No one, well practically no one, wakes up on a beautiful Saturday morning and thinks “I’m going to die today.” Yes, people die every day in automobile accidents, many through no fault of their own. People who live in crime-infested neighborhoods have good reason to be afraid, but probably not the expectation of certain death that day.
We know very little about the woman who was brutally murdered on the streets of Charlottesville yesterday by forces of evil. We know that she was young, only 32 years old. We know that she was pretty, from her photograph. We do not know the date of her birth, but we should never forget the day of her death.
There is one further thing we do know about Heather. Her last Facebook post. It read
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
That one sentence speaks volumes about the type of person Heather Heyer was. She cared about what was happening in Charlottesville. She WAS outraged by the demonstrations of white supremacists, the alt-right – call them whatever you wish – the reincarnation of the evil of Nazism – the demon spawn of Adolph Hitler.
By her very presence in the streets of Charlottesville, we know that she WAS paying attention. She didn’t sit at home, watching television. She got out and faced the evil confronting her and every other American who despises what those goons marching under the battle flag of the Confederacy, the Swastika of Nazi Germany, the symbols of hate and fear, stood for.
Did she expect to pay for her outrage with her own life? Probably not. Would she have gone anyway, had she known? We may never know. But that does not diminish the significance of her sacrifice. Heather Heyer is the face each of us who wants to do the right thing in the face of hate, fear, and evil.
Many of my fellow Christians may have wondered at some point in their lives if they would have lived out their faith as did Corrie Ten Boom or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. You may not be familiar with these names. You need to know who they were.
Corrie Ten Boom and her family lived in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation of World War II. Fearlessly, they sheltered hundreds of Dutch Jews, students, and intellectuals, providing them sanctuary until another “safe” place could be found for them. They were eventually captured and imprisoned in concentration camps by the Germans. While many of her family perished, Corrie survived and went on to become a noted author. Probably her most famous book is entitled, appropriately “The Hiding Place.” She is equally well known for many of her quotations, made all the more powerful by her own life experiences.
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”
“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, author, and theologian who, along with fellow theologian Karl Barth, authored in 1939 “The Declaration of Barmen” which denounced the German church for acknowledging Hitler as the head of the Church. The only head of the Christian church, they declared, the only one to whom obedience was owed was Jesus Christ. This document went on to become one of the official creeds of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Shortly after, Bonhoeffer fled Nazi Germany and found sanctuary in the United States. He could have remained there in safety, teaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Instead, troubled by his own conscience, he chose to return to Germany, where he taught future pastors in underground seminaries. Bonhoeffer was later arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo for his involvement in a plot to kill Hitler. He was summarily executed four days before his prison was liberated by the Allies.
For those who are not Christians, another example would be the “Freedom Riders” during the 1960s who came south to participate in the battle for civil rights. This cost a number of them their lives as well. Yet still, others continue to come. As a white, Southern woman I would not dare to presume to speak for my black brothers and sisters. But I do presume to call upon my white brothers and sisters.
If you ever wondered if you would live out your faith and your life as these heroes did, NOW is the time to find out. NOW is the time to stand up for what is right without fearing the cost. NOW is the time to live out the radical teachings of Christ in a world where His message has been twisted and perverted to suit the ends of evil.
Let us make the legacy of Heather Heyer one of courage. One of hope for our future. One of everlasting shame to the cause of those who killed her and their despicable supporters. Let us add her name to the list of martyrs who died doing what they believed was right and just in the face of evil.
Let us heed the call of the millions who died in concentration camps during World War II because of racism, nationalist pride, and the belief that one human being is superior to another due to the color of their skin or the origin of their birth. Let us Never Forget!