If you think our young people aren’t hearing and mirroring the hatred and divisiveness of our culture, think again.
Last weekend some 5,000 Methodist youth gathered in Fayetteville for their annual “Pilgrimage” retreat weekend. Required to do without their cellphones and tablets for the weekend, organizers understood how eager young people are to communicate and provided them clothespins, instructing them they could write messages and attach the pins on other attendees.
What was intended to be a fun and unplugged means of messaging turned nasty and hurtful. One unidentified young person wrote “I Love Trump” on one side of the clothespin and “Build a Wall” on the other, and then attached it to a Latino youth. This action and message spread across Crown Arena faster than a bullet. Many tears were shed as people expressed the pain of feeling like they didn’t belong, of being targets of racial prejudice and fearing for their safety.
This was a religious retreat, mind you, not a political event. Instead of demonstrating acceptance and tolerance for others, the message is that even among Christians racism, partisanship, hatred and discrimination are prevalent. That message went viral on social media; we’re told as many as a thousand packed up and didn’t return.
Where did these young people learn these things? To be sure young people are plugged in to Twitter, Facebook and other social media, but we strongly suspect they were mirroring what they had heard from parents and other adults, repeating and rapidly spreading these hate filled comments.
It would be easy to dismiss this as a singular, adolescent act, but it is not. Hope Morgan Ward, the Bishop of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, responded, “We embrace with love our spiritual family in all our beautiful diversity – particularly our Hispanic brothers and sisters at this time – as well as others who are Asian, African American, Native American and Anglo.”
Racial hatred, discrimination and taunting is unacceptable and should be emphatically, immediately and forcefully condemned. Doing nothing in response to these behaviors makes one just as guilty as the person who commits the injustice. It turns people against each other and destroys our chances of working together to resolve other problems. It can and obviously does spread rapidly and will only be extinguished when we stand up and speak out against these attitudes and behaviors.
We have just concluded a political campaign like no other – ugly, divisive and filled with recriminations and discrimination. But we have thought and hoped we were a better culture than those seeking to separate us and fill us with fear and hate.
We have a spiritual problem in this nation. Not only is hate antithetical to the Christian and other religious faiths, it violates our bedrock principles. Abraham Lincoln presided over another tumultuous and divisive time and in his second Inaugural Address said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Amen.
Tom Campbell is the Executive Producer and Moderator of NC Spin.