Charlottesville Changed Me


Charlottesville. The events unfolded while I was tucked away in a completely silent room recording the audiobook for The Secret Battle of Ideas about God.

During a break, the engineer checked his Twitter account and we soberly reviewed what was happening in Virginia. At first the pictures seemed to depict nothing more than a rowdy group of white twenty-something men, looking like spoiled fraternity boys carrying their Tiki torches to a beach party where they would trade drunken jokes while sipping fruity cocktails.

Even in our little studio cocoon, the reality became clear very quickly. These are determined men who believe that their perceived grievances permit them to trample on public discourse. I looked at some of their on-line screeds, which are nearly incomprehensible, full as they are of acronyms and degrading insults that heap revulsion on those who are the objects of their scorn. It immediately became clear that the worldview of the alt-right leaders is pagan in every way a person can be pagan. They embrace a Nietzschean, brutally materialistic and naturalistic outlook on life. They openly mock the imago Dei and the teachings of Jesus.

I don’t personally know anyone who is associated with the alt-right. I’m not sure I’ve even met anyone who claims to be alt-right. I did read a book once by a guy who turned out to be an alt-right leader. I discovered this by reading some of his blog, which is just as mean-spirited, sarcastic and dripping with disdain as was his book.

There in the recording studio yesterday, as I read Secret Battle aloud, some of the things I had written a year ago seemed to take on a larger meaning given this alt-right phenomenon:

“[The Nazis] justified their brutality with Nietzsche’s writings. The ‘strong men, the masters,’ according to Nietzsche, were not bound by any moral code. They could commit murder, arson, rape, and torture with ‘joy in their hearts.’

The Nazi and Communist crimes took place in view of millions of people who could have stepped in but instead chose to remain uninvolved. Why didn’t they do something?… Nazi and Communist leaders got away with mass murder not because their followers thought mass murder was a good idea but because citizens either didn’t see where those ideas would lead or hesitated to step in before threats and intimidation from secret police and citizen informers made it impossible.

In our own time, we have no excuse. Not to speak is to speak.

So, I will never again think of these white nationalist groups as relatively harmless because they are so ridiculous. I repent of failing to call them out as they terrify minority and Immigrant communities. I will work vigorously to defend the marginalized and helpless.

America is not, nor should it ever be, what the alt-right says it is.

If I have not made that crystal clear in my writing and speaking, that changes now.