They welcomed him into their Wednesday night Bible study. He sat with them for an hour as they studied, worshipped and prayed. Then he stood, took out his gun and said "(black people) are taking over our country, you have to go" and ripped another ugly, irreparable hole into the magnificent tapestry that is the American people.
I hope he is halfway right and that one day it does happen, that people of such exceptional character as those nine beautiful souls do take over this country. We should be so lucky to have people just like them in charge. One was a beloved pastor, a "peacemaker" and a "moral compass", whose wise counsel was sought by many. One was a 45 year old mother of three and an inspirational high school track coach. One was a quietly giving librarian dedicated to helping others acquire knowledge. Another was a war veteran, retired pastor, scholar, and grandfather. The eldest was an 87 year old grandmother who, according to her grandson, "had no animosity toward anyone." All fine people. All contributors to the world. All cherished by friends and family. All dedicated to their faith. All shot simply because they were black.
The deranged shooter and racists like him, hiding in the dark behind their imbecilic ideology, are the ones that have to go. There is no place for them in society anymore. I pray they are rooted out and exposed for who they are: a fearful, ignorant minority. As technology connects us and the world gets smaller, we have better insight into our fellow human beings around the world, I see us moving forward with curiosity, acceptance and a desire to understand each other and to be understood. We are beginning to see that our similarities and our common humanity far outweigh our outward physical and cultural differences. Racists have a choice. They can cling fearfully to their false sense of superiority and get left behind. Or they can open their eyes and face the truth that no one race is better than another, just different. That our souls are what we truly are, what matters, our bodies just a shell. I pray they can change. For those that refuse, justice can't come swift enough.
What happened after the shooting is nothing short of miraculous. The shooter said his intent was to spark a race war and bring back segregation. The exact opposite quietly unfolded in Charleston last week. Two days after the massacre, the families of the dead faced the killer at his bond hearing. Broken hearted, hurting and angry, they rejected hate. Through tears, they forgave him. They told him they were praying for his soul. That Sunday, over 15,000 people - black, white, brown - peacefully gathered together on the bridge that spans the Cooper River. Families, neighbors and strangers held hands, embraced, sang songs and marched. They held up signs that said "Love thy Neighbor", "Only Love Conquers Hate", and "My Race - Human." Dozens of boats from Charleston harbor formed a line and dropped anchor under the bridge, honking horns in support. As the sun slipped below the horizon, the activity paused for nine minutes of silence. The Holy City has shown the rest of the world what love, grace and courage in the face of evil looks like. May they be an example to us all.