I’ve been trying to make sense of the Charleston shooting, I think we all are. Putting words to sorrow and sadness isn’t easy, and often we just have to sit with it for a little while. Grief is a good and necessary thing and we shouldn’t run from it.
But then comes a time to process and talk about it- even if we don’t get it all right. We may stumble over our words for fear of offending someone, trying to be politically correct. What I have to say here won’t be very eloquent, it won’t be political correct, but it will be honest. The things going through my mind aren’t popular, and as nervous as I am to share it, I can’t hide it anymore. I’m not one to join the circus of controversial issues to make a point; it’s not how I want to build a platform. But I have to speak up. Things are not okay. And staying quiet doesn’t seem like the better alternative this time.
So many of us are numb to tragic events happening all around the world. Earthquakes, terrorism, culture wars, it’s all a little overwhelming to comprehend. But then one of those tragedies happens in your family, in your home, in your city. And suddenly you see evil in a different way. Suddenly, it gets personal.
I wasn’t born there. I don’t think most people in Charleston were. I was a year old when my parents moved our family to Charleston. That was in 1981. I grew up learning about South Carolina heritage, the Civil War, and the Holy City. I watched and read Gone with the Wind, enjoyed the sweet tea, and grew to love the city’s charm. Charleston is where I was raised. It’s where I lived for 25 years.
So I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised by the classy response from its people, its leaders, its community. That’s Charleston. We don’t tear each other apart when faced with tragedy, we come together. I can think of several hard times growing up, and the unity within the community afterward always comforted me. I’m also not surprised by the families’ response in forgiving this man. They have some incredible pastors’ throughout the city surrounding them, and while they have a tough road ahead, they are in good hands.
But there is another side of this I don’t understand. Things I’m wrestling through and wondering. And the answers to my questions may actually change the politics I grew up believing. Because I really don’t believe politics are more important than people. The older I get, the more and more I believe it.
How did this happen? How did a 21 year old boy grow up to be so filled with hate? Why did a white boy think he was better? Who taught him these things? How many more are out there? And why, in 2015, are people still dying because of the color of their skin?What steps can we make to change? How can our children grow up to never know this kind of tragedy?
Three areas to reconsider,…and unfortunately, it’s all political. But maybe, just maybe we can put politics aside and just look at it from a human perspective? Maybe consider it?
The Confederacy was/is beloved in the South- a true southerner is likely proud of it. Some will tell say their family helped the slaves and treated them with dignity, but many didn’t. We don’t have to get into those details, we’re all too familiar. Growing up I heard the stories of General Robert E. Lee, the bloody battles, and yes, I do realize there was a land issue just as much as a slave issue. But no matter where your family is from and whether your great great grandfather fought in the war, holding onto tradition isn’t what they fought for. Sometimes we have to let things go for the sake of doing what’s right. For a better future. That’s what they believed they were fighting for- no matter what side you were on.
In our current day, the Confederate flag is associated with white supremacy. It just is. It’s not worth holding on to. It’s time to take it down, South Carolina. Refuse to be a part of it anymore. I’ll never forget the news as a kid many years ago, watching people fight over removing the Confederate flag from the State Capitol. In my ignorance, I didn’t get it, and kept my head in the sand. I figured, it’s a flag and if it wasn’t hurting anyone, what’s the big deal. Well, it’s clear it’s hurting people. Let’s take it down. Quickly.
#1. Are we willing to lay our guns down for the sake of lives lived? (And yes, I realize it’s people that kill not guns, it’s our “right”, etc. I know all the rhetoric, I’m just wondering if it’s worth it.)
#2. In light of the Gospel and the way Jesus lived his life, do you really believe Jesus would carry a gun for protection?
Can we stop relishing in the thought of killing this guy? Yes, what he did was heinous and horrific, and yes, justice is required. But if those families can look at him and forgive him, can we? And if we can forgive him, can we allow him the chance to live out the rest of his life (in prison) learning about and possibly experiencing the forgiveness of Christ? Wouldn’t it be a blow to the enemy to help restore this man? To allow him to potentially impact whoever may have taught him to hate in the first place.
There’s so much more to learn from this story, I’ve just scratched the surface. I hope Charleston isn’t just remembered for a tragic event. I hope it can be an example of how to take a horrible situation, pull together, and come through stronger. You’re already showing your Light. Don’t stop now.