Influential pastors and Christian leaders have condemned the violence seen in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend as “satanic” and issued calls for unity.
After a weekend of bloody clashes between white nationalists defending a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and opponents protesting white supremacist views, Russell Moore, the head of the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, tweeted that “the so-called alt-right white-supremacist ideologies are anti-Christ and satanic to the core.”
“‘Blood and soil’ = the idolatry of the flesh fueled by the dark spirit of the age. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against such,” he wrote. “I am grieved to the core to think that this is the United States of America I am watching on live television right now.”
Kay Warren, who with her husband Rick Warren pastors Saddleback Church, tweeted: “This is NOT the way of the Cross or the Savior who died on it. There is no place for alt-right ideologies in our churches or n [sic] our country.”
Jack Graham, a Texas megachurch pastor who serves on President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory committee, wrote that “white supremacy and its movements are evil to the core and are to be condemned.”
Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham and the head of Samaritan’s Purse, criticized those blaming Trump for the violence and said that ultimately, it “boils down to evil in people’s hearts.”
“Satan is behind it all,” Graham wrote. “He wants division, he wants unrest, he wants violence and hatred. He’s the enemy of peace and unity. I denounce bigotry and racism of every form, be it black, white or any other. My prayer is that our nation will come together. We are stronger together, and our answers lie in turning to God.”
The deadly events began with white nationalists converging to protest against plans to remove a statue of General Lee, the commander of rebel forces during the U.S. Civil War.
In total, more than 30 people were injured in separate incidents over the weekend. A 20-year-old man, James Alex Fields Jr., allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of people, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others. Two state police officers died in the crash of their helicopter after assisting in efforts to quell the unrest.
Minister Samuel Rodriguez, who took part in Trump’s inauguration, said: “I condemn the forces of white nationalism, white supremacy and anti-Semitism that divide our country today and I also condemn those who seek to politicize it all for their political gain.”
“Unless, we bridge this senseless and partisan divide there will be more horrors to come. It’s on each of us to be a part of solution and it begins with turning our political swords into plowshares. We must begin to work together to heal our nation,” he added.
Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas and a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, said the protesters at Saturday’s rally did not “represent in any form or way the Christian faith or the values followers of Jesus stand for.”
Over the weekend, President Trump denounced what he called “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
The White House later released a statement clarifying that Trump also condemned “white supremacists, the KKK, Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”
“The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred,” the White House said. “He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”
Vice President Mike Pence said: “We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK. These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”