Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thoughts About the Charleston, SC Shooting

Wednesday, June 17th, a man entered the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the city of Charleston, South Carolina. He sat through the entire service.  He listened to the words spoken. It's said that he even prayed with the congregation.

At the end of the service the man opened fire on the congregation, reloading a total of five times and slaying (murdering) 9 people, sparing only 3. His purpose was plain: He was there to kill black people. His sole reason for sitting through an entire prayer service with 12 other people and then killing most of them was the color of their skin.

Some of the victims of the shooting.
I won't show you the face of the perpetrator.

People will want to know why he did it. They will talk about his reasoning, whether or not he has terrorist affiliations, or even if he was mentally ill. I've seen people on Facebook talking about it and I've read all the headlines. Many people are going to talk about it until the next thing in the news takes its place and I'm certain that no one is going to care what I have to say on the matter. (Truthfully, I've had quite a bit of thought put into what I was going to say and I'm still not sure where I'm finally going to take this, even as I write it.)

We live in the United States of America in the year 2015 and a man walked into a church, was presumably under the presentation of the Word, and then opened fire on a group of people because of the color. of. their. skin.  

As a South Carolinian, as a person, and as a Christian, I am definitely angry. I am also very sad. 

People are going to commit atrocities no matter how well-cultured, well-raised, or well-educated. That much is certain. There is something in humans that cannot be removed by breeding, learning, or by any form of punishment or threat. It is squelched in many people to the point that they can live productive lives in society, doing good things, and helping each other. But, it's still there and it's a ravenous and overwhelming poison that will overtake a person with expediency if the things that keep that person functioning are removed. Perhaps it's a job or a person or a dream, whatever that thing is, that if taken from a person can push them over the edge. 

Everyone has had a really bad day before. Heck, sometimes you have a couple of really bad days. But, what if you had a series of horrible days and there was no one to pull you out of it? How long could you hold on before you snapped?  How long could you fight that poison that lives deep inside you?

Please understand, I am not making excuses for this man. There is no excuse. This event was an act of evil.  And this evil is everywhere. This is a caution for all of you reading.  There is a beast inside waiting to devour you and anyone around you, if you let it.  If you are what people frequently refer to as "a good person," you will most often resist this beast-- you will fight it-- and, for most people, that will be enough to keep them from walking into a building and acting on whatever cruel and vicious thought has jumped into their mind for the day (week/month/year).  However, it will still whisper for you to do things in the dark... where other people cannot see and there is no fear of retribution for any wrong committed.  

"No one will know."  "Nobody is looking."  "You can get away with it."

Be aware: If you are not a Christian, feel free to read on, but be aware that this will likely conflict with your worldview (which I challenge all people to do.)

This beast is sin. It whispers to us at all times, urging us to do harm, pulling us away from doing good for others. It's something with which we are born and it is not something that we can ever escape with our own strength. It is only by the Grace of God that we can overcome such a relentless enemy.  It is only by the power of the Cross that we can resist sin and Satan, because we will eventually fail.  We will lose our strength and we will fail. 

If you have been redeemed; if you have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb; if the old man has been crucified with Christ and you are born again, then you don't need to worry about why this man did what he did. There are certainly reasons that present themselves in the form of racism, possible mental illness, and flawed reasoning, but these are merely symptoms of a larger problem: sin.  It's a problem to which you are not immune if you confront it on your own without the power of Christ. 

You have accepted Christ as your salvation, but do not ignore your need for Christ in your daily life. There will never come a time in your life when you can do this on your own. As believers, we must strive to rely on the Gospel and the finished work of Christ to resist the poison that lives within us and within the world.

You may find yourselves asking, as I often do,"What's wrong with people?" (I can hear my mother's voice in that.)

Don't wonder. You know what's wrong with people. We need Christ.

In the wake of this horrible tragedy, re-commit yourself to rely on the power of Christ.  Pray for your loved ones to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Pray for the families dealing with this pain.  Love your neighbor and your enemy.  Give to those in need.  And as much as you may not want to, pray that the shooter is confronted with the reality of his sin and wrongdoing and will humble himself before the Lord and ask for the forgiveness which we all deeply need and none of us deserve.  This man meant evil, but God can take this evil and bring about good.

In Christ,