A Message from The Rev. Russell Bohner, TSSF

An interesting exercise is to walk into the sanctuary at St. Anne’s and to notice what you see first.  If you enter from the back of the church and look forward, you may notice the tall stained-glass windows above the altar.  Perhaps you notice the vestment-draped altar with the candlesticks and brass cross on the back wall.  Maybe you see the brass-eagle lectern or the elevated wide wooden pulpit.  Maybe you see the organ pipes, the organ console and piano.  Maybe you notice the large cross on the wall above the pulpit, or maybe you notice the stone baptismal font.
Each element in the sanctuary says something specific about what the people of St. Anne’s believe is important for the worship of God.  The lectern, for example, says that Holy Scripture is important.  The pulpit says that preaching the Word is important.  The altar says that the celebration of Holy Communion is important.  The crosses say that Jesus’ resurrection is important.  The instruments say that music is important.  The font says that baptism is important.  Taken all together, the symbols in the sanctuary make a clear and cohesive statement about what the people of St. Anne’s Church believe about the saving work God in Jesus Christ.  And what is true about the symbols displayed in St. Anne’s Church is true for symbols displayed in other places.  We learn a lot about who people are and what they believe from the symbols they use to represent themselves and their beliefs.
The symbols displayed by the white nationalists who gathered in Charlottesville Virginia this past weekend to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee made a statement about what they believe.  Swastikas, Nazi insignia and salutes, KKK uniforms and insignia, and other white nationalist insignia and emblems are symbols with clear meanings.  The Nazis killed approximately 11 million noncombatants—more than half of whom were Jewish and the rest of whom were primarily political opponents, religious leaders, intellectuals, gypsies, homosexuals, and the mentally and physically challenged.  A recent study estimates that since its inception the KKK has killed approximately 3,960 African-Americans and perhaps as many as 790 other Americans.  People who display Nazi and KKK symbols tell us exactly what they believe.  Because these symbols are unambiguous, there is no confusion, no misunderstanding, no equivocation about their meaning and the intentions of those who use them.  These symbols say that those who wear them advocate for killing, terrorizing, displacing, humiliating, oppressing and even enslaving the men, women, and children whom they consider to be ‘non-white’. 
Over and against the Nazi, KKK, and white nationalist symbols stand the symbols of our sanctuary.  These are two sets of symbols, and they are fundamentally incompatible.  The symbols of white nationalism stand for violence, destruction, death, and the exclusion of many.  The symbols of our sanctuary stand for peace, healing, life, and an invitation to all.  As for me, I choose the lectern, pulpit, organ, font, altar, and cross of Jesus Christ—the symbols of our sanctuary, the symbols of our Christian faith; and in choosing these symbols, I stand up with love and nonviolence to face all those who with hate and violence seek to harm or destroy any of God’s children (and we all are God’s children). 
Will you join me?