just don’t go, but I’m smart enough to know that none of my friends or mentors are dumb enough to tell me that & make it that easy for me, no matter how much I want them to. However, I think God did nudge me a little to go, through one of my group members. Our group met up before the service to go over our PowerPoint presentation for Monday, and during our meeting, we got to talking about the religions that we each individually belong to. After talking about that for a bit, one of my group members looked at me and said, “You are the only open minded Christian I have ever met.”

I thought to myself, “Alright God, I see you.” Also, “No pressure or anything.”

By this group members words, I was reminded of my call as a Christian, let alone as a future pastor, to be a witness for Jesus and who he is. I can’t effectively do that if I am around people who are similar to me all the time. I can’t do that if I reject people who belong to various different religions and I cannot love all my neighbors if I dismiss a select few of them for what they believe or don’t believe. If God put me in this group in which I am the only Christian, and in this class in which I am 1 of 2 Christians, that’s an opportunity to be a witness for Jesus by being like Jesus and showering them with the love of God — not an opportunity to add to the hypocrisy or hate or close mindedness that they have already experienced enough of from Christians. I know full well that I am no perfect embodiment of what a Christian is supposed to be like & I probably makes God roll his eyes at least 5 times a day, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t strive to imitate Jesus around everyone I encounter, but especially in the presence of people who have lost hope that such a Christian exists. I took this group members comment seriously, even knowing that I am not as open-minded as I should be or as I want to be someday. I also took it as a reminder of my responsibility to imitate Jesus more than I try to imitate a religious person who shoves a set of rules down people’s throats to follow.

So yesterday, I went, & I went for a lot of different reasons. I went to educate myself, to see with my own eyes how those of Islamic faith worship. I went in hopes of maybe helping to eradicate this belief that all Christian’s are intolerant of hearing beliefs different from their own. I went to face my feeling of discomfort for the sake of growing & having my mind opened. I went to show as much kindness as I could to those there, whether they worshiped Allah, Jesus, or no god at all.

I am not going to sit here and try to act as though my faith is really not all that different from that of my Muslim brothers & sisters, and I do not know everything there is to know about their faith, or my own faith for that matter, but I do know that my faith teaches me to love my neighbors – that means my Muslim neighbors, my atheist neighbors, my Christian neighbors, my neighbors of all races, ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic status’. If I can get just one thing right in my walk with Christ, I pray that it would be that – loving other people unconditionally just as Christ himself did.

I am finding that the more I learn, the more questions I have. And I like to think that’s a good thing. I’m so lucky as to have people in my life who are willing to either answer those questions that I have, or simply wrestle through them with me, and I really urge you reading this today to find people in your life who can do the same for you, because it’s really nice to know you’re not alone in the confusions, frustrations, and questions you have.

I could definitely write more about this experience, but I am still processing my visit and am still processing this project and class as a whole, so that is all of the writing I’ll leave you with (for now). My hope & my prayer would be that as a society & as a world that consists of different cultures, individuals, and religions with similarities and with differences, that we would be able to reach a place of seeing one another for who we are, differences and all, and being okay with embracing just that, understanding that differences do not have to equal division. I am as guilty as the next person for allowing differences and my discomfort with unfamiliarity to stand in the way of embracing all people the way I should. We’re all imperfect & are going to mess up, but that’s no excuse not to try. So I’m preaching to myself just as much as I am to you when I say, go out of your way to learn about someone different from you. Educate yourself. Do your research. Expand your knowledge. And get comfortable being uncomfortable.

The Church & Social Justice

If you’ve ever heard the worship song, “Hosanna,” you may be familiar with the lyrics in the refrain which say, “break my heart for what breaks Yours.” I’ve listened to this song probably a hundred times before, and yet, I don’t think I’ve ever resonated with those 7 words more than I have this semester, and especially this past week. I have felt God breaking my heart for what I am confident breaks his, & more specifically have been left sick to my stomach about the injustices that are occurring every moment in this world, and the pure helplessness I feel when it comes to helping end those injustices.

This semester, I am enrolled in a psychology and culture class, which I know I talk about a lot, but this class is one that has opened my eyes so wide & changed my thinking in ways I never thought a class was capable of. Each Monday and Wednesday evening, I walk out of this class thinking about the many different cultures and social justice issues in ways I’ve never thought about them before, and in some cases, never thought about at all. Our class is comprised of individuals of different races, genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, religion’s, career aspirations, & political views, and it is taught by an Asian professor who is passionate about traveling and entrenching himself in the many wonderful cultures that exist in this world that we live in.

On Monday’s, we have class all together in one large room, and on Wednesday’s, we are split up into our smaller sections. We have dialogues almost every Wednesday in those section meetings, in which the class of 15-ish individuals has a discussion about whatever topic we learned in Monday’s class. This past week, the topic of discussion was race and ethnicity.

