Today marks the one-year anniversary of the shooting that occurred at Mother Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, SC. It marks one year since a young man with hate in his heart chose to end the lives of nine black church members in an effort to start a race war.
Today is almost one week since a young man entered a club in Orlando, FL and killed 49 people. And like the Mother Emmanuel AME shooting, this man, too, was motivated by hate.
But hate and evil will never, ever win.
We, as people of faith, are quick to judge. We are quick to assume the worst and slow to believe the best. I’d like to believe the best in these situations. These events were tragic. I do not believe that the shooters in either of these events are representative of the general population and do not believe that the general attitude toward black people or LGBTQIA+ people is one of authentic hate. People may disagree, as it is their right to do so, but I don’t think these events define us.
I then remember that there are other groups among us. There are Hispanic people. There are Muslims. There are Catholics, Baptists, & Lutherans. There are working mothers. There are stay-at-home dads. There are young people’s voices being shut down by older generations. I remember that we are each, in our own, unique ways, people of color. People. To let the fact that those who were gunned down be overshadowed by the fact that they were people of color seems absurd to me. I do not believe that we should be scared, no matter what group we identify with, as we know that God is with us always. That God protects his children (perhaps not always in the way we’d imagine) and that we can whole-heartedly put our trust in him because God does not forsake us.
It is my hope and prayer that we will be able to grow as the Church to spread a message of love, peace, and grace in the midst of our disagreements and in the midst of tragic events like these. That it would motivate us to fight for what we know is right. Honestly, we don’t always have to agree with each other and it’s stupid to think that we’re going to. But we do have to love – I think we can agree on that. We do have to fight for true justice because it’s not everyone’s initial motivator. We also have to prayerfully devote time to God to show us the ways we can be better neighbors, love each other better, and make more disciples so that we can have our voice heard in order to change this broken world.
We must spread a message of peace and love not because we have been given an opportunity to do so when faced with tragedy, but because millions of people do not know the love of Jesus Christ and if the Church isn’t working to fix that, there is no reason for us to be here. If we work harder to spread the Good News and exemplify the characteristics we’ve been taught through Jesus, our perspectives on these ridiculous issues will be much different. More people will be changing hearts for Christ around us and we can only hope that it will eradicate feelings of hate that transcend into violence and murder. We won’t have to have conversations blaming “this group” or “that group” for everything that happens, we will blame evil and pray for God to work in someone’s life. We won’t have to live in a society so immensely caught up with sexuality and race that we ignore the fact that people like you and me have lost their lives to hate and therefore a much bigger issue is at hand. Our arguments won’t be about trivial issues, but when evil strikes, we will be able to come together as a community and pray for the families and souls of the deceased as people rather than promoting our political agendas. We will be able to lift each other up – looking at one another as beautiful people of sacred worth knowing that this world is only temporary and God’s love will always outshine the evil that any one of us is ever capable of.
To do this, it’s going to take time and it’s going to take a big effort on our part. We’re going to have to fight. Imagine that…the Church is going to have to go against all else, look different than everything else, love like no one else. When will we fight to spread the story of Jesus with the same momentum that we devote to our political agendas? When will we let the trivial issues go and fix our gaze on the cross so that people can experience the grace that comes before them? If we believe that nothing is impossible with God, when will we stop trying to change every law in an effort to change people, but work to change their hearts instead by leading them to Jesus? When will we step up and do the work we have been called to do? When will we fight?
I do not want to live in a world where we have to sit down and explain to each other why shooting our fellow citizens is bad. I do not want to live in a society so caught up in the issues that honestly shouldn’t matter and have to teach people that we need to respect each other – something we’ve been taught from the crib. But I will. I will pray. I will keep pushing so that I can have an influence on every person I meet that the power of love is in the cross and we are incomplete without it. I will fight because Jesus already fought for me.