The Gates of Hades Will Not Prevail

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Bible Readings

There is a Chinese proverb: “It is better to be a dog in a peaceful time than to be a human being in a period of chaos.” Well, folks, like it or not, we are human beings in a period of chaos. Two weeks ago, in Charlottesville, Virginia, there was a right-wing rally. American Nazis marched in the streets carrying torches and chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” These “very fine people,” as the President called them, wish to rid the country of anyone who is not a white heterosexual of pure European descent. As you know, a woman was murdered by one of those American Nazis, and many other innocent people were injured.

A right-wing group with the religious-sounding name of “Patriot Prayer” planned to hold a large rally in San Francisco yesterday. They had hired an anti-government militia with the innocuous-sounding name of “Oath Keepers” to be their bodyguards. (Fortunately, the whole thing fizzled.) Another right-wing rally is planned for Berkeley later today. Now, these rallies were intended to be provocative; the organizers knew full well that there would be violent responses from various anti-fascist groups in the Bay Area. But these rallies have provoked other, nonviolent responses that the organizers could not have anticipated. The San Francisco Interfaith Council responded by holding two prayer meetings for peace, one in a Jewish synagogue, the other in an Episcopal cathedral. People gathered on Saturday at Ocean Beach to form a giant heart-shaped human banner. Even the City and County of San Francisco got in on the act, sponsoring a rally against hate in the Civic Center. And even as I speak, our own bishop, the Right Reverend Marc Andrus, is marching in Berkeley to protest the hateful ideology of the white nationalists who call themselves the “Alt-Right.”

But what does all this have to do with the God or with the Church or with us? A whole lot! The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s justice is meant to be a light to the peoples of the entire earth, to all the sons and daughters of father Abraham, to people of all races and all skin colors. The idea of a white-only nation is quite simply unbiblical and ungodly.

St. Paul exhorts us to be willing to offer up our very bodies as living sacrifices to God, holding nothing back. And he warns us: “Do not be conformed to this world.” He says this for the simple reason that the ways of this world are not the ways of God. The world can all too often be a hateful and violent place. But there is no room in the Kingdom of God for hatred or violence, for racism or anti-Semitism.

Finally, Jesus Christ, whom St. Peter rightly identifies as both the Jewish Messiah and the Son of the living God, tells us that the Church that is built on the foundation of Peter’s faith holds the very keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Church has been given the authority to bind and to loose; in other words, Jesus gave to the apostles, and to the Church that has followed in their footsteps, the authority to declare what is, and what is not, in accordance with God’s will. Admittedly, the Church has sometimes misused this authority; there is no denying that fact. But now is not a time for the Church to doubt itself. Now is a time for the Church to venture forth into the world and to bind the evil that has been set loose. We must speak out and take action against white supremacists and racists of every kind. We must defend our Jewish brothers and sisters from intimidation by American Nazis. And we must take action now, before it is too late.

It is all too easy to sit back and to do nothing. But one innocent person has already died. And other innocent people are even now living in fear. This last week, I had coffee with a local rabbi. He told me that members of his own family are thinking of emigrating from the United States. They fear that the Nazis will take over the country, as happened in Germany. They remember the horror stories that their parents and grandparents told them about the Holocaust. I hope that they are wrong about the state of our nation. I hope that Nazi hate has not taken root in the soul of American society. But if we want that hateful ideology to be uprooted, we who are members of the Body of Christ must do some weeding!

In the words of the Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Brothers and sisters, you are the Church on earth. You are the heirs of Isaiah and St. Paul and St. Peter. You are the Body of Christ in the world. And if you believe this to the very core of your heart, the gates of Hades will not prevail against you. So, in the Name of Christ, take a stand against the Alt-Right—any stand! Write a letter to your senator. Attend a rally against hate. Donate money to the Southern Poverty Law Center or the NAACP. Campaign for political candidates who unequivocally condemn racism and anti-Semitism. There are a thousand ways you can make a difference. Just do something—for Christ’s sake! And whatever else you may do, pray without ceasing for the peace of God and for the coming of his Kingdom. For contrary to the preference expressed by the Chinese proverb, we are not dogs in a peaceful time, but human beings in a period of chaos. And we could do with a little divine intervention!

© 2017 by Darren Miner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


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