Listen, Christian… We need to talk… And I need you to listen.
I know your first reaction will be to want to jump in and say something. But please fight that urge.
By now you’ve seen the reports of the terrorist attack that happened in Charleston, South Carolina. And I know you’ve seen them because you posted the feel-good article about the African-American man named Marcus Stanley who was the only comment on the terrorist’s facebook picture, telling the terrorist that it wasn’t too late to save his soul if he would just “confess your sins with a heart of forgiveness.”
We can talk later about why I think that’s questionable theology, but don’t miss my point here. My concern here is not for an orthodox soteriology, but because it completely glosses over the pain, chaos, devastation, and utter destruction that this terrorist visited on these beautiful children of God.
See Christian, as Broderick Greer eloquently puts it, “Christians can leapfrog from terrorism to “healing” because there are churches that leapfrog over the terror of Good Friday for Easter.”
By glossing over the destruction of this terrorist attack, you have minimized, and ultimately discounted and denied the pain felt by members of Emanuel A.M.E. Church, and by extension, denied the pain felt day in and day out by people of color.
And this, Christian, is racism. We, as white people, can move quickly from this terrorism, past pain, and talk about healing, because we, as white people, have not had to be subjected to the torture, pain, and violence that our sisters and brothers of color have. And that is privilege. And that is because we are white.
There are systems in place in our society that ensure that this perpetuates. Redlining, gerrymandering, gentrification… All systems in place to perpetuate the subjugation of a group of people, or in this case several groups of people, namely everyone who is not white.
And it must end. And it must end now.
I was watching the local news in North Texas last night. Appropriately, the first news story was about the terrorist attack in Charleston. But the second news story was about a “church security firm” in Frisco, TX that “trains volunteers from church communities willing to play a bigger role in protecting their worship space.”
I was physically appalled.
To assert that the solution to a terrorist attack on a house of worship is to insert more weapons into that house of worship is not only ludicrous and patently false, it’s completely irresponsible reporting.
To suggest that the children of God at Mother Emanuel would be alive if they had guns is nauseating and infuriating.
As a person of faith and leader in my faith community, I am offended, disgusted, and outraged that someone would turn this act of terrorism into an economic opportunity and that WFAA would choose to air such filth.
Christian, what is the thing that you hold most tightly to? What is the thing that you place your faith and trust and hope? Because it appears to look an awful lot like a firearm.
Salon published an article today in which an NRA board member suggested that the reason that the terrorist was able to commit this atrocity was because the pastor of Emanuel A.M.E. Church, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, also a South Carolina state senator, opposed a bill that would have allowed individuals to carry concealed weapons in churches. The board member asserted that “Eight of his church members…might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church…”
Again, I am physically appalled. To suggest that a solution to mass killings in houses of worship is to arm more people is the most backward, upside-down logic I’ve ever heard.
Christian, we need to talk about the god(s) you worship. It’s become increasingly clear to me that when we say the word “God” that you and I are not talking about the same thing.
Because the God in which I live and breathe and have my being is a God of life, not death; is a God of love, not hate; is a God of peace, not war; is a God of justice and reconciliation and resurrection and restoration, not creating deeper divisions and taller walls and wider chasms.
And when you speak about “God,” the god that you profess seems to have very little to do with life and love and peace and reconciliation. The god that you seem to cling to has the appearance of the almighty dollar, your sanctuaries look curiously like financial institutions, and your prayers sound like coins rattling in a bag. The god you cling tightly to has a handle and a barrel and looks like an instrument of death, designed to take life rather than give it.
Christian, we need to be honest about the god(s) we worship, because we need to know that as long we worship money and couch it as “freedom“, and as long as we worship weapons and dress it up as “liberty,” we are perpetuating the systems of racism and violence and injustice that allowed the terrorist attack in Charleston to happen.
But as Marcus Stanley wrote to the terrorist, “It is not too late.”
Christian, there is still time and opportunity to turn from this sin.
Listen to and learn from your sisters and brothers of color. Ask them how you can best be an ally. Acknowledge the racism and violence still so pervasive in our society and commit your lives to actively fighting against it. Recognize the privilege that you are given as a result of your skin color and use it to advocate for policy and legislation that enforces the true equality of all humans.
But above all, Christian, pray. Pray for yourself, for me, and for the world in which we live together. Pray for the terrorist. Pray for those who have terrorism inflicted on them.
And most of all, pray for the beautiful children of God that were assassinated.
Say their names.
Speak the beauty of their spirits.