Forgiveness in Charleston

A few days ago after waking up, someone asked if I’d heard about the shooting. I did not know what they were talking about and dismissed it thinking they were referring to one of the other incidents that have happened recently.

“No, this one was yesterday,” the person insisted. “It was in a church, I think.”

I grabbed my iPad and search for a shooting. Lo and behold, there it was. A white 21-year-old man named Dylann Roof entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, sat down for about an hour, then stood up and killed nine people. What?

The crime has been pronounced a hate crime. Some newspapers have said it seems Roof wanted to ignite a racial war. What?

During these days I’ve begun collecting some thoughts and there are three things that stood out, one of them at least is good.

First, when my cousin asked me about it that morning, I thought it was one of the other shootings. Without trying to sound like Obama, why has it become normal? Are we actually getting used to someone going to a public place and killing many just for the heck of it? This is crazy! People have been killed in schools, movie theaters, and churches, and some still act as if nothing was happening. While they may be isolated events, they are becoming alarmingly frequent and dismissing them when they involve a caucasian killer does not do anything to solve the issue.

Then, this moves to the race issue. It’s time to sit down and participate. Why can we get some moderate voices in the media who can help advance the discussion? Instead, we get the liberals who can easily mock the right and the conservatives who stubbornly deny a problem that has sparked some much violence. Let’s not try to make sense out of this, because it does not. Let us talk and move forward.

Second, an entry on the Adventist Peace Fellowship Blog written by Dr. Mark McCleary, reveals a sad thing. The Adventist church remains silent in these issues because we try to be politically correct. We don’t want to offend anyone, so we don’t speak up (except for when we oppose women’s ordination and same-sex relationships). Seriously, we are supposed to be a light to the world, why are we hiding under a bowl/basket/bushel?

Here’s McCleary’s ending paragraph,

Instead of AU students holding a forum on the relevance of Regional [Black] Conferences, or SDA’s struggling over the Biblical validity of Women’s ordination, a voice must be heard that challenges the spirit of White supremacy that holds our church community in its spell. Before I be a slave, I will speak out and speak up. RIP to my brothers and sisters who died on the battle field in SC yesterday night. They fought a good fight, they stood for the right, and justice will pronounce them victors one day. Free at last, Free at last, thank God almighty, we’ll be free at last one day.

Third, forgiveness.

Seriously, forgiveness.

A relative of one of the deceased who pretended to be dead in order to survive, invited the shooter to their Wednesday night Bible study. This does not mean there is no grief. There is unspeakable pain that I don’t understand and won’t pretend I can. However, in the midst of mourning, this mother and the rest of the affected community show the struggle in balancing their anger and God’s forgiveness.

This reminds me of many psalms. Despite the harshest situations, Israel praised God. They joined in mourning and worship. May God allow all of us to join them during this time. May we worship together and may we mourn together.

This congregation is a light to the world. They speak of forgiveness and mercy in times of such pain I’ve never experienced. South Carolina’s governor, Nikki Haley, seems extremely out of place calling for the death penalty. The love this congregation shows must overshadow the hate of the murderer. Moreover, the love shown by Felicia Sanders, Nadine Collier, and Bethane Middleton-Brown remind us Jesus died for Dylann Roof, too.

Bethane Middleton-Brown said, “I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I’m very angry. [She] taught me we are the family that love built. We have no room for hate. We have to forgive.”