I sat during dialogue this week with my jaw to the floor for the majority of class as I listened to my classmates of color talk about interactions that they have had with certain individuals who treated them unjustly solely because of the color of their skin. My classmates spoke about instances in which they were pulled over while driving and immediately asked by the officer if the car belonged to them, under the assumption that they had stolen it, or instances in which they felt unsafe in the presence of police officers who were blatantly being racist to them – my classmates talked about how they were and are very cautious about moving a certain way for fear of them drawing their weapon. (please note: I & them know that not all police officers are this way – I thank God for the women & men in law enforcement who sacrifice so much to keep us safe) There was also one individual in this dialogue who is African American, and they shared about a time in which them and a friend were in a store and one store-clerk suspected that they had been shoplifting, so the store-clerk called the police and searched their bags, even though it ended up being a ‘false alarm.’ Instances were talked about in which blatantly racist individuals would make comments to my classmates of color, which, rightly so, left them feeling defeated & confused.

I left class that evening with a particularly heavy heart, as though I had the weight equivalent to a ton of bricks on my shoulders, for more reasons than one. That evening when I got home, I sat on my bed with my Bible open in front of me with tears of empathy and the feeling of helplessness rolling down my face as I reflected so deeply and processed so thoroughly what I had just heard my classmates so painfully described that day. I acknowledged that if my heart hurt this bad simply in listening to these stories that they shared, I cannot imagine how deeply it hurt to actually experience it. I acknowledged my desire to do more to help change this, but also acknowledged my frustration in not knowing where in the world to begin. I acknowledged the anger I have that this is seriously something people have to put up with because such hate and ignorance exists today.

I myself have been pulled over before for speeding, and yes I got a ticket (ya live & ya learn) but not once during my interaction with this police officer did I ever feel unsafe. I  have never had to worry about being treated unfairly by anyone because of my race. That is a very privileged position to be in. While I know full well what it is like to experience oppression & discrimination for being a woman, I don’t have a clue what it is like to be discriminated against because of my race, and I probably will never. But thanks to my peers who are in this class with me this semester, and in general being in college for almost three years now surrounded by people who are different from me, my eyes have been opened wider to these matters – not as wide as they should be but wider than they used to be, and I am very, very done acting as though I am blind to the fact that this is a problem which needs to be addressed.

I can’t not care about these issues, especially as a future leader in the Church. Social justice issues are not things that can or should be left at the church doors on our way in and not brought in and talked about. And personally, I am very done with the Church having so much fear of being “too political” that it neglects to bring difficult issues that are going on outside the church walls, into the church. These issues affect the Church, and they affect our brothers & sisters who are not in the Church, whom we should be ministering to. The Church is not supposed to be separate from the world, friends – the Church – the body of Christ (us) are not of this world, but we are still in this world. We need to be aware of what’s going on in the world and not be in a bubble closed off from it all. We can come to church and we can sit and act as though everything is fine but that will not change the fact that everything is not fine. When we walk out of church, injustice is still happening, and while I in no way have the answers to what the church can or should do, I know enough to write that the Church needs to do something & not nothing.

If we look to scripture, we find that Jesus himself was political. He was SO political! All you have to do is look at scripture to know that – read the Gospel’s. You’ll find that he did so many things that turned heads & went against the “norm” for the sake of doing GOOD & changing lives for the better.

Jesus was a warrior for social justice. And we’re called to live like him, right?

We don’t need to spend our time discussing which political party Jesus would have been a part of – Jesus wasn’t for the republicans or for the democrats – he was for people. We talk all the time about ‘what Jesus would do’ but never when it comes to things that may become controversial, and call me crazy, but I don’t think social justice is a political topic more than it is just another thing Jesus taught in the Bible, which we should be imitating. It’s something Jesus showed us how to actively advocate for in scripture.

Words are powerful, yes, but they are not always enough. We can pray, and we should pray. But friends, please know that wanting to take actions other than praying does not undermine or negate our belief that God can solve or heal this – what if God is yearning for us to GO and make the change happen that we are sitting around waiting for him to do? What if that’s his answer to this prayer? For us to go & be the hands & feet of Jesus in this? In all we do?

I know that requires action – actions that may make people look at you funny. But hey, the Pharisees questioned why Jesus was eating with the tax collectors & sinners, right? Jesus loved, welcomed, talked with, and cared for the least of these, he talked with a Samaritan woman, he worked on the Sabbath, he went against the norm, was an advocate for minorities – for those who didn’t have a voice, were different from him, & didn’t think they were worth anything. May we do the SAME.

This would be about the time where I would write “how” to do just that, but I can’t write that simply because I do not know how. I know I can love people. I know I can start having these difficult conversations, and know I am going to be more intentional about having those conversations with people in my life who are willing to listen & talk with me about it, even if we disagree with one another. I do find myself overcome by frustration for the very reason that I do not know the ‘right way’ (if one even exists) to go about taking the privilege I have as a white individual, and use it for good & to help those who do not have such racial privilege. I acknowledge I am so small compared to this huge issue facing our globe. But I refuse to let my acknowledgement of that keep me from trying.

