Many in the church are complicit in this radical evil, failing to name it and denounce it, just as we failed to see in the thousands of men, women and children who were lynched the very crucifixion itself, as James Cone pointed out. And this complicity and silence condemns us. It is why W.E.B. Du Bois called "white religion" a "miserable failure."
"Black people did not need to go to seminary and study theology to know that white Christianity was fraudulent," Cone wrote in "The Cross and the Lynching Tree." "As a teenager in the South where whites treated blacks with contempt, I and other blacks knew that the Christian identity of whites was not a true expression of what it means to follow Jesus. Nothing their theologians and preachers could say would convince us otherwise. We wondered how whites could live with their hypocrisy -- such blatant contradiction of the man from Nazareth. (I am still wondering about that!) White conservative Christianity's blatant endorsement of lynching as a part of its religion, and white liberal Christians' silence about lynching placed both outside of Christian identity. I could not find one sermon or theological essay, not to mention a book, opposing lynching by a prominent liberal white preacher. There was no way a community could support or ignore lynching in America, while still representing in word and deed the one who was lynched by Rome."
We have failed to denounce the Christian fascists who peddle a magic Jesus who will make us rich, a Jesus who blesses America above other countries and the white race above other races, a Jesus who turns the barbarity of war into a holy crusade, for the heretics they are. And we have failed, as well, to confront the radical evil of corporate capitalism. Let us not once again render our faith a miserable failure.
Defying evil cannot be rationally defended. It makes a leap into the moral, which is beyond rational thought. It refuses to place a monetary value on human life or the natural world. It refuses to see anyone as superfluous. It acknowledges human life, indeed all life, as sacred. And this is why, as Arendt points out, the only morally reliable people are not those who say "this is wrong" or "this should not be done," but those who say "I can't do this."
Those who come out of a religious tradition, any religious tradition, have a responsibility to fight this latest iteration of radical evil, which is swiftly ensuring that our species and many other species will not have a future on this earth. It is our religious duty to place our bodies in front of the machine, as many of us did in the protests organized by Extinction Rebellion last week around the globe.
"The law, as presently revered and taught and enforced, is becoming an enticement to lawlessness," Dan Berrigan wrote. "Lawyers and laws and courts and penal systems are nearly immobile before a shaken society, which is making civil disobedience a civil (I dare say a religious) duty. The law is aligning itself more and more with forms of power whose existence is placed more and more in question. " So, if they would obey the law, [people] are being forced, in the present crucial instance, either to disobey God or to disobey the law of humanity."
Let us not in this present historical period replicate our sins of the past. Let us affirm our faith by affirming our defiance, our willingness to engage in the acts of sustained civil disobedience against the forces of radical evil. Let future generations say of us that we tried, that we were not complicit through our collaboration or our silence. There will be a cost. History shows us that. All moral battles have a cost, and if there is not a cost then the battle is not moral. Accept becoming an outcast. Jesus, after all, was an outcast. We are called by God to defy radical evil. This defiance is the highest form of spirituality.
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