A Christian Response to Hate Crimes

Emanuel-AME-ChurchLike so many others, I was horrified to hear of the shooting of 9 black parishioners at Bible Study in their church in Charleston, S.C. by a young white supremacist this week.

Why America always views “terrorists” as foreigners or foreign-born is beyond me. America needs to wake up to its long history of domestic terrorism – especially as perpetrated against blacks.

The horrific record of lynchings – that most characteristic form of terrorist act – continued on through the first half of the 20th century. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was met with firebombings, murders and brutal police intimidation. Racist comments and hate speech proliferates on social media even today. Why can’t Americans talk about this, or even acknowledge it?

Dylann Roof didn’t come up with his virulent racist views all on his own. He found ready support and encouragement from a community of like-minded individuals.

Worst of all, much of this overt racism comes from those who call themselves “Christians.” They even claim religious justification for their views. Why is there not an outcry from every pulpit denouncing such heresy? How can such attitudes be allowed to parade as “Christian” at all? How can churches and Christians allow such hatred to continue to exist under the guise of Christian belief?

I do not understand this at all. But sadly, I do understand why many young people are turning away from “Christianity” when this is their impression of what this religion represents.

Charleston shooting victimI was deeply moved by the response of the relatives of the slain victims who appeared at Dylann Roof’s bail hearing. One by one they addressed the accused and said, “I forgive you.” People in the black churches seem to understand much better than the rest of us how to bear suffering – and how to maintain hope in the midst of despair.

As Jesus demonstrated on the cross, redemption comes through suffering and forgiveness. I was raised in a Protestant Evangelical tradition that emphasized Christian “triumphalism.” That is our particular ‘heresy.’

We need to be reminded that salvation was not won on Palm Sunday with Christ triumphantly claiming power; it came through his “defeat” on the cross. Suffering for the sake of others; bearing his cross, forgiving his accusers and tormenters – that is the path Jesus took in bringing salvation.

The black churches in America understand this much better than the rest of us. They teach it to their members, and, as we saw so movingly in their court testimony, they embed it in their very lives. They offer a profound example to us all.

If there is anything that can rescue Christianity from its imposters, it is the Black American church and its path of faithfulness to Christ’s example. We saw that eloquently displayed this past week.

About politspectator
Edward Clayton grew up in the US but has lived in Canada for the last 4 decades. He is a long time peace activist and committed to issues of social justice and good government. He reports on Canadian, American, and global politics from a Canadian perspective.

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