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The Benefits of Charlottesville

A special letter from Rev. James:

What good can come out of the Charlottesville tragedy that took place earlier this month?

The white supremacist rally was a stunning event. It shook the psyche of a large number people, both in the United States and around the world. It was a blatant and unabashed display of racist and divisive rhetoric by purveyors of hate who exchanged Klan hoods for Nazi helmets.

Also staggering and perhaps more disconcerting was the tone of the response to this appalling event from the leader of the free world, who suggested that people standing up for equality were the moral equivalent to the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. The response received a full-throated endorsement from the former head of the KKK.

I happened to be in Washington D.C. seeing my son off to college when I became aware of the news of the killing of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, a member of a counterprotest group that stood for equality and freedom. We hold in prayer Heather’s family and loved ones, and affirm spiritual comfort for them.

While the Charlottesville misfortune was shocking, fortunately that rally does not reflect the pervading consciousness in our society. At the same time, most people are not so naive as to believe hate groups have disappeared from the American landscape. It was not too long ago that the remnants of the Jim Crow era of the South were still evident. I personally witnessed the leftover signage designating separate bathrooms for “white” and “colored.” I once saw a roped shaped in the form of a noose—a symbol of lynching—purposely left by someone with apparent ill intent.

So this issue has never been totally handled. Nor will it be, until humanity reaches full enlightenment or at least approaches it.

While action is important, words also matter. When America and the world needed words of hope and unity and a vision that affirms the better angels of our nature, what we received from top leadership was a message that reflected a consciousness unmolested by a moral compass or a sense of enlightenment.

So what can we do?

I happened to see a satirical skit by comedian Tina Fey, who is well known for her Saturday Night Live performances. In the midst of her humorous bit, she noted that perhaps the best thing to do is not to counterprotest the white supremacists and their allies, but to, “Let them scream into the empty air.” While she didn’t explicitly say so, she was suggesting that rather than resist them, we ought to ignore them. This idea is based on the belief that “what we resist, persists” and what we oppose and fight, we give more power.

Yet history reminds us that after the atrocities of Nazi Germany, people asked, “Why wasn’t there more resistance?”

This is not to say that the rise of Nazi Germany and the public emergence of a modern-day hate group from behind their computers are equivalent. But it does bring up the question, “How should we respond to this cancerous energy that represents the shadow side of humanity?”

Perhaps the answer lies in the strategy practiced by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in which they addressed the consciousness of hate and division through nonviolent resistance. Dr. King called it “Soul Force.” It is a force that doesn’t fight against anything, but is used to support what one is for and align energy with that vision. This is likely the reason Mother Teresa, when asked why she wouldn’t participate in an anti-war rally said, “I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” It’s a subtle but important distinction.

Incidents like what happened in Charlottesville give us the opportunity to go back to Unity’s First Principle (“There is One Presence and One Power in the Universe and in my life—God the Good.”) and align with healers everywhere so that we can amplify and anchor the qualities of Spirit in our world.

We are not there yet.

The founding fathers of the United States, many of whom were Freemasons and students of spiritual law, did not claim that they created a perfect nation—nor were they perfect people themselves. Many of them were slaveholders. What they did say is, “Here’s the blueprint for a perfect nation. Do your part to make it happen.”

We have made much progress. And we are encouraged by these words of Dr. King: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

A crisis such as what took place in Charlottesville presents a great opportunity. When the news brings to our attention the sense of separation that seems to pervade the human experience, we become aware that it has been going on for a long time. The bigotry and the seeming distance between people has been part of the human experience for thousands of years now.

But it was for this purpose we were born. We are here to look for the evidence of, align with, and be the channels for God’s good, so that we can realize our oneness. The challenges that we face are being brought to the surface. That which has been swept under the rug and hidden in the shadows can be brought to the light of those individuals who are holding the high watch. Those individuals are you and me.

This is our charge. This is the benefit of Charlottesville.

Peace and blessings,



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