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Christian Leaders React to Charlottesville

On Saturday, white supremacists violently attacked protesters marching against them in Charlottesville. A 20-year-old man, James Alex Fields Jr., allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of people, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others. Two state police officers also died while monitoring the protests after their helicopter crashed.

The next day was Sunday. And that mattered.

Religious communities in America have long struggled with racism in and outside of their halls. Christians in particular have worked to overcome their complicity in slavery and Jim Crow. Almost immediately after the Charlottesville murder, a wide range of Christian leaders spoke out against the violence, encouraging fellow Christians to condemn white supremacism. But something else happened, too: Some people got angry, really angry, at the white Christians who they see as complicit in a culture of systemic racism. This included white Christians, black Christians, liberals, and conservatives: Many people within the church are frustrated with what they see as passivity in the face of bigotry. In the same way that Muslims are often expected to take responsibility for those on their fringes who commit violent acts of terrorism, people demanded that white Christians account for the violent racists who claim to share their faith.

Some Christian leaders were quick to condemn the Charlottesville attacks in specific, strong terms. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who serves as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, called them “abhorrent acts of hatred.” Cardinal Blase Cupich, who leads the Archdiocese of Chicago and is widely see as a close ally of Pope Francis, seemed to criticize President Trump’s initial statement on the…

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