A Breaking Point

          You might quiet the whole world for a second / if you pray.
          And if you love, if you / really love,
          our guns will / wilt.

          —St John of the Cross (1542-1591)

What in the world can I say—and what in the world can we do—following the domestic terror we witnessed at a historic black church that for nearly 200 years—even before the end of slavery—stood for liberation and justice in Charleston, South Carolina?!
What in the world can I say—and what in the world can we do—when the media says the terrorist acted alone but when the whole world can see the Confederate Battle flag—which long stood for racial terrorism—flying at the South Carolina State Capitol?!
The South Carolina governor actually said, “We’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”  And I have to ask, “Really?!”  The killer wore the flags of apartheid regimes on his jacket and had a Confederate States license plate on his car.  He lives in a state that continues to fly the Confederate Battle Flag at full staff, even after the massacre.  And he actually told his victims what his motives were—along with literally wearing those motives on his sleeve. . . .  We’ll never understand his motivation?  Really?!
We are not born with that kind of malice in our hearts; it is learned.  And while there is certainly specific responsibility that must be assumed, there is also a greater sense of responsibility that falls to us, our culture, our society, our church, our churches, our ways of life, our ways of thinking, our ways of moving and being in the world, our philosophies, and our theologies that tolerate, turn a blind eye—and even nurture—the development of that kind hatred and intolerance.
When Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed 50 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “A state trooper pointed the gun, but he did not act alone.”  And here, I think MLK speaks directly to us:  “He was murdered by the brutality of every sheriff who practices lawlessness in the name of law.  He was murdered by the irresponsibility of every politician, from governors on down, who has fed his constituents the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism.  He was murdered by the timidity of a federal government that can spend millions of dollars a day to keep troops in South Vietnam and cannot protect the rights of its own citizens seeking the right to vote.  He was murdered by the indifference of every white minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of his stained-glass windows.  And he was murdered by the cowardice of every Negro who passively accepts the evils of segregation and stands on the sidelines in the struggle for justice.”   
We as a society are at a breaking point.  We can’t keep moving into the future like this.  How many more devastating massacres like this can we endure?  If someone had said Al-Qaida was behind the massacre, what lengths would our government go to address the situation?  And this kind of domestic, racially-motivated terrorism is not a lot different.  We are guilty of nurturing the safety of racism and hatred. . . .  We are guilty of allowing firearms to flow freely through our streets. . . .  We can’t say something matters to us and then do nothing. . . .  WE need conversion. . . .  We need a change of heart.  We need to split open the atom of scarcity and fear.  We need to make room for the tremendous power of love.  “. . . If you love, if you really love, our guns will wilt.”
We must establish love as the foundation of everything we do and say and be.  Honestly, we don’t have time for anything else.  Why would we want to mess around with anything less than that?  Despite of—and because of—the pain and heartache, grief and sorrow, we must seek the love of God.  We must seek conversion.  A change of heart.  A new way.  Room for the radically transformative, creative power of love.  And we must make this love the focus and ambition of every single thing we are about.

See you in church,


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