So please know that I am writing this post today not as somebody who thinks she has all the answers – I don’t have the answers. I’m not even close to having all the answers and you very well could have disagreed with everything I’ve just written in this post. That’s okay. I wrote this today to lay out with a heavy heart what I am feeling, in this open way, so perhaps maybe we, together, can wrestle with it & discuss how to make progress in the right direction. This is something I am working on – it’s something I’m honestly just recently starting to work on actively. But I do want to actively work on it, and not let it be something that I acknowledge is a problem but then don’t do anything about it. I encourage you to work on it with me! And if any of you have any resources to better educate me, I am all ears.

I know progress has been made, and I hope we all never forget that. But I hope we also never forget that just because progress has been made, does not mean that there is not still progress to be made. I don’t know what that looks like. But maybe, just maybe, one of the very first steps in figuring that out, is acknowledging change is needed, & becoming educated to enact that change.

And if you are white, remember that nobody is asking you to apologize for being of the dominant race – you shouldn’t feel guilty and nobody should make you feel guilty, you never chose the privilege that you have. But we can choose what we’re going to do with it. So what will you do with the privilege you’ve been given? Will you use it to do good? To combat injustice? To make the world better for your brothers & sisters who are racial minorities? What are you going to do? Or will you sit back and refuse to believe anything needs to change?

I’ve been praying fervently about this and ask that you would join me. Like I said, I don’t have the answers, but God does. He cares about these things. He will give us wisdom and insight into what we can do. But my brothers & sisters in Christ, we need to talk about this, both with God and with each other.

 

A Response to John Piper

By now, I’m sure many of you have heard or are aware of John Piper’s most recent podcast about whether or not women should be professors at seminaries. There has been a great deal of discussion surrounding this podcast, and though it may be needless to say, that discussion has not been very positive, nor has it been in support of his stance, rather, the discussion has been in resistance, against his stance. This post that I am writing today is not going to be a “letter to” John Piper, nor is it going to be a list of all reasons as to why I think that he is wrong (although, I do 100% believe that he is wrong). If I’m being completely honest, people like him don’t deserve my energy or finger muscles, at least not right now when I have a sermon to write and then preach on Sunday 😉

I do know full well what it is like to put my energy into debating with people about what women “can” and “cannot” do, and if I’m being honest, I’m sick of feeling as though it is my responsibility to explain to these ignorant men, why my call from God is just as legitimate as any other call. So, this post is more of a response based, not on how listening to this theological disaster of a podcast made me feel, rather, a response on how to move forward, as well as a sincere thank you to the men out there who hold to a egalitarian view, and strive each day to make room for women’s voices when people like Piper try to take them away. I want this response to be one where I thank the men who constantly strive for our equality, and I want to thank, indirectly (and at some point directly), all of the men in my own life who truly give me hope, that the destructive beliefs like the ones Piper preaches so often, will not last forever; not so long as men like you all step up, speak up, and make room for us women at the table, acknowledging that when women aren’t being heard, half the body of Christ is not being heard. God’s love is what will last forever, and these beliefs, I cannot help but write, are not God’s love. In fact, I can’t sit here and believe for one second that trying to prohibit women from doing what God has called them to do, whether teach, preach, or anything else, does not absolutely tear God’s heart right up.

So, without further ado, Piper’s article/podcast is linked here.

If you want to spare your ear drums (and sanity), I’ll give a short summary:

Piper states that it is as unbiblical for women to be professors at seminaries, as it is unbiblical for women to be pastors. Piper quotes the infamous 1 Timothy 2:12 passage, while neglecting its context completely, while reminding us that it is unbiblical for a woman to have authority over a male, whether in preaching or teaching (and probably more than that, which they just have not admitted yet). Piper uses the matter of mentorship as part of his argument – women cannot train pastors (i.e by teaching theological courses at seminaries) if they cannot even be a pastor themselves. Piper’s (and many others’) stance on this is that women should mentor women, and men should mentor men. This is all a very complementarian view, which, if you are unfamiliar with the term, in a nutshell means that women and men have separate roles in the Church, in marriage, etc. I’m sure you could guess this, but the answer, in Piper’s opinion, is no – women should not be professors at seminaries.

People were very shocked by this podcast. I wasn’t, and many folks who are also familiar with Piper, were not surprised by his stance on whether or not women should be professors at seminaries. I’ve found that no matter how many times you encounter people who believe things like this, you’re never not shocked, simply because of how unbelievable the belief is, especially in 2018. I actually lived in this for a year of my life, surrounded by people throwing these complementarian views in my face, and I still run into it occasionally, as do so many other women. It’s a real thing; it may be shocking, and unbelievable, but it’s not new, and it’s not going to go anywhere unless women and men continue to step up, and speak out against it. It genuinely hurts my heart to know that some people actually think this stuff puts a smile on God’s face. This sexism, and oppression, hatred, and fragile masculinity. It’s scary that sometimes it seems as though some people put more of their energy into defending why women cannot x, y, and z, more than they put their energy into spreading the Gospel. Think about that for a minute.

