As I sat in my dark living room yesterday morning, my morning cup of coffee was already getting cool and my ritualistic banana had been devoured, I began flipping through my news app. There in bright colors on my phone was the story of another senseless shooting. 9 people were killed who wanted to have a Bible study in their local church. 9 people who welcomed a young man in without knowing his full intentions. 9 people who lost their lives because of the color of their skin.
I know that being in ministry everyone expects us/me to spit out the typical churchy answers that hold no balm for the wound that’s been created. People expect the, “let’s pray for them,” and the often used trump card of, “Everything happens for a reason.” I just can’t. I have no good response. There is no good explanation. Innocent people lost their lives because of their skin tone. It has become apparent that the gunman desired to start a race war in S.C. His goal was to use violence to perpetuate more violence. I don’t understand that desire. It makes no sense.
In trying to find balance people will begin to search for ways to deal with the madness. Some will point to the overt racism in America that bleeds through parts of the country. Some will point to a need for more gun control. Some will say that the boy is just a disturbed individual who needs therapy. Some will call for healing through the halls of justice by means of the great equalizer of death. But none of those will fix the problem.
We are losing our humanity.
The painful truth is that this young man did not come up with his ideas in a vacuum. Someone or something taught and helped to mold his thoughts. He is a product of a society that defines itself by its differences. As a society we do not see people as unique individuals whose stories and lives should be explored and shared. Instead we seclude ourselves in underground bunkers with people of like mind. In it’s safety and security we can avoid meeting people who may think differently or live a lifestyle contrary to us. We then systematically divide people into categories based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, etc. These categories help to feed our own narcissism and to indulge our own fears and insecurities.
It must stop.
My fear is that if we, as people who occupy this world, cannot begin to find common ground with one another the violence will continue. If we keep defining ourselves by how different we are we will perpetuate a hostile form of humanity that ends in death. The beauty behind the tragedy in South Carolina is that the attempt to start a race-war has had the opposite effect. The people of Charleston are rallying together. A beautiful picture of this is a sign made by a young man who held it high as the perpetrator was led into the jail. It reads, “Your evil doing did not break our community! You made us stronger!”
Let’s begin to open a dialogue.
Let’s begin a new conversation.
Let’s step out of our cold, dark bunkers into the warm light of diversity.
Let’s seek to become a nation which values all life regardless of ethnicity or expression.
Let’s take back our humanity.