Interfaith gathering denounces racial hatred as faith leaders call for renewed unity
“Very fine people do not wear T-shirts extolling white power and white separatism. Very fine people do not raise their children to hate others,” proclaimed Rabbi Serge Lippe during an Interfaith Gathering held at First Unitarian Church’s Donald McKinney Chapel in Brooklyn Heights on Tuesday, Aug. 22.
The event was held for citizens to “gather in response to the spiritual and physical violence in Charlottesville, gather in response to the voices of unabashed white supremacy that seem to be gaining power and legitimacy in this country and gather as people of faith do in times of threat,” said the Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons in her opening remarks. Levy-Lyons is the senior minister of First Unitarian Church.
Participating clergy speakers were, in addition to Levy-Lyons, Rohan Narine, cofounder and board member of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus; the Rev. Kate Salisbury, associate rector of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church; Emaan Moosani, program director of Muslim Community Network; Lippe, senior rabbi of Brooklyn Heights Synagogue; and the Rev. Adriene Thorne, senior minister of First Presbyterian Church.
Levy-Lyons referred to people from many cultures and faiths being able to work, pray and offer comfort together as a blessing. “This sacred work is what is being threatened by what happened in Charlottesville and its aftermath. Individuals and highest levels of government committed violence in word, some in deed. They waved flags of injustice and defended monuments of terror. They say only some voices deserve to be heard. Only some people deserve a seat at the tables of power Only some people deserve to feel safe and to be safe.
“We resist this violence and the spiritual poverty of this way of thinking. We believe in inherent worth and dignity of each person. We will continue to assert this faith in our words and our deeds for as long as it takes until we can all come together again in peace.”
Salisbury, using a story of healing from the “Synoptic Gospels,” spoke of dispelling the legion of demons from today’s society.
Salisbury said that each person is called to “dismantle the demons that have a grip on us, individually [and] collective, and help God guide us to freedom.”
Lippe was perhaps the most declamatory, his voice raising well above the din of room fans keeping the McKinney Chapel cool.
Lippe said that, in rabbinic tradition, “Elul is the month of consecration, in review of our needs and in consideration of the ‘very fine people’ we wish to be, and of the very fine people we wish to have been, and in recognition of the very fine people we failed to be too often on our day-to-day lives,” picking up on the now-famous catchphrase that President Donald Trump has used in recent days to defend supporters involved in the Charlottesville violence.
“Very fine people do not participate in chanting ‘Jews will not replace us.’ Very fine people do not yell ‘Sieg Heil!’ across the street from synagogues!” Lippe emphasized. “Very fine people do not raise the Nazi swastika, period. Very fine people do not knowingly use the Nazi slogan ‘Blood and Soil’ in any language whatsoever.”
Lippe continued, “Very fine people do not stand with submachine guns outside of historic black churches. Very fine people do not identify themselves as members of the Ku Klux Klan. Very fine people do not march through college campuses carrying burning torches. Very fine people do not wear t-shirts extolling white power and white separatism. Very fine people do not raise their children to hate others. Very fine people do not celebrate the Dred Scott decision or its justices or the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. Very fine people do not come armed to the gills, and looking for a fight.”
“Very fine presidents do not invoke the racists, bigots, anti-Semites and white supremacists. Very fine presidents do not fail to renounce the endorsements they receive from David Duke and other hatemongers. Very fine presidents do not accept endorsements of white nationalists. Very fine presidents understand the distinction between those who founded and aspired to a more perfect union, and those who murderously rose up to tear it down. Very fine presidents seek to heal the nation’s wounds, and bind us together. E pluribus unum—one out of many.”
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