While I remember many of the not so wonderful days that I had as a student walking the grounds of Liberty University, one that I remember most vividly was when I was told by a guest speaker in my intro to church ministries class, that I was committing emotional adultery with any mentors of mine who were married, a male, and oh, God forbid they were a pastor, too. I don’t remember his reasoning behind why he thought this, likely because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but I do remember that he had a PowerPoint on it, and when I went up to him after class to question this odd opinion that he had just taught a class of 60 undergraduate ministry students, he told me this remark that is written above.

This encounter with that guest speaker makes me laugh in retrospect, but in the moment, it made me feel so unbelievably uncomfortable – as though I was being talked to as a temptation to be avoided instead of a human being. I never had a pastor who was a woman until I got to college, and many of the people in my life who are my mentors are men, and that’s not by choice, because plain and simple, I don’t choose my mentors based on their sex. I choose them based on their ability to give me wisdom, guidance, build me up, challenge me, and support & love me well in my endeavors. That’s how it should be. One of the many implications Piper makes in this podcast is simply another man (him), trying to control women and what they do and don’t do – and he’s doing so in the name of God, which is scary, friends. It’s actually terrifying that this is seen as God’s love, will, and Word.

This podcast infuriated me, but it did not surprise me. It didn’t surprise a lot of people, and that’s sad. I know John Piper’s work and views well enough to not be surprised anymore, and while that may be okay, I don’t ever want to become immune to it, because when we become immune/not affected by things like this, our incentive to promote change and move forward from these harmful beliefs, disappears, and we don’t want that to happen. We need that incentive and we need to be active in resisting this and speaking against it.

So, with that, I just want to say a quick thank you to the men in my life who aim to do just that; who not only seek to silence but get rid of the inequality all together. Thank you, guys. Thank you for never making me feel inferior, and for never treating me as though I am inferior. Thank you for never making me feel uncomfortable. Thank you to the men who will go to the ends of the earth to give me opportunities to grow instead of telling me my place is with the children and not behind a pulpit. Thank you to the men who don’t treat me as thought I am an object, and instead treat me with respect. Thank you for knowing how to treat a young woman like myself well. Thank you for talking to me like an adult and not like a child. Thank you for making me feel safe. Thank you for acknowledging that I am strong and not inferior, while simultaneously carrying yourself in a way that lets me know you’d gladly beat the crap out of anyone who tried to hurt me. Thank you for not mansplaining (we all know why we’re thankful for that).

Thank you to the men who go out of their way to stand up for women, who treat us as equal individuals (because we are), who fight for women and don’t let this disgusting message be preached without trying to drown it out with your voice for equality in the Church and in the world.

I wrote this post as a woman who has been incredibly hurt, talked down to, taken advantage of, and made uncomfortable by men, but also as a woman who, in my bias opinion, knows some of the greatest men in the world, who fight against Piper’s harmful teaching – my dad, my friends and pastors and mentors who are men, and (some) of the men I have dated… there are incredible, respectful, sexism-destroying, loving, caring, men & leaders, both in the Church, in the community, in the workplace, and in the world, who are using the voices they have, to do good and destroy sexism and the mistreatment and inequality of women. Don’t lose hope. Change is a long a process. But it’s happening.

A Prayer for Las Vegas

Las Vegas has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind today, as I’m sure it has been on yours as well. Right now, I feel as though I have nothing to offer but prayer, and I am encouraged by that, because I believe there is great power to be found in prayer, and it is needed right now, as it is always. I cannot begin to imagine the unbearable fear that the people attending this concert must have been filled with when this person opened fire, killing 50+ people and injuring hundreds more. I checked Twitter every chance I could today, trying to keep informed and updated on what was going on in Nevada, but I had to stop. I had to stop because it became overwhelming and sad to see politics trumping the compassion, empathy, love, and prayers that Las Vegas is so desperately in need of right now. My brothers and sisters, events such as the one that occurred today is not an excuse to argue about our political views. I am not saying that the political issues associated with events such as this one should not be talked about, but remember to tread lightly, and remember that people have died and there is a lot of grief to be had right now. May we also remember that these acts of terror and hate that leave us broken, also leave us with an opportunity to unite in a type of love that casts out the hate that people who carry out such events strive to spread. May we stand with the community of Las Vegas as they mourn and heal, may we be in prayer for them, and may we unite to uplift them during this time.


