From “Knownothings” to “Knowsomethings”


August 18, 2017

This week end, we are flooded with post Charlottesville commentary. I will keep my own reflection brief and to the point.

It is much easier to remove old statues and Confederate monuments than it is to remove blindness, barrel vision, and just plain ignorance about history and current realities.  

Keeping in mind the warning of Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew 7:5 that we need to take the planks out of our own eyes and then remove the specks from our brother’s or sister’s eyes, we do need to help the “knownothings” become “knowsomethings.” It is our Christian duty. 

By the “knownothings,” I mean contemporary ignorant people; although many of them do of course resonate with the “Know Nothing Party” during the late 1840s and the early 1850s. (Nineteenth century Know Nothing Party members strongly opposed immigrants and especially Roman Catholics.) 

As I reflect on today’s “knownothings,” I think about people who ignore or don’t react to what’s happening around them. The words of the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) come immediately to mind. Niemöllers words are engraved on a monument in the recently desecrated (for the second time this summer) New England Holocaust Memorial In Boston, Massachusetts. 

          First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

          Because I was not a Socialist.

          Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

          Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

          Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

          Because I was not a Jew.

          Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


My most serious concern about contemporary “knownothings,” however, is their prominently proclaimed ignorance about Christianity. They mourn the loss of “white Christian America.” We should mourn their distortion of Christian belief. Charlottesville is a Christian wake-up call. 

White supremacists are not authentic Christians. There is nothing Christian about racism. As Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, tweeted:“When it comes to racism, there is only one side: to stand against it.”

A final thought about foreigners, racism, and Jesus of Nazareth: Our familiar images of Jesus come from the Byzantine era, from the 4th Century onwards. Contemporary scholars agree that the historical Jesus was probably dark-skinned. Probably had shorter hair than traditionally depicted and a well trimmed beard. He spoke a “foreign” Middle Eastern language: Aramaic. And of course, Jesus was a Jew.  

Jesus, who descended from Judah, was a man of his own time and place. He did not resemble a white Anglo-Saxon American. Most importantly, the parable of the Good Samaritan, told by Jesus in Luke 10:25–37, has particular importance for all of us in these post Charlottesville days. 
— Jack

4 thoughts on “From “Knownothings” to “Knowsomethings”

  1. Thank you, Jack, for this important call to action. By doing nothing, we are doing something—allowing hatred to spread. Being a peaceful voice for love, tolerance, and acceptance demonstrates what true Christianity looks like.

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