MCC Blog August 16, 2017

In the wake of events in Charlottesville this weekend, as we stand vigil, pray, and put our faith into action opposing hatred, racism, bigotry and prejudice.

The tragic and disturbing events that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend might lead some to conclude that seven hundred miles isn’t all that separates us here in Maine from the racism, bigotry and violence that erupted to our south. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Less than a hundred years ago, the Ku Klux Klan had 20,000 members here in Maine, the mayor of Portland was a Klan member, and gubernatorial candidate William Robinson Pattangall, Maine’s Attorney General, was defeated because he campaigned against the Klan’s “deep hatred and incendiarism.” In 1987, the Klan was again active in our state, but was met by fierce opposition, largely led by the Maine Council of Churches, who, along with co-sponsors The Jewish Federation of Southern Maine, the Maine chapter of the NAACP, the Christian Civic League, NOW, and the AFL-CIO, organized rallies in Rumford, Portland, Bangor, Augusta, and Lewiston-Auburn to protest the KKK’s presence. THIS YEAR, KKK pamphlets were distributed in several Maine cities, including the state capital..

In the wake of events in Charlottesville this weekend, as we stand vigil, pray, and put our faith into action opposing hatred, racism, bigotry and prejudice, it is essential that we remember our own history, acknowledge the painful reality that racial hatred is still alive and well not only in Virginia but here at home, and accept that white privilege must be examined and dismantled as part of our faith-based response.

As we have in years past, the Maine Council of Churches denounces the white supremacist, racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic rhetoric and violence spewing from the groups who marched in Charlottesville in recent days. And we give thanks for those who stood up to hatred and put their lives on the line to stand for justice, equality, love and peace. We are especially thankful for the leadership of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, for the witness of Rev. Traci Blackmon and Dr. Cornell West, and for the local congregations who opened their hearts and their doors to protect the most vulnerable, tend to the wounded, and speak out against racism, especially the First United Methodist Church of Charlottesville and Associate Pastor Phil Woodson. We extend our deepest sympathy to the families of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H.J. Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, and pray that they are surrounded with a sense of God’s loving comfort and peace as they grieve.

Let us unite in prayer and in action, exemplifying the power of love in concrete action, refusing to be silent in the face of evil.

You and your community of faith may find these links helpful as you reflect and act:

• Maine Conference, UCC Anti-Racism Resource Team

• Faith-based anti-racism resources:

• Statement by Virginia’s Episcopal Bishops “What We Saw, What You Can Do,”