America’s original sin (a thought on Charlottesville)

The extremism of blatantly white supremacist, neo-Nazi activity, such as occurred this past week in Charlottesville, can potentially lull people into thinking that it is just that—blatantly extreme activity that does not reflect the normal state of affairs in America.

Granted, the extreme fringe is never an accurate representation of the whole, but the mere presence of radical extremism (in any group or ideology) should give us pause to consider why it exists at all.

The horrific expressions of white supremacy in America do NOT express the heart of America as a whole but it IS an existing strain of America’s original sin. America was not a purely Christian nation in all of its origins. Certainly there were some who wanted it to be so, and who sought to establish a people and a government upon noble virtues that would liberate and lift the conditions of all of mankind, but from its inception there were threads of deep sin in our country.

In 1620 the pilgrims who sailed to Plymouth Rock to build a hope-filled New World signed the Mayflower Compact, a veritable covenant with God to establish a nation that would reflect His heart, character, and love for the world. However at the exact same time that seeds of righteousness were being sown through the Mayflower Compact, African slavery was being introduced through the colony at Jamestown.

America’s history is very reflective of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares, wherein both good and evil seeds were sown together. Historical revisionists who want to eliminate the truly Christian thread in our country’s founding are wrong—good, Christ-honoring seed was undeniably sown into the foundation of our country. However, Christian historians who want to position America as a purely Christian light on a hill for the world are also wrong—seeds of racism, oppression, and slavery were built into our country from its inception. Indeed, slavery existed in our country for one hundred fifty years before our Declaration of Independence was drafted, proclaiming the inalienable rights of all mankind. Slavery continued to exist for nearly one hundred years after our Declaration went into effect.

All of this is to say that when racist tragedies occur like they did in Charlottesville we must do more than plead ignorance, stating that, “I’m not racist and I would never condone prejudiced ideology”; we must repent. Our nation still bears the stain of our original sins, and someone—namely the person who claims allegiance to Jesus Christ—must repent and renounce that sin and work tirelessly at embracing, modeling, and proclaiming a better way to live.

Renouncing the tares, tending the wheat, and modeling the values and virtues of a higher kingdom—this is the calling, life, and mission of true followers of Jesus Christ. Let’s live our calling and be a healing force in our world.



In Greek mythology Nemesis was the retribution goddess that brought justice and consequence against those who yielded to pride or exploitation. Her name literally meant, “to give what is due” and she ensured that people got what they deserved.

She was portrayed as a winged goddess with a whip and dagger, the perfect equipment for tracking people down and disciplining them severely.

In our day and age it can often seem like justice is forever postponed or delayed. We know that Nemesis is a myth, but we long for the reality that the myth proclaimed. Why does evil seem so entrenched? Why does injustice so often rule the day? When will oppressors get what they deserve?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that this would not always be so. Indeed, he said, “Evil carries the seed of its own destruction”[1] and it’s true. History is replete with the accounts of oppressive empires that flourished for a season and then sunk into ruins. Today, tourists take pictures of those ancient remains.

Evil will not prevail. Human suffering and exploitation will not get the final word. God is just and the Scriptures remind us that a day is coming when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).

Until that day, we have the honor of extending God’s love and justice to our spheres of influence. We get to see the incremental advance of goodness, kindness, and faith, knowing that someday, like Pharaoh’s army on the seashore, the forces of injustice will be fully and forever swept away. Let’s carry on as unflagging ambassadors of God’s faith, hope, and love.

[1] Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, Philadelphia: Fortress Press: 1963, p.83.