Sterling on Charlottesville: Religious leaders must denounce racism

August 14, 2017

Addressing the weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Va., Yale Divinity School Dean Greg Sterling issued the following statement today to the students, faculty, alumni, and staff of YDS:


I am writing from South Africa, where I have just learned of the events in Charlottesville, Va. It is hard to think that the same racism that produced apartheid lives in America, but it clearly does. It is harder yet to think that it is defended by some who claim to be Christians.

Do we believe that Jesus Christ died for all? Do we believe that the distinctions we make among ourselves are irrelevant in the eyes of God? Do we believe in the ethic of love rather than hatred? We cannot believe in these fundamental principles—we cannot believe the core principles of the gospel—while either directly or indirectly supporting racism.

It is past time for all ministers and religious leaders to denounce acts of hatred that are rationalized through religion. It is past time for all ministers and religious leaders to raise our voices against racism and the violence it promotes. It is past time to be silent while immoral individuals hijack Christianity (or another religion) to advance a cause antithetical to it.

I learned about the events in Charlottesville through a black friend in South Africa. I was embarrassed beyond words as an American and appalled as a Christian. All Christians—whether liberal or conservative—need to raise their voices in opposition to racism. It is morally wrong and needs to be declared wrong by all Christians. Silence is not an option.

August 14, 2017