There But For The Grace of God Go I

Florida Governor Ralph Northam in Blackface,  1984There’s been quite an outcry against Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D), just as there was a couple of weeks ago against Florida’s Secretary of State to be, Michael Ertel (R). In both cases, both men – and both quite a few years ago – did some things that were at best ill-advised and insensitive at the time, and which are now seen (rightly) as very racist.
Both are examples of judgment being levied before the facts are known, just as we recently saw happen in the encounter of Covington Catholic High School Students with Native American activist Nathan Philips in Washington DC.
In looking closely at the careers of Governor Northam and Mr. Ertel, we see men who are very focused on a just and fair political system for everyone. We see men who have been taking principled stands against those who would undermine our political systems in the name of power and advantage.

Both men have shown that they are, in fact, much more fair-minded and thoughtful leaders than the current furor is making them out to be.  From what I see, both have grown and shown that their past racist actions are not part of how they see the world now.  While I may not have felt they were an ideal candidate if I were a resident of their State, both have redeemed themselves: showing that they a force for positive change.
And that’s really the problem with the current climate: we judge immediately. We don’t take time to evaluate who these people really are. We don’t care what they are doing now. All we care about is that someone has dug deep into their pasts to find some fact or photo that can be weaponized and used to destroy them.
No one is perfect. We all have skeletons in our respective closets. We have all done things we deeply regret and wish we could undo.
I’m not going to say that Northam is guiltless, nor am I willing to call for him to stay or resign [as of yet].  What I’m saying is that we need to take a moment, slow down, and look at who these men are and worry less about who they once were.  After all, each of us can (and should) say “But for the grace of God Go I.”
We must make room in our lives and our political systems for redemption.  Otherwise, if we do not allow our neighbors or our leaders to redeem themselves from the sins of their pasts, there is no hope for any of us.
– Pastor Allen

Copyright (c) 2019, Allen Vander Meulen III.

Author: Allen

A would-be historian turned IT Professional who responded to the call to the Ministry, and is now focused on social justice and community service. He is the proud father of a daughter and son, and enjoys life with his wife near Boston. You can follow Pastor Allen on Facebook at

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