Let’s hope the people of America never stop being shocked and disturbed at racially motivated violence like what happened June 17 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
The shooting allegedly was premeditated by Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old high school dropout who attended the Bible study at the church before he killed nine other participants, including Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, the church’s pastor and a South Carolina state senator.
Roof had sat for about an hour in the service when he began his rampage. He shot each victim at close range and left one survivor to tell the story. He fled but was apprehended the next day more than 200 miles away in North Carolina.
The preliminary investigation suggests the suspect was motivated exclusively by race, and the attack has been characterized as a hate crime. A check of Roof’s computer confirmed his radical racist attitude and his violent intentions.
The morning after the attack, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly attendees in Dallas gathered for their first business/worship session. Like believers across the country, they prayed for the victims and their families. Some prayed for the perpetrator.
Within a couple of days, stories came out of Charleston that some family members of shooting victims had chosen to extend forgiveness to Roof. News accounts suggest a consistent outrage within the city — regarded as the birthplace of the confederacy — in the wake of the attack.
South Carolina’s governor and other leaders are calling for the Confederate flag — one of which flies over the state capital — to come down. They will face a battle, even though the flag evokes to African Americans emotions similar to Ku Klux Klan flaming crosses that not so long ago were used to terrify KKK detractors, particularly blacks.
Hesitancy to dump the flag — even to lower it to half-mast in this situation — is proof positive that racial hatred is something Americans have allowed to perpetuate, not only in South Carolina but in various ways virtually in every state.
In this particular case, there is no ambiguity in the situation. The intent was to murder people because of their skin color. Amazingly, this group of victims had welcomed the alleged shooter’s participation in their Bible study.
People of faith need to pray in such situations, but prayer and conviction need to manifest themselves in actions that help change society — even in its dark corners — in ways that assure citizens of a greater measure of safety and acceptance.
For people of faith, to do less is to disrespect the Creator of us all and our Savior.
Bill Webb is editor of Word & Way.