Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV was forced out of his church when he came out against the hate and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last month. Now he’s speaking out on the ways in which white Christians are falling down on their jobs of being humanitarians.
“I do know something that’s true about the church: White Christianity is having trouble dealing with what’s going on in our nation, of redemption and we have trouble finding the vocabulary to speak,” he explained. “I want it said about me that there was a Lee in history who spoke about what was right instead of a General Lee who spoke up for what was wrong.”
He went on to say that he “had to say something” because “if you’re silent, you become complicit in these issues. Complicity is not something I stand for.”
“I can’t speak for the church. I can only speak for myself,” he went on. “What I know it’s hard to stand for something. My great grandmother would tell me if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything. I had to stand up and say this is what I believe in and I stand by it… [The church] is supposed to be a beacon of compassion. That’s the goal.”
Co-host Sarah Haines said she couldn’t understand why the church would reject him when he stood for compassion, which is what Christianity purports to encourage.
“I resigned because of it,” he confessed.
Fellow co-host Sunny Hostin noted that following the Charlottesville violence, Lee gave a sermon saying he had to condemn the racism he saw and that any person sitting in church pews who fails to condemn hate and racism is “doing church wrong.” She asked if those seeking to keep politics out of the pulpit are then also “doing church wrong.”
He claimed that the pulpit itself is political.
“I look to the black church tradition and I see that the AME church that I had an opportunity to preach at in New Jersey yesterday, we all agreed that politics is part of the pulpit,” he continued. “Because for so long the black churches had to deal with politics through the pulpit. I see this as a way of combatting racism and white privilege and white supremacy the best way I know how through my pulpit.”
He went on to confess that as a southern white person he grew up with a Confederate flag because he was proud of his history and of Robert E. Lee. When he was called out on it, he said that he learned why it was hurtful to so many.
“I think about it this way,” he said about schools named after Lee or flying the Confederate flag. “My white child may not have trouble going to that school, but a black child might. These schools that we’re talking about are disproportionately in persons of color communities and that’s concerning to me. What would it mean for me to go to a school with a person’s whose name my ancestors may have been owned by. That speaks a lot.”
Watch the full conversation below: