As a nation and as people of faith, we find ourselves in lament, remembering the Psalmists who shared laments many years ago. The tragic act of terror that took place in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston shakes us to our core. From the location in a historic church to the racism exhibited by the suspect this tragedy touches on our worst fears as a nation. A house of worship and prayer is not safe, most especially from the sin of racism and our addiction to violence. We grieve for the nine families who have lost loved ones and for a faith community.
There are so many questions, many of which will not be answered. Why in the world does the Confederate battle flag still hang over the statehouse in South Carolina? Why did a father purchase a handgun for his 21 year old son who struggled with pill addiction and possessed an overtly racist worldview? How can we have so little concern and respect for human life and the dignity of all people?
People often ask where God is in moments of tragedy. I believe that God’s heart is the first to break. God’s lament is stronger than any lament we can offer and God’s tears run like a raging river compared to ours. God is also in the healing that will come to families and loved ones through the prayers, the hands, and the feet of God’s people who show care and concern. I also believe that God is in the hard questions that we must ask ourselves. Our collective failure to explore these difficult questions continues to lead us towards the systemic sins that ails our culture still today. We must look in the mirror as a collective and confront the ills of racism and our addiction to violence, most especially gun violence.
The Christian faith is rooted in the life of the most courageous human ever to have walked the earth, Jesus. Jesus spoke prophetic words and did prophetic deeds that challenged the status quo. I believe Jesus would have us confront the sins of racism and violence so that we as a culture might repent and collectively seek a better path.
Our faith is not a faith rooted in death, but rooted in life; the fullness of life for all people. We are people who believe strongly that it is the love of God that is the center of all things. Sisters and brothers may we find the courage to speak and live as people of hope and life so that all may experience God’s justice and God’s peace.