Last week, on June 17, 2015, a white man joined a bible study/prayer meeting inside the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and later, shot and killed nine people, including the pastor. It was described as a hate crime.
I almost did not know what to say. As I read, watched and heard the news, I have only sadness. Yet, with the powerful witness of the grieving families, and the resultant show of solidarity in South Carolina, I also have hope.
I feel I need to write something about this, but I don’t think I have anything new to add to what many have already said and wrote on the matter. So, I choose in this post to share with you some of my favorites that I read/watched on the Charleston shooting, that you may be edified.
(from weekly email by the Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America)
Lord, in our shock and confusion, we come before you.
In our grief and despair in the midst of hate,
in our sense of helplessness in the face of violence,
we lean on you.
For the families of those who have been killed we pray.
For the shooter — help us to pray, Lord.
For the community of Charleston—its anger, grief, fear—we pray.
For the African Methodist Episcopal Church, we pray.
In the face of hatred, may we claim love, Lord.
May we love those far off and those near.
May we love those who are strangers and those who are friends.
May we love those who we agree with and understand,
and even more so, Lord, those who we consider to be our enemies.
Kyrie Eleison. Lord, have mercy.
Heal our sin-sick souls.
Make these wounds whole, Lord.
Praying is a Christian’s first instinct in tragic horrors like this. It is natural and right to pray. But genuine prayer should also lead and drive us to proper action. At Think Christian, Kimberly Davis makes the case as to why the Charleston church shooting demands more than your prayers. She writes:
I have still prayed – once again for justice and mercy – and I will continue to pray. Yet like those who have expressed frustration, I believe it is not enough to speak these prayers. We must also take action. We must rise up. We must do battle against the forces of evil and hatred in this world that devalue and seek to extinguish black life. We must call this evil act what it is: racism and white supremacy.
Speak the Truth
What kind of actions can we do? There are many – from taking to the streets in protest to writing to politicians – but there is at least one action we can all do, regardless of what influence we have: speak the truth. I think, those who are blessed with a platform of influence, especially, need to speak the truth and uncover the ugly reality, exposing it to the light of day.
Comedian and talk show host Jon Stewart spoke such truth in his Daily Show segment.
Christians in Canada and the USA, not only Christian leaders, but the Christians in the pews, need to stand up against racism in all its forms.
Show God’s Love
“I forgive you, my family forgives you,” said Anthony Thompson to the gunman. His grandmother, Myra Thompson, was one of the nine killed. “We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters the most: Christ. So that he can change it,” said Anthony. (Source for this and following quotes.)
He was not the only grieving family member to show God’s forgiveness to Dylann Roof, the shooter. The daughter of Ethel Lance, another victim, said, “You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you,” she said. “And I forgive you.”
Alana Simmons, granddaughter of Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., probably summed it up best and delivered the line that inspires hope: “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate … everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love,” said Alana. “Hate won’t win.”
This is Christian witness at its best. This is what it means to be a Christian, to be a child of God. Like Christ, we forgive those who sinned against us. Like Christ, we bear the wounds of hatred so that we can transcend hate. Like Christ, we offer life and love to a world mired in the stench of death and hate. Despite all odds, in the face of pain, injustice, grief and suffering, and yes, even in the face of death, we confess, in faith, that hate won’t win, death won’t win, but Christ has triumphed over all these and love and life will win in the end.