As a follow-up to his recent sermon, here is the message Rector Paul Walker sent to his parishioners at Christ Church in Charlottesville—relevant for all of us left shocked and dismayed by the events of last Saturday.

Dear Friends,

Evil is not a word to be used lightly. But it is a word that is squarely within the canons of Christian scripture, theology, and tradition. If you have participated in one of the many baptisms at Christ Church, you will have heard  the minister ask the following question to the parents and godparents of the baptismal candidate. “Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?”  On behalf of themselves and the child about to be baptized, the baptismal party responds, “I renounce them.”

That renunciation takes on a new and grave meaning after what we have experienced in Charlottesville. Our Christian faith teaches us that white supremacy, indeed racism of every kind, is evil; it is an ideology that corrupts and destroys the creatures of God. It corrupts and destroys its victims as well as its perpetrators. Our baptismal call to renounce evil in all forms is undeniable.

Our faith also teaches us that there is a distinction between white supremacy and the people who espouse this evil ideology. No person is purely evil, just as no person is purely good. Aleksandr Solzhenitsen famously said, “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

St. Paul tells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” He assures us that evil, in the end, will not overcome us, not overwhelm us. Evil has temporary and destructive license, but God has and will prevail.  And to overcome evil with good is to hear and trust the words of our Savior, ““You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

None of this—the renunciation, the ability to not be overcome, as well as to overcome—is possible in our own strength. To say that Charlottesville will be stronger is naïve, unless that strength is derived from God. To that end, we might pray one of the great Collects of our tradition: “Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”