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Opinion: Faith leaders must unite to overcome hate

Rev. Keith Whitney

God creates every human life in beauty, dignity and respect. The idea of the superiority of any race over others is denounced by all major religions. Instead, the world’s major faiths affirm the value of each person, and the value of every culture, language and racial group, and our God-given worth. Hate is antithetical to all major faiths. 

We are living in an era that most of us did not think possible just a few years ago. Our politics have returned to race-baiting, fear-mongering and attempting to turn our nation’s diversity against itself. We are being urged to mistrust and fear because of our cultural, ethnic and racial differences. 

Today, white nationalists are experiencing a renaissance of power and acceptance. Their philosophy of racial superiority stands in sharp contrast to a belief in a God who created human diversity and in a society that has been built, since its origins, on an ethnic and racial diversity that should be considered our nation’s strength, not its scourge. 

Demonstrators gather in Lafayette Park to protest the death of George Floyd, Monday near the White House in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers.

This is not a partisan issue. It is not an issue of one president, one leader or one political party. It is far more profound than to be assigned so narrowly. 

We call upon people of faith to ask: “Can we live in a society which equally values all of its citizens, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender? Does a belief in racial superiority have any legitimate place in our nation? Can our society survive when fear of one another’s differences is a basic organizing principle?”

Racial and religious hatred cannot be tolerated in our country. We cannot look the other way. We cannot pretend that this crisis will go away or dissipate with time.

We, as leaders of Gamaliel, must be vigilant. We must unite our interfaith voices. We must alert our local and national leaders to the high cost of ignoring or tolerating this threat to our democracy.

Clergy and other religious leaders must take the lead. We have a particular responsibility and burden to speak the truth. Hate has no place in our hearts and no place in our society. Insisting on the superiority of any race would eventually destroy the moral fabric of our society. Violence based on white nationalism cannot be accepted under any circumstances.

Distrust of our neighbor because of our human differences has no place in a free society. Demonizing and devaluing people of color, immigrants, women, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, LGBTQ members of our society and people with disabilities must end. 

Voices are needed. Actions are necessary. We call upon all religious leaders and upon all congregations within the Gamaliel network and beyond to unite to overcome this insidious movement and to do so with the solid conviction of respect, love, tolerance and empowerment of all persons and groups within our society. 

The Rev. Keith Whitney is the senior pastor at Sanctuary Fellowship Baptist Church in Detroit and also serves as board president of MOSES, a nonprofit organization of faith-based leaders dedicated to social justice advocacy.