The killer gladly took the gun and had target practice with it. He then went to a Bible study at an historically African American church. He sat with the people there, who reports say showed him love and acceptance. And after an hour of receiving what they offered in the name of Jesus Christ, he stood up and methodically shot them. Because they were Black. And because he hated Black people. And because no one who knew him took notice of the evidence of his sin. And because no one who knew him took action to keep him from harming others as a consequence of his sin.
...And what does it have to do with you and me?
Only this: Everybody knows somebody who is wont to engage in hate speech — not just ethnically-oriented hate speech but other kinds as well. When the pus of that infection bubbles to the surface at a social gathering or at the family dinner table or at church, how clearly do we decry it to the perpetrator so there is no question of its unacceptability? When the KKK comes to a Long Island community to spread its message of hate, how clearly do we condemn that behavior to the public so there is no question that those who speak hate do not speak for us?
My argument is that hate speech + silent acquiescence + inaction by those who were in a position to speak and act before the fact resulted in last Wednesday’s deaths. My argument is that, therefore, such atrocities can happen anywhere just as readily as they happened in Charleston. My argument is that, to quote Edmond Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good [people] should do nothing.”
The Church cannot be complicit in such barbarousness as occurred last week, but all too often it has been and continues to be. Church people dare not be complicit in the violence perpetrated against sisters and brothers who God made but who are nevertheless uncomfortably unlike us according to our perceptions; but all too often we have been and continue to be. Those who claim the name of Jesus owe God -- and the world -- more than we have rendered. We have watched the consequences play out in myriad ways. Last week's atrocity was but one.
Let’s think on these things and remember them the next time we are tempted to look the other way.