In memory of Clementa Carlos Pinckney (1973-2015), Democrat, South Carolina Senate; senior pastor of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. [African Methodist Episcopal] Church; martyred with eight of his congregation while they studied scriptures and prayed together in the church.

You can read much more about Pastor Pinckney and his church here.

It was one year ago this month that shots rang out on our campus at Seattle Pacific. And the community responded by gathering in grief, in support, in prayer, and, when the truth was learned, in grace and love toward the antagonist. I was blessed, and taught, by their response.

Today, those of us on campus are gathering in SPU’s prayer chapel to pray for our grieving neighbors at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and for the troubled heart of the suspect in custody.

The_steeple_of_Emanuel_African_Methodist_Church,_Charleston,_SCElsewhere — specifically, online, from angry responders (a wide range, including suit-and-tie white guys) — I’m already seeing waves of rage and hate directed at the shooter.

I understand the anger. I’m angry too. And I’m sure that my feelings are feeble when compared to what this South Carolina community must be feeling.

But I am trying to keep in mind that I am called to respond with love not only for this community — they need an outpouring of love and grace for this catastrophic loss — but I am also called to do what I can to overcome evil with good, remembering that it is never as simple as “That man is evil.”

The media, focusing on the shooter far more than those who were killed and those who suffered loss, are rolling out more and more details about the influence of white supremacists, yes… but *also* about a boy whose troubles led him into drug use, which had led him into trouble with the law, and who was, in spite of all of these things, given a gun for his birthday by his own father.

Many forces — poverty (and I don’t just mean economic poverty), ignorance, racism, the accessibility of weapons, and more — were at work here. But responding to hatred with calls for retaliatory violence and death (which I’m seeing in many places) do more harm than good. This is an opportunity to remember Jesus’s own example, and concern ourselves not only with the grieving, but also with the troubles of those who set the stage for such violence through neglect, irresponsibility, hatred, and ignorance; and for the dissolution of destructive and retaliatory rage that such incidents can trigger.

Jesus reached out in care for his heartbroken mother, but he also prayed for grace for those who were in the act of killing him with their hatred. Far be it from me to say to Jesus, “Lord, now is not the time to ask us to love our enemies as well as our grieving brothers and sisters. Can’t that wait?”

Every day, the sign at the entrance to Seattle Pacific University repeats what seems an impossible charge: Seek justice; love mercy; and walk humbly with your God.

Father, forgive them… and forgive us… when we know not what we do.


[Thanks to Melody Fields for the link and the exhortation to mourn with those who mourn and honor the fallen.]