A terrible event happened this week here in South Carolina. Someone full of hate walks into a church in Charleston, sits in worship for most of the service, then near the end, starts shooting people left and right. In the end, nine people died. The manhunt ended yesterday when they caught him not too far away from where I live.
How are we to respond?
First of all, we must pray for the victims and those immediately affected by this senseless tragedy.
As a friend said to me on Facebook, we should also pray for this young man who committed this act. Jesus, as he was being nailed to the cross and killed, prayed for those who were doing it by saying, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they are doing!” As a person of faith myself, I hope that he experiences God’s mercy and saving grace.
Secondly, we need to use this experience as a time of introspection. We have to recognize that this same kind of potential for evil exists within each one of us. We shouldn’t call this an isolated incident or simply attribute it to external factors like mental health, gun control or family upbringing. Don’t misunderstand me, while I do think each of these factors might have contributed to what happened in Charleston, my point is that we as humans have an incredible knack for refusing to face reality and accept responsibility.
As a Seventh-day Adventist, I’m proud to see that our church issued a statement by President Dan Jackson sending condolences to the members of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where this happened.
However, are statements enough?
There is another petition swirling around to remove the confederate flag from Government places.
However, are petitions and removal of external symbols enough?
As Seventh-day Adventists, it’s hard to be agents of healing in this situation when we ourselves still operate the same segregated structures that were necessary when these types of tragedies were much more frequent. I’m referring to the divided state-regional conference structure in case you missed it. Our own color-coded reality undermines our witness no matter how nicely worded we try to excuse it.
However, would even desegregating conferences be enough?
No, because the real issue facing our country and our world is a heart problem.
There is still a gaping racial wound that exists in this country. Absolutely nothing will happen if we refuse to see it and acknowledge it for what it is. Yet, I would love to see our church take a proactive stand as an agent of racial reconciliation.
Make no mistake though, unlike the narrative that we’ve constructed, the Kingdom of God’s view on race is not so much concerned about co-existence as much as it is about reconciliation. The church is supposed to be a microcosm of what God intends to do in the rest of the world.
Only when we tap into that power and experience it in our lives, our churches and our communities can we hope to see light at the end of this dark tunnel.
Here are two videos that you need to watch. One is a short clip by comedian John Stewart not being funny and speaking very frankly about what happened in Charleston. Pardon the language at the beginning.
The other is a sermon deliver a few months ago at a leadership summit entitled “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation”. When I heard it, it rocked me to my core. It’s more relevant today than it was when it was preached. When you have some free time, check it out.
How have you been affected by this weeks events? Share your thoughts.