On Wednesday, June 17, an avowed white supremacist went to a Wednesday night Bible study and prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in Charleston, South Carolina: a historic church, the oldest black church south of Baltimore. The young man, who is white, was welcomed into the circle by its African American pastor and church members. The service continued.
After about an hour, he shot them.
He killed nine. Two survived by playing dead. He deliberately left one alive so she could tell what had happened, what he had said, that he had killed them because they were black, and black people “have to go.”
There are some things you have to know in order to fully appreciate the symbolism of this act. You have to know that the African Methodist Episcopal church was founded by black Christians who boldly followed the Good News of the gospel out of the segregated white churches and into congregations of their own. You have to know that this AME church, fondly called Mother Emanuel church, was founded by Denmark Vesey, and was later burned to the ground in the wake of rumours that he was planning a slave uprising and flight to Haiti. You have to know that this AME church was founded when chattel slavery was still legal in the United States. You have to know that the shooting occurred just two days before the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, the day when the last slaves in the United States finally found out they were free, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
And you have to tell anybody who claims that this massacre is evidence that Christians are persecuted that they are full of shit. This was an act of white supremacist terrorism. The perpetrator was quite explicit about it.
I’m sorry. I don’t have anything else to say.
Please pray for the nine African American men and women who died, who surely went straight from having welcomed the stranger into the arms of Jesus:
– Cynthia Hurd
– Susie Jackson
– Ethel Lance
– Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor
– Rev. Clementa Pinckney, pastor and state senator
– Tywanza Sanders
– Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr
– Rev. Sharonda Singleton
– Myra Thompson
Pray for their families, friends, loved ones, congregation. Pray for all the black people in this country that this act was intended to terrorize. Pray that God will comfort and console them.
Pray for their killer, for his associates, and for all white supremacists, that God will convert their hearts to repentance for their evil.
Pray for the United States & all who live here, especially those of us who are white, that God will move us and shake us so that we may finally confront and repent of our racist history, structures, institutions, and unconscious biases, and commit to acting for justice.
Please, read the links, and share your own prayers or resources in the comments.
Essential reading for white Catholics:
Any white Catholic response to the slaughter of these black Christians must begin by confessing that while black churches all over the United States struggled for freedom, white Catholic dioceses throughout the South were owning black slaves as a corporate body. Wealthy white Catholics sometimes deeded slaves to their dioceses in their wills.
Essential reading for all Christians: what the AME church asks. Includes address for donations.
THE COUNCIL OF BISHOPS COUNCIL STATEMENT CONCERNING EMANUEL AME CHURCH IN CHARLESTON, SC | News and Announcements.
More Catholic reflections:
[Pope Francis] argues that praising the God of creation includes being willing to challenge and transform systems, institutions, and our own patterns of comfort and consumption that fail to respect our duty to care for the planet and for each other. “Human life is itself a gift,” he says, “which must be defended from various forms of debasement.”
n the same way, the fact that the church targeted last night was another such community—a community not just of Americans and Christians, but of black Americans and black Christians—makes the shooting a very different sort of event than it would have been otherwise.
What did we expect when, time and time and time again, the largest unified Christian denomination in the United States–Roman Catholicism–failed to consistently and vehemently repudiate the defilement of the human body that is racism in all its forms? What did we expect when the confederate flag is flown freely? What did we expect when gun laws remained lax, and racial tensions continued to grow? What did we expect would incur from the silence of the Church?
What must I do to be a better friend to Job, to be in solidarity with African Americans whose mourning and anger this week is the newest page in a long book of suffering?
More responses to the massacre:
What I Need You to Say in Response to the Shooting in Charleston | Osheta Moore.
Where to start when you’re afraid to talk about race | between worlds.