It’s been awhile since I’ve wanted to write. Oh I’ve started a few posts only to abandonded them when distracted. I’ve been busy. Good busy. Enjoyable busy. Busy enough that I don’t feel a need to interact with a computer screen much. Life has taken on a new normal for this semi-retired mom. I like it. It feels right. My weeks fill up with things to do and people to see. I’m out and about enough to keep myself out of trouble, sort of. I always crave a little trouble, it keeps me sharp.
But today, I feel the desire to write again. Yep, Charleston. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the news. I knew it happened, 9 people were killed, the church was an historic African American church, a young person was on a racial vendetta and the President spoke about gun control after offering his heartfelt sympathies (who needs TV). I purposely didn’t follow a lot of the Facebook posts or the news channels. I don’t need the Blather Brigade infiltrating my mind! Sometimes the blather is as senseless as the crime. 24hr news cycles haven’t done much to educate, inform or improve American lives. If anything they’ve contributed to our cynicism, fears and apathy, immunizing us to the troubles of our times.
I did see Jon Stewart’s opening on his show the day after the shooting. I applauded his honesty and connected with a lot of what he said. But when he lamented our national spending on preventing foreign terror, asking how we could justify it when we can’t protect ourselves at home, I tossed up my hands. I actually asked the TV — OUT LOUD — how do you keep evil people from comitting crimes in a church? Please, someone, tell me! How do you do it? I wanted him to offer some kind of solution, or plan, something concrete that I could support.
Taking down the Confederate Flag won’t stop it, though I think it’s past time. Any state taking a dime of Federal money for any program should only fly the American Flag. The Confederacy lost that war over 150 years ago, retire the damn flag to the museums. It represents rebellion, sedition and traitors. Though some would argue that it originally had nothing to do with slavery — it does now. The gun control laws that already exist didn’t prevent this man from his objective. I don’t own guns, can’t shoot, and am not as convinced the 2nd Ammendment should be as literally interpreted as others. Yet I don’t see how more laws about guns would have prevented this event. Do we resort to metal detectors and bag checks? That might end church attendance for me. Tell me Jon, what do we do?
Violence in houses of worship is not new. A Google search turned up an article that listed 18 church shootings in an 11 year period of time. Included in the list were churches across the country, all denominations and varying ethnicities. The greatest number of people killed during an event was seven, according to this record. Several of the gunmen were killed by congregants, law enforcement or took their own lives after comitting their crimes. Those facts don’t even include violence against Jewish Synagoges or Mosques. While religious freedom is an inalenable right in this country (for now) throughout history various denominations, sects and religions have gathered knowing there were risks to their safety. Those of us living in affluent suburban neighborhoods with quality schools, high property taxes and unaffordable housing, take for granted our safe worship habits. But there are those whose lives tell a different story. I don’t wish to diminish the horror of what happened in South Carolina, but it isn’t a new occurance, and it most likely won’t be the last.
By their very nature churches are places that welcome people with dysfunction, problems, criminal backgrounds and all sorts of terrible, awful, no good, very bad things. The very message of the Christian church is one of redemption, transformation and restoration. The worst of the worst changed into completely new people because of Jesus. We can’t help but open our doors to those who have sinned in the most henious fashion. Our news is so good, so wonderful, so powerful that it begs to be shared with all, especially the most unsavory sorts. Sign up for a prison ministry sometime, you’ll see first hand how Jesus changes lives.
One of the most powerful examples of the worst of the worst, in the New Testament, is the man of the Gerasenes. He was living in a cave, naked. So strong were his “impure spirits” (i.e…demons if you’re pentacostal) that no one could bind him with chains any longer. He spent his days and nights crying out while cutting himself with stones (Mark 5:1-10). But when he saw Jesus he knew who he was! He begged him for mercy, cried out that he would do whatever Jesus wanted. Can you imagine the relief he felt when Jesus commanded the legion of demons to come out of him? It took a herd of pigs to capture all of them. We have no record of his continuing story, but I want to think he followed Jesus everywhere, that he became a devoted disciple. Maybe he was able to impart healing or extend deliverance to others like himself. That his transformation was so complete people would never know, just from looking at him, that he lived so grievously prior to his deliverance.
Again I ask, how do we prevent violence in churches Jon? I sure don’t see it happening any time soon. In fact, my Bible tells me that persecution is the more organic, natural state for Christians — if you’re doing it right. Missionaries anticipated persecution. They headed to pagan lands, places steeped in evil, demonic worship, suttee, cannabalism, head hunting, torture. Practices the average, westernly civilized person couldn’t imagine. They often packed their coffins in anticipation of abandoning their lives to the cause of Christ, knowing they would either die on the field or be martyred. Now, it seems that evil has moved closer to home, infiltrating the very sanctuary that was once, sacrifically shared abroad.
Which brings me back to Charleston. I don’t doubt that the Blather Brigade and politicians on both sides of the aisle would love to claim this horror as a fully racist event, probably to further their own agendas. And without question there was a strong racist element involved. And of course our national dialog on race relations is lacking. Visit the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago on the weekend, watch the African Americans work at the menial jobs, while the upper/middle class white families enjoy the exhibits. However, (hit me now) I think this was as much an act of violence against Christians as it was against race. Think about it, this man could have opened fire in any number of places where African Americans gathered. Parks, schools, shopping malls, the list is long. But he chose a Christian church. His verbal rant was racially directed, but his actions were those of the age old battle between evil and the cross. Ironically, he chose to martyr the very people most likely to forgive him. Those who will pray for his soul to be redeemed eternally. Who were the least likely to fight back and who accepted him in their midst, no hesitation.
Because, ultimately, that’s what Christians do, that’s how we roll. There is no prevention for this kind of evil. Until Jesus comes again this battle is on and there will always be martyrs. We only have Jesus’ example. To love your enemy, to bless those who curse you, to pray for those who despitefully use you. And to pray “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”.
God bless Charleston and what was meant for evil, may God use for good.