 

Merciful God, we come before you burdened with a pain and sadness that we can never seem to comprehend when these events occur. As we watch the effects of the massacre in Las Vegas unfold, we are filled with anger, fear, and anxious and hurt hearts for the community of Las Vegas. We come to you, God, with the hope and prayer that you would heal the enormous hurt, whether emotional or physical, that has been caused by this event. We pray that you would be with the friends and families of those who lost their lives as a result of this hate-filled act. We pray that you would cover with your loving and healing hands all of your children who were affected. We pray that you would bring comfort to those who are mourning – may we mourn with them. We pray for the courage, during this time, and always, to love one another amid a world that is so constantly seems to be on a mission to divide us further and further apart, especially when tragedies like this strike. We pray for the wisdom to always know that no matter what, your love is greater, stronger, and more powerful than any act of hate that tries to overcome our country and world. We pray for peace right now, God, and we thank you that when we feel there is no good left in the world, we may be brought peace by the simple reassurance that there is good left in the world because YOU are GOOD, and YOU are here, even amid all of this turmoil. Help us to see you, seek you, and be like you each day. Help us to be bearers of your goodness and perfect love in a world that is in such desperate need of it more and more each day. We pray that you would help us to know how to act in response to the massacre that occurred in Las Vegas. Help us to speak in love and act in love so that people, especially like the person who committed this act of hate, would know your love. Help us to be beacons of your peace, love, grace, and compassion, everywhere we go. We ask above all right now that you would simply be present with Nevada and each person affected by this shooting – may they know you and your peace and comfort. We pray all of this in your son Jesus’ precious and holy name –

Amen.

a response. for my sisters.

 

statuss

The above Facebook status was one that I wrote this past Sunday. It ended up receiving more reaction and attention than I anticipated, and because of this – because of the numerous comments and Facebook messages that I received following the posting of this status, and because personally, it has been weighing on my mind and on my heart this week, I wanted to elaborate further and write more, for you and for me.

This past Sunday, it was with a very heavy heart that I wrote this status following a church service that left me filled with utter disappointment. Those who read this status reacted to reading it exactly the way that I reacted to hearing the said sermon: shocked, angry, confused, disappointed. I knew that there needed to be light shed onto this because I have dealt with these issues before and therefore had the discernment to know that this is something that cannot be ignored. I cannot imagine that I was the only person in the congregation left feeling this way following this sermon, and I knew that if I ignored this, it would mean that I was tolerating it, and this is something that simply should not be tolerated.

I know that there are plenty of faiths and denominations that have these very same issues every single day regarding looking at men and women as polar opposites and treating them as unequal, and frankly, I am sure that will be a topic I’ll cover in another blog post on another day – But today I am addressing this issue that I was reminded of on Sunday which is still clearly going on within the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church prides itself on its inclusiveness and affirmation of women in all areas and roles of the church, and if we pride ourselves on that, we cannot be sitting back and allowing sexist preaching to occur within our churches. The fact that these issues are still going on within our denomination in the year 2017 does not come as much of a shock to myself and I am sure it doesn’t come as a shock to many of you either, but the fact that it is still present does not mean that we have to accept it and allow it to continue. We need to take our blinders off and know that if it is seen or heard, it should be confronted.

First and foremost, know that my reasoning behind writing and posting this status on Sunday was and still is not to drag anyone’s name through the mud, so with that, the person who preached this sermon will remain unnamed by me, as will the name of the church. I ask that if you do know it, that you please do not comment either of those names on this post. I should note that since my initial post and since talking with others about this, it is being addressed and it is in hands that are not mine, but rest assured and trust that it is being taken care of in the correct manner.

I want to start on a positive note, as I always strive to do, and say that I do not want to believe that the worship experience I had this past Sunday was an accurate representation of this church. This was my first time ever attending this church, and while first impressions are important, I do strive to refrain from judging any church based on one experience. The pastor was pleasant and welcoming, and even offered to have me preach there sometime. I had countless members of the church come up to me, welcome me, and say that they were glad I was there. But the sermon – the sermon was unnerving. It was preached not by the pastor, but by a guest who is someone that holds authority, and that was and is unsettling to me.

With all of that being said, the reasoning behind why I did choose to write this initial status and bring other people into it to hear their views on what I should do with this outdated sermon, was because I do not want any young women like myself sitting in the pews hearing those words from the pulpit and believing for one second that that is truth. I am not going into ministry to prove any points, but I most certainly do acknowledge and take very seriously the fact that God has called me and that I am pursuing a role that many people strive to prevent women from pursuing. I take seriously my responsibility as a woman to defend other women, and affirm them, rather than tear them down or let them be torn down. I take very seriously getting up behind a pulpit knowing there are young girls and women sitting in the pews. Our Virginia conference has a Bishop who just so happens to be a woman; a strong, bold, passionate, fierce woman, and I know that she takes seriously that responsibility, among all her other responsibilities. Seeing her preach and knowing that she is our Bishop encourages me to press on and gives me hope amid any scrutiny myself and others may receive. I can’t imagine what it means for girls even younger than I to see her and her boldness and leadership. Representation matters, as does affirming one another’s gifts and call. So that responsibility of mine was what was running through my head during this sermon, along with knowing blatant sexism when I hear it.

