|Memorial at Emanuel AME Church (AP Photo/David Goldman)|
When I heard what happened this past week in Charleston, SC, I, like so many of you, had an emotional reaction. My immediate feeling was surprise. My goodness, nine innocent people in a church studying the bible were gunned down and killed by a young man who had been invited into their circle. Gunned down in a church! Almost immediately I was also (and still am) overwhelmed by sadness. I cannot imagine the gut-wrenching pain that the family and friends of the victims must be experiencing. All of Charleston must be hurting. People all over America are hurting.
As I learned more about who the victims were and who the suspect was, other emotions rose up in me. Nine African Americans were killed by a young, racist white man in the southern United States. A white person was involved in perpetrating violence upon blacks in a church. Unfortunately, this is nothing new in the United States. My mind raced back to my childhood years when I read news stories of black churches being bombed and burned and people being tortured and killed at the hands of racist whites. I am a white man. Even though I cannot grasp and have never known the kind of hatred that it must take to commit such heinous acts; nevertheless, I felt and continue to feel disgust, anger, guilt and shame.
It is tempting to argue that we casual observers have no responsibility in what happened. I am not responsible for the actions of another person. Each of us must account for our own actions. I know that. But, we all contribute to the landscape of our collective environment, even if in only small and subtle ways. It's not our fault we say. We would never do that, we say. We can't do anything about that, we say.
So nothing changes.
I feel such a sadness for what is happening in my country right now. I know all the emotions I experience each day. While my life is by no means perfect, it is a pretty good life, especially when contrasted to what others in our society experience. Honestly, I am usually so focused on what is going on in my little circle, I tend to not think much about others. Or to do much for others. People struggling? It's easier to rationalize that it's their own fault. People hurting? Let someone else deal with it. It's not my responsibility.
Did I contribute to a culture and a disharmony that may have moved this very disturbed, young man over a line that no one should ever cross? I don't know. But if I have contributed in any way, I cannot apologize enough to relieve the guilt and shame that reality would generate.
Those folks in Charleston invited this young man into their circle of friendship and fellowship. Jesus knows something about people within his invited circle turning on Him. And like Jesus, this community in Charleston has demonstrated forgiveness and compassion which leads me to experience something that Paul Ekman never itemized on his list.... hope.
I want us to be better. I want to be better. I want to see as Jesus sees. I want to love as Jesus loves. Lord, help me to be more like You and less like I am right now.
You may not identify with anything I have said here so forgive me because I just needed to write it out. For me.