If you think young people aren’t hearing and mirroring the hatred and divisiveness of our culture, think again.
Last weekend some 5,000 Methodist youth gathered in Fayetteville for their annual “Pilgrimage” retreat weekend. They were required to do without their cellphones and tablets. Organizers understood how eager young people are to communicate and provided them clothespins, instructing them they could write messages and attach the pins on other attendees.
What was intended to be a fun and unplugged means of messaging turned hurtful. One young person wrote “I Love Trump” on one side of the clothespin and “Build a Wall” on the other, and attached it to a Latino youth. This action and message spread faster than a bullet. Many tears were shed as people expressed the pain of feeling they didn’t belong, of being targets of racial prejudice.
This was a religious retreat, mind you, not a political event. Instead of demonstrating acceptance and tolerance for others, the message was that even among Christians racism, hatred and discrimination are prevalent.
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Where did these young people learn these things? To be sure young people are plugged in to Twitter, Facebook and other social media, but we strongly suspect they were mirroring what they had heard from parents and other adults, repeating and rapidly spreading these hate-filled comments.
Racial hatred, discrimination and taunting is unacceptable and should be emphatically, immediately and forcefully condemned. Doing nothing makes one just as guilty as the person who commits the injustice. It turns people against each other and destroys our chances of working together to resolve other problems. It spreads rapidly and will only be extinguished when we stand up and speak out against these attitudes and behaviors.
We have just concluded a political campaign like no other – ugly, divisive and filled with recriminations. But we have thought and hoped we were a better culture than those seeking to separate us and fill us with fear and hate.
Not only is hate antithetical to the Christian and other religious faiths, it violates our bedrock principles. Abraham Lincoln presided over another divisive time and in his second Inaugural Address said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Amen.
Tom Campbell is host of NC SPIN, a weekly statewide television talk show.