I will note, because many of you have asked – I did not confront this person. I wanted to confront them following this church service. I walked right by this guest preacher after the service was over and I very well could have gone up and had a conversation with them, however, I refrained from doing so and the reasoning for that was as simple as this: I didn’t want my anger to take control of my tongue. I didn’t want to be rude in any way, or say something that I didn’t mean. I was furious, and rightly so, but that is not the best state to go up to someone and speak with them.

This sermon was one that led my jaw to drop more times than I can count, and after having listened to it online for a second time (and third and fourth time) (really just to make sure I was hearing it right), I still can’t believe it. I’m not angry anymore, though, rather, I feel encouraged. I feel encouraged to stand up more and be more bold when it comes to these types of issues.

During the sermon, I wanted so badly to stand up and walk out. But then I remembered the countless times during freshman year of college that I sat in my Bible and church ministries classes at Liberty University where I heard all about how I couldn’t be a pastor because I was a woman. Every day I was told by someone I couldn’t pursue God’s call upon my life for that very reason. I remembered the anger, the doubt, and the hurt that I felt, but I also remembered how I pushed through every single one of those classes – all four New Testament class periods that my professor used to try and convince our class of 300 that women were forbidden from holding the pastoral role. I pushed through all those dreadful classes that left me in tears, and I have grown because of it.

Sitting through those classes didn’t teach me that I couldn’t be a pastor, but they sure as heck taught me how to stand up for what I believe in, even if I was standing alone (and believe me, majority of times at Liberty, I was standing alone). Sitting through that sermon on Sunday didn’t convince me that men and women have separate roles or that women’s gifts stifle men’s gifts in the church, but sitting there and hearing it all presented to me an opportunity to stand up for myself and for every other woman in the Church.

So as I sit here and reflect on this past Sunday,  I am glad that I sat through that whole sermon. I am glad that I sat there, because though I was utterly infuriated at the words I was hearing, I was reminded that when we become infuriated, we have the ability to take that fury and allow it to motivate us to do good or spark change in a positive way. We don’t have to let it drain us or cut us deeply.

As I walked home from church, I contemplated putting anything on Facebook about the service. I contemplated deleting it after I made the decision to post it. I wondered if I had simply overreacted. But then I got other people’s opinions on it (this is why the Bible says to seek wise counsel!!) When someone told me to send it to our Bishop, I started overthinking it more than I already had been.

I’m on my own ministry journey and I’d rather not cause any trouble or make anyone mad.

But then I read a timely devotion about being bold (God’s funny like that). It talked about how whether or not we choose to be bold lies in how confident we are in our God (and not ourselves!) I’m confident in God and know him and his word well enough to know that he would never encourage preaching that sets one gender up on a pedestal and the other left out to dry. One pastor reminded me that people like this guest speaker, who think and preach such things, in a way want us to be afraid and not speak up. They especially don’t expect women to speak up who are ‘supposed to be gentle and not have a loud enough voice to speak up with.’ This person even stated in their sermon that women are supposed to be gentle and men are to be leaders. But friends, need I remind you that gentleness and boldness are not gender specific.

When the person holds some type of authority as this person did, it can be even more intimidating, which could be why the pastor of this church did not stop the preaching as I know many of the pastors in my life would have. But it is in those tough moments, even if the person is higher up than them, when discernment of what is right and being bold both come into play.

Being bold sometimes means standing up even when you are a little (or a lot) afraid to do so. In fact, that shows boldness; we’ve all heard that famous quote, “feel the fear and do it anyways.” That was me speaking up about what I experienced in this church on Sunday. That was me sending this status to my Bishop and sending the link to select few people who I could trust to get their opinion. That is me sitting here right now realizing how big of an issue this was and that it’s being addressed because I, feeling the fear and doing it anyways, shed some light onto this issue that has likely occurred more than just once, happening right in our conference.

My main reason for writing a more elaborate response post about this was to remind the Church that we still have work to do. It was to remind myself and others who happen to read my writing about the importance of men and women empowering one another, not pinning us against each other or building up walls of differences between us. It was to remind myself and others that we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, need to be lifting each other up and affirming each other’s gifts and the call which God has placed on each of our lives – we are called! So may we do these things each and every day, Church!

Through this situation, I have felt and seen God actively working, as he has many, many times before when it has come to discerning when to speak up and when to remain silent. I have heard and sensed him through the people who I have brought into this conversation as well. It has made my heart happy to see my fellow brothers and sisters come together and affirm women in church leadership and condemn the oppression of it. I know that every time I witness such preaching that goes against what the UMC (not to mention the Bible) stands for, or I or another woman is told that we can’t do something because of our gender, it makes us stronger, and gives us thicker skin, which personally is something I have been praying for!

