What’s Love Got to Do With It?
“Church folks, come and listen to what I have to say. Some of you believe and practice the great commandment to love God, and to love and welcome neighbors and strangers. The rest of you love your nation more than you love God. You serve idols and worship yourselves. You ignore my commandment to love. You hate your neighbors. Your hatred results in violence, death, and murder of God’s good creation. Your toxic self-indulgence unleashes genocide, ethnic cleansing, and ruthlessly kills my sacred family members.”
In Matthew 22:35-40, Jesus reiterates the Torah’s teaching in Leviticus 19:34 concerning love for God and neighbor. Treat your neighbor as if they were the Creator God, love them. Love strangers even when they are different—their dialects and languages, foods they eat, clothes they wear, customs they practice, and rhythms they produce.
When Christians are violent, commit murder, and destroy their neighbor’s communities it’s an outward sign they also hate God. This was evident listening to the survivors of the Tulsa Massacre of 300 black people on May 31, 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams,” Viola Fletcher testified before a House Judiciary Subcommittee last week, commemorating 100 years since the tragedy occurred on May 31, 1921. She was 7 years old when her town was burned to the ground and over 300 black residents were killed without mercy over a period of two days. “I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot.”
Viola Fletcher spoke her truth with conviction that everyday of her life has been spent remembering the day family members, friends, and neighbors were killed simply for being black in America. America remains rooted in historical amnesia. It is an amnesia that is driving policymakers across the nation to pass bills erasing anti-racism and Critical Race Theory education like The 1619 Project.
Congressional leaders within the Republican party continue to block access to anti-racism education as a corrective to America’s denial that racism exist. Predominately white lawmakers would rather forget the roots of systemic racism by passing laws abolishing historical facts of the impact of settler colonialism on indigenous peoples and chattel slavery. In the past month twenty states attorneys general sent a letter to the Biden Administration to “reconsider educational proposals aimed at imposing the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), the 1619 Project and other similar curriculum into America’s classrooms.” Critical Race Theory is an important informative educational component based on the brutal violence of settler colonialism and the fabricated construction of race categories. We must join in taking action and demand access to a more comprehensive education of America’s history; one that includes Critical Race Theory.
God is still speaking and inviting Christians to radical engagement with anti-racism education and advocating for laws inclusive of everyone’s history. Viola Fletcher’s testimony included a demand for reparations for the survivors. Love God and your neighbors.
Rev. Dr. Velda Love, United Church of Christ Minister for Racial Justice