This was pure evil, no doubt.
It’s probably no coincidence nine black church-goers were tragically gunned down in cold blood in a Charleston, South Carolina church sanctuary this week, since it comes on the heels of a prayer rally held in that in city that drew thousands of believers from diverse backgrounds just the week before. Many whites and blacks worshipped together at that event, called “The Response,” in the hopes of spurring healing, restoration, and revival for their community and culture.
How good and pleasant it is when we dwell together in unity to praise the Lord, which is exactly why such faithful solidarity is a most wretched site to our Enemy. He cannot abide such holiness, for he is threatened by it. So it would make sense for our Enemy to strike right at the heart of such holy ground, in the hopes of turning us back to his shibboleths of the damned rather than continuing to fix our hearts on things above.
We must not let our Enemy succeed.
Our Enemy thrives on mayhem, divisiveness, and chaos – which are exactly what Dylann Roof had on his mind when he (allegedly) started to unload his demons on those meeting to call upon the heavenly host. All eyes are now on the alleged 21-year-old mass murderer, whose bio includes two arrests – one for trespassing and the other for a drug-related offense – and a Facebook page with an assortment of black “friends.” As well as a photo of Roof wearing a black jacket with apartheid-era flags.
Madness wouldn’t be madness if it wasn’t rife with contradictions, and one look at Roof can’t help but remind you of the head full of crazy lying just behind the stares of the Newtown school and Aurora movie theater murderers. We are clearly not dealing with an ominous instigator of a race war here. No, we are dealing with the by now all-too-familiar jihad of the pathetic white loner.
This was a boy who could shave that sat with the people he killed for an hour. He got to know them a bit. While they prayed. In a church. That’s a special kind of evil surpassing even the bile of racism.
That is Lucifer shaking his fist at the Holy of Holies.
And here’s why. In a 2013 lecture available on YouTube, Emanuel AME Church pastor Clementa Pinkney – one of the victim’s of this week’s rampage – said this: “Could we not argue that America is about freedom—whether we live it out or not—but it really is about freedom, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. And that’s what church is all about. Freedom to worship, and freedom from sin, freedom to be fully what God intends us to be, and freedom to have equality in the sight of God.”
Roof probably heard words very similar to that before he grabbed his gun. Words of healing. Words of valor. Words of salvation. And if your true hope in life – even if it is only a vague and fleeting hope – is to one day share in the promise of those words, then you leave that church at least pondering Pinkney’s testimony and perhaps encouraged by the grace and resilience of your fellow man.
But if you have forsaken the heavenly notions Pinkney espoused, then all bets are off. Pride beckons. Evil reigns. And the last thing you are going to tolerate is something as good, true and beautiful as humble servants worshiping a God full of mercy.
Because if you don’t think you can have it, then no one will.
This happens all the time. Usually it doesn’t rise to the point of bloodshed, but we humans are stone cold professionals when it comes to making others share our pain. And for no other reason than it gives us the only real sense of purpose and control we can muster in our broken little lives.
That tendency is bound to chase us in the coming days as scapegoating and race hustling take the place of decency and a brotherhood of men. Pray that the better angels of our nature prevail. When I first heard of the Charleston slaughter, I took to social media to offer the following prayer:
“No words can satisfy or bring peace at such a moment. Only Christ can, and this unspeakable tragedy is another reminder of the sin that sickens us as a species.
As horrific as this time is for the Charleston community, our reaction from here on can make it even worse. I pray the rest of us will resist the urge to draw any political or cultural conclusions from such evil (in order to reinforce our biases). I know it will be difficult, especially because those with powerful platforms will attempt to draw us into such fruitless conversations. But what happened here is unfortunately possible in any era of human history, regardless of the state of the culture or the behavior of the government.
Our own history proves it. The AME church was originally founded because most whites didn’t want to worship with blacks, at a time when many whites paid little regard to the lives of the faces the Creator painted differently from theirs.
This sickness is called sin: it knows no history, philosophy, or ideology. It’s found in all of us….”
Lucifer is marching. He is dancing. He is laughing. Just like the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight,” who gave two groups of people the power to kill one another as the only means of saving themselves, he is certain we are going to use this Charleston apocalypse to spin even further out of control. But it need not be so.
Yet another character in that movie planted the mustard seed earlier in the script: “It is always darkest before the dawn.”
Yes, the AME Church in Charleston has been crucified, and not for the first time. Its members have been murdered before because they shined the light of Christ when others chose to make the cock crow. Through tears and terror salvation somehow beckoned all the more. Life found a way. It pressed on. It would not give way to the vicious propaganda of our Enemy.
And neither should we if we truly want to respect these new fallen. If they were in that church last week to lift themselves up by lifting up God, are we willing to meet them in that place and set aside our petty politics?
Forget Ferguson. Forget Baltimore. Listen to Pastor Pinckney one last time. Remember Charleston, and be free at last.