I know that I am not perfect, that I am never going to be, and that I am not called to be. I am still going to run around mountains barefoot, be as clumsy as can be, run into things, and get my ear mic tangled in my hair every time before I preach. I am still only 20, with a whole lot left to learn. When I am a pastor, I still won’t be perfect, I won’t know everything, and I won’t be perfect at letting such negative preaching or comments role off me like rain. I know that the women and men who I look up to aren’t perfect and also have a lot left to learn. Role models are not supposed to be perfect. No male or female on this planet will ever be perfect and God doesn’t expect us to be (thank goodness). But as Christians striving to please the Lord, we do our best and nothing less than that. We do good, we love people, we affirm one another in the things Gods called us to do, we walk humbly, we love mercy, we do justly.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, encourage one another to be who God has called each of us individually to be, and nothing less. Brothers in Christ, you, too have a responsibility in this – a responsibility to affirm your sisters, stand up for them, and not discourage or allow others to discourage us from doing the things that God has called us to do. Churches, make certain that you are getting men and women into your pulpits. Sisters in Christ, may we continue to empower one another, as we continue to preach on.

 

Charlottesville.

When the events in Charlottesville happened this past weekend, I knew right away that I would want to write about it, but I wanted to wait a little while. I wanted to wait and take some time to gather my thoughts and figure out how to formulate the ‘right’ words to put out there for the world to see. Before tonight, whenever I would sit down to write, I could not for the life of me seem to find words that described to the fullest the heaviness and large affect that this weekend had on so many people and on our town. But I realized tonight that it’s not about having the ‘right’ words. There really are no ‘right’ words to say or write when something like this happens, so I’m going to try, to the best of my ability, to share my reflections on this past weekend’s horrific events, in my beloved hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

On Friday evening, when I saw all over social media what was happening down on the campus of UVA, it made me absolutely sick. Just 10 minutes from my house, I have walked the campus of UVA more times than I can count – it is absolutely beautiful, but all of a sudden, there were crowds of people with lit torches walking all over it – people who were clearly filled with so much hate, anger, and rage. The worst part about these people stomping around with torches is that it was only the beginning of what would end up being a horrific day that would impact our town for despicable reasons.

As this, “Unite the Right” rally approached, I knew that that Saturday was going to be ugly, I’m sure we all did, but none of us knew exactly how ugly it would become, or how quickly it would escalate. I certainly never thought that my hometown would become a nation wide topic of conversation, and for such an awful, awful reason. I never thought that I would open social media and see my town’s name all over the place with hashtags and on the news nation wide. Yet here we are, amid the aftermath of something that nobody native to Charlottesville ever thought would happen here. You see it happening in other places all the time, but you never expect it to be something that your own small town is in the news for.

On Saturday morning, my plan was to go downtown and be among those who were down there from various faith communities, but I couldn’t find anyone who was able to go with me, so I opted not to. Instead, I watched live videos on social media, I watched the news, and I read countless tweets and Facebook posts about what was going on down there. I saw videos of the violence that broke out in numerous areas of downtown – the fist fighting, the attacking one another…I saw so much hate and disunity – more than I had ever seen firsthand before in my life.  It made me sick to watch and read about, but at the same time, I couldn’t stand to not keep myself updated about what was going on down there.

Saturday afternoon, I logged back onto Facebook and immediately saw the news about the car that had ran head on into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters on the downtown mall, injuring about 20 people and killing one. A little while following this car incident, I heard about the helicopter that had crashed, killing two police officers who were on duty doing air control for all that was occurring in town. Like most people, I couldn’t help but be brought to tears watching as all of these events take place in my hometown – the hometown I love so incredibly much.

One thing that had these events on Saturday weighing especially heavy on my heart was the fact that I was scheduled to preach the next day. I would be filling in for my pastor that Sunday – the Sunday after all of these horrible events had taken place. Never had I ever been scheduled to serve in a church service, let alone lead one following an event as huge and close to home as this was.

The whole day as tragic event after tragic event occurred, I couldn’t even bring myself to begin brainstorming the words that I would say in church the next day about it all. When I saw videos of that car plowing into the group of innocent, peaceful protesters, I knew I should say something. When I heard about and then saw on the local news about the helicopter crash, and that two more innocent lives had been lost, there was no question that something needed to be said about this in church. Being politically correct was not a concern of mine as it (to be completely honest) has been in the past. To me, this was no political issue – to me, if you are human, these events made your stomach twist. So while I knew that I needed to say something, I was a nervous wreck. I found myself in a puddle of tears trying to think of how in the world I would come up with the ‘right words’ to say following something so terrible. I contemplated calling my pastor and seeing what he would say in the service if he were preaching, but I refrained, and thought, “Na, I got this, don’t bother him.” I had an event to go to in the evening on Saturday, so I left my sermon editing for when I got home, acknowledging that I really needed to sit down and think, reflect, and pray hard about what all I would say come Sunday morning. While I was at this event, my pastor ended up calling me. He informed me that despite him originally having that Sunday off, he would be in church – due to everything that had taken place, he felt he needed to be there. I hung up that phone call and took one big sigh of relief. I would still be preaching and leading various aspects of the worship services, but having the presence of a pastor there to guide the services on that day was what this aspiring pastor needed.

