Update on June 27th: It was not hard to see a secular spin coming in this tragedy, but the push back from the black Christian community has been inspiring. Michael Wear in Christianity Today is tired of people attempting to explain away the forgiveness exhibited by the families in the Charleston massacre:
… I am a Christian because of the black church and black faith. When I was far from God, it was the unashamedly Christian black culture, movies, and music of people like Lauryn Hill and Fred Hammond that introduced me to Jesus. It is the black church that so consistently embodies the confounding, radical love of Jesus. What other American community today displays less shame, less reservation, less self-awareness about proclaiming the Christian faith? I will not turn the Bride of the living Christ into a cultural artifact.
We serve a God who will make evil scatter with light, who is the answer to every skeptic’s questions, and who is renewing all things. The Charleston family members could forgive because they believe that fateful night in the upper room of Mother Emanuel was not the end of their loved ones’ stories. The Charleston victims are as they were: in the kingdom of God, beloved by him, their greatest longings realized.
Nine followers of Christ were murdered by a young outsider they welcomed into their Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday. For them we pray, they are:
- Cynthia Hurd, 54 years old
- Susie Jackson, 87 years old
- Ethel Lance, 70 years old
- Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49 years old
- The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41 years old
- Tywanza Sanders, 26 years old
- Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74 years old
- Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45 years old
- Myra Thompson, 59 years old
Soon, people who have never contemplated, let alone attended, a Bible study will presume to identify and take up a secular cause in their names. Why would anyone presume that their legacies should be about anything other than what they were dedicating their time towards? Witnessing to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In fact, less than 2 days after their murders, the families of some of those executed in the coldest of blood, reaffirmed in the most powerful witnessing that can be imagined, that their surviving family members continue to believe after being tested in a manner those of us observing would most fear. Affirming that “they lived in love and their legacies will live in love.” This is what they said:
The daughter of Ethel Lance – “I just wanted everybody to know, to you, I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you.” She asked that God have mercy on the shooter’s soul. “You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you. And I forgive you.”
A family member of Anthony Thompson – “I forgive you and my family forgives you, but we would like you to take this opportunity to repent . . . confess, give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so that He can change it—can change your ways no matter what happens to you, and you will be OK. Do that and you will be better.”
The mother of Tywanza Sanders – “We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms,” she said. Every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same… Tywanza was my hero. But as we said in Bible study, we enjoyed you, but may God have mercy on you.”
The granddaughter of Daniel Simmons Sr. – “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof—everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So, hate won’t win… I just want to thank the courts for making sure that hate doesn’t win.”
On re-watching the video, I couldn’t help noticing the two guards. It felt as though they stood in for the rest of us. At times, I imagined that they imagined taking the cowardly murderer into a private room to exact revenge. But most of the time, they just seem to be suspended in disbelief at the Grace they were listening to, all the while struggling to maintain their emotions.
A column by Peggy Noonan about those families is copied in full at end of post.