Last week, the media reported on NAACP Spokane Chapter President Rachel Dolezal who, although being born and raised white, masqueraded as an African-American in the Pacific NorthWest for several years.
Days later, in South Carolina, a white man sat in on a Bible study group at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and without warning or provocation, decided to murder nine innocent people.
- Clementa Pinckney, 41, the church’s pastor and a state senator;
- Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a reverend and coach of the girls track team at Goose Creek High School;
- Cynthia Hurd, 54, a librarian at the Charleston County Public Library;
- Tywanza Sanders, 26, a 2014 graduate of Allen University;
- Susie Jackson, 87, a longtime member of the church;
- Ethel Lance, 70, a sexton at the church;
- Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49, a mother of four who was also a singer in the church choir;
- Daniel Summons Sr., 74, a retired pastor from another church in Charleston; and
- Myra Thompson, 59, the wife of a vicar at Holy Trinity REC.
How ironic that this heinous act should have happened at Emanuel AME Church — the oldest African Methodist Episcopal in the southern states. How ironic that this heinous act should have happened at Emanuel AME Church where Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr gave a speech in April 1962. And how ironic that his widow, Coretta Scott King, led protestors from Emanuel AME Church to the local hospital to call for rights for African-American hospital workers in April 1969.
Martin Luther King once said: “Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hats begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.”
The name of that speech was “Loving Your Enemies” and it was delivered on November 7, 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
For reasons that are only known to Dylann Roof at this time, he decided to murder nine innocent people at Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday. It was a pre-meditated act; a week earlier, he told friends and neighbors that he was going to kill many people the following Wednesday.
He told friends that he believed that African-Americans were to blame for the downfall of white Americans. He told friends that he believed that white were superior to blacks, and he wanted segregation brought back. He told friends he wanted to start a race war.
But all those comments, according to friends, were contrary to how he had presented himself to friends over the years. According to his friends, he never used the n-word, he never made racial slurs, he never targeted any African-Americans, and is friends — face-to-face and online — were a mix of people, not just one culture or race.
It would be easy for society to blame Dylann Roof’s divorced parents for their son’s actions. It would be easy for society to blame the education system that allowed Dylann Roof to drop out of high school in Grade 9. And it would be easy to hate Dylann Roof for what he did Wednesday night.
In the midst of all tragedy, it would be easy for what happened in Charleston, South Carolina to become a lit powderkeg of anger and hatred and vigilante justice.
But anger and hatred and vigilante justice aren’t what people chose to default to in the wake of this senseless violence. There were no riots. There was no vandalism. There were no businesses set on fire.
Instead, forgiveness, prayer, and fellowship rose to the forefront.
Bishop Matthew Odum of the Temple of Glory Community Church in Savannah, Georgia asked for people to react with faith instead of anger in the face of violence.
Marcus Stanley reached out to Dylann Roof as the accused was on the run. Marcus Stanley, an award-winning gospel musician was shot at point-blank range with a .45 caliber gun back in 2004 when he was 18 years old.
Marcus Stanley, in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr’s words in April 1962, and in the spirit of his Christian faith, reached out to Dylann Roof with a message that began with forgiveness, not hatred.
Whether you are have a religious conviction or you are an agnostic or you are an atheist, take a moment to see the difference love and forgiveness makes, and how love and forgiveness trumps anger and hatred. Reach out to those who seem to be the least deserving of love and forgiveness and show them a better way to live their lives.
Sometimes all it takes is three small words: Trust in God. Believe in love. Ask for help. Hope always counts.
Yes, it can be as simple as all that for someone to stop heading down the wrong road in life, and start making their way back to the life they’re meant to live.
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