I have never in my life preached with as heavy of a heart as I did this past Sunday. I must say that I am so immensely thankful for the Holy Spirit’s ability to give us words when we seem to have none.

I got home from the event I was at late Saturday night, knowing that the sermon I had prepared for that Sunday was not the exact sermon I should or could preach anymore. I knew that I needed to tweak it, so that I could acknowledge everything that had happened – the loss of innocent lives, the pain our town is in, how we move forward, what can the Church do, etc. I woke up around 5:00 a.m Sunday morning with new words to put into my sermon. New words that I prayed would bring more insight, peace, and comfort to a hurting congregation (and to a hurting me as well). I am so thankful for God’s ability to show up and make his peaceful presence known when we need it most – this past Sunday morning was undoubtedly the most nervous I had been before preaching in a long, long time. But by the grace of God, he led myself and my pastor through those services so that we could lead the congregation, and I was so aware of and confident of his presence there with us – it was a beautiful and gut wrenching Sunday morning all at the same time.

Looking back, I’m so glad none of us walked into that church and acted as though it did not happen, especially because what happened, happened right in our backyard. What happened in town on Friday evening and on Saturday – that was not Jesus. Our churches, communities, towns, and world needs to be reminded of who Jesus was and is. That is why I am so grateful that the sermon that just so happened to go along with the sermon series we’re currently in, was about Jesus’ identity, and in turn, our identity which lies in Jesus. On Sunday, we talked about who Jesus is. We talked about the fact that our identity lies in him which means we’re called to be like him. We talked about how much power there is in his name. We talked about how loving he is, and how love is what we need to show in this world if we want to be more like Jesus.

The hate, darkness, and loss that occurred this past weekend has left our town with a sense of brokenness that I cannot quite articulate to you all. Driving through downtown feels eerie and different right now. Last night I attended an impromptu prayer vigil led by a local United Methodist Church, and the large group of people who came together there to pray, sing hymns, and talk in the very park where so much hate was being spewed on Saturday, gave me a sense of peace, of comfort, and of hope. Following this prayer vigil, I walked with my sister and friend over to where the car came through – the memorial for Heather, where there were countless beautiful flowers, candles, letters, and pictures. Witnessing all of this with my own eyes for the first time was gut wrenching. But I have an incredible amount of hope – I am so convinced that, because of the way that our community has come together following these events, and because of the God we have, there is hope for reconciliation and healing, and that this community has the potential, through prayer and loving one another more than hating, to our come together even closer instead of divide further, despite any of our differences.

The Church plays a very important role in this – when events such as these take place, The Church has work to do. It needs to act. It needs to act because in times of darkness and pain like these, talking about it isn’t enough. There can be prayer vigils, safe places where people can go and process their feelings, thoughts, and emotions following the events, we each individually need to practice communicating with people who have opposing views than us, acknowledging that at the end of the day, our differences only matter so much. But our differences do matter when our differences keep us from loving one another, because that’s when our differences stop us from being like Jesus as we’re called to do. I have never in my life believed so much in the power of these words, that:

Love overcomes hate. Prayer overcomes hate. God overcomes hate.

I know those words may seem like the most cliche in the world, and they will be, unless we ACT as though we know they’re true. We need to love and not hate – we must love those we disagree with. We must pray for these situations. We need to pray for the people involved in these situations – we must pray for the people who have hate in their hearts just as much as we pray for the people who have love in their hearts. We need to carry ourselves as though God has the power to overcome hate. It’s not enough to say it, we have to act, pray, and love as though we believe it.

I pray for the people whose hearts and minds are filled with such hate, anger, and bitterness. I pray that God would work in their hearts in a powerful way, acknowledging that nobody is beyond the grace of God. Nobody is too far out of reach for God to grab onto and change their hearts from hate to love. I pray for these people who may not know any other thing but hate, because they have never been shown the love of God.

I pray for the families of Heather Heyer, who lost her life on the downtown mall when that car struck. I pray for all those who were injured in this car incident as well – I pray for their healing from both their physical wounds and what I can only imagine will be some emotional wounds as well. I pray for the families of the two police officers who died in the helicopter crash. I pray for comfort during this time, and that they would feel God’s loving arms wrapped around each person affected by all of this.

My heart is broken for this beloved town of ours as it grieves and recovers from the hate that plagued us this past weekend, as well as from the pain that resulted from all of this. But as I wrote above, I have hope, and I’ve got that hope for more reasons than one.

To my fellow brothers and sisters here in Charlottesville, we will overcome all of this evil, and we will rise, if we choose love over hate, always.