Race relations in America are in crisis and the June 17 Charleston church shooting didn’t help. It is quite a dangerous, destructive problem.
What is the solution? How do we solve race relations in the United States?
We were shown how in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white racist psychopath, Dylann Roof, killed nine black people. In terms of race relations, the response of the victims to the church shooting is one of the most amazing stories in American history.
The members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and the relatives of the victims of that church shooting showed the whole world the solution to our race-relations crisis—if only people would pay attention.
A Christian Example
Mark Berman wrote this in his June 19 Washington Post article “‘I Forgive You.’ Relatives of Charleston Church Shooting Victims Address Dylann Roof”:
“The relatives of people slain inside the historic African American church in Charleston, S.C., earlier this week were able to speak directly to the accused gunman Friday at his first court appearance.
“One by one, those who chose to speak at a bond hearing did not turn to anger. Instead, while he remained impassive, they offered him forgiveness and said they were praying for his soul, even as they described the pain of their losses.”
These people offered this murderer forgiveness. That is amazing. Why don’t more people do that? We should, if we are Christians, because that is what Christ did. When Jesus Christ was crucified, as people were putting Him to death—killing Him for our sins—He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
That is really the same spirit that the friends and families of those who were murdered in Charleston had!
“I forgive you,” Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, told Roof at the hearing as her voice trembled with emotion. “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But God forgive you. And I forgive you.”
That is impressive! How many attitudes do you see like that? These people’s words came right out of the Bible, from the very words of Christ.
Felicia Sanders’s 26-year-old son, Tywanza, died while protecting her. She addressed his killer, emotion filling her voice: “We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts. And I’ll never be the same. Tywanza Sanders was my son. But Tywanza Sanders was my hero. Tywanza was my hero. … May God have mercy on you.”
DePayne Middleton-Doctor, mother of four girls, was another victim. Her sister honestly told Roof, “I acknowledge that I am very angry. … But one thing … she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hating, so we have to forgive. I pray God on your soul” (emphasis mine throughout).
Other relatives of those who died called on Roof to repent.
That is a striking example of biblical conduct. There is no room for hate—because the Bible says hate is murder! (e.g. 1 John 3:15; Leviticus 19:17-18; Matthew 5:21-22). How many Christians really believe that?
This example should have been held up for the whole nation to follow. It should have filled the airwaves after that terrible event. This is a lesson and an example for all of us of a way of life that can really solve our problems!
Do we want to solve our problems? We ought to think about this example and keep it on center stage for a long, long time—if we really want good race relations, and we want peace between the races.
Sadly, just the opposite happened. Instead, the media and national leaders immediately put the focus on the Confederate flag. That became the main media story, while the really important story of what happened and how those victims responded simply slipped into obscurity. Apparently we have just about moved on now.
If we don’t learn from this lesson, we are all going to suffer in a way that people can’t even imagine.
But if we want racial peace in this nation, it is critical that we understand why Charleston did not become a Ferguson or a Baltimore. We need to know why the riots and looting and destruction didn’t happen there like in those other cities.
There is a way that leads to peace. Whether we realize it or not, this is the only spirit that will ever solve our race relations. It is what true Christians are commanded to do, by Christ Himself!
Blessed Are the Peacemakers
“Lots of folks expected us to do something strange and break out in a riot. Well, they just don’t know us.” That is what the minister, Norvel Goff, told the “packed, multiracial congregation” of this church at its first service after that grisly attack, according to journalist Jonah Goldberg (National Review, June 24).
People expected to see what they saw in Ferguson and Baltimore—but these people responded in spirit the way Christ did! They followed His example, and they brought peace to Charleston!
Here is one of the major doctrines of this church, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (ame) Church: “The church is wedded to the spiritual doctrine of ‘God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, Man our Brother.’”
That is the truth of the Bible! We all came from Adam and Eve—we are all brothers. But a lot of people don’t like that doctrine because they don’t like what Jesus Christ taught! And that is why He was killed! People want to hate other people, and kill other people. They killed the Son of God—and He forgave them. Without forgiveness, not one of us would have an opportunity to receive eternal life.
The motto of this church is, “God our Father, Christ our Redeemer, the Holy Spirit our Comforter, humankind our family.” Humankind really is all one family. Yet so many people do not recognize that truth.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). This is part of the Beatitudes—the beautiful attitudes Christ gave, which are at the heart of Christianity. He said blessed are the people who make peace! They shall be called the children of God. If you are not a peacemaker—if you make war instead—then you are not called children of God by Jesus Christ.
Making peace is a beautiful attitude. Doing everything you can to make peace—not war, not riots, but peace!
This is why what the ame Church did is so critical in American history. How many times have you seen such an attitude that really shows how to have peace? And how important is peace in our nation!
In its first service after the massacre, the ame Church’s minister said, “Some wanted to divide the race—black and white and brown—but no weapon formed against us shall prosper.” How different that is from the approach we often see! And look how it works! This approach works, and the other doesn’t.
Then this congregation sang these words about God: “You are the source of my strength, you are the strength of my life.” Not other people, not the mob or anything else—God is the source of their strength, the strength of their lives. That is biblical! God will give you strength and power and might if you trust Him.
“The congregation gave the loudest standing ovation of the morning after Mr. Goff thanked law enforcement, particularly poignant at a time when the relationship between blacks and the police remains strained nationwide,” the New York Times reported (June 21). This minister thanked the police. How does that compare with what we usually see?
Jonah Goldberg also wrote, “Less shocking, but almost as uplifting, was the conduct of the broader Charleston community, which has been unified and dignified, despite the expectations of some in the media—and the accused gunman, who had singled out Charleston because of its success at racial integration.”
Goldberg reported of “tens of thousands of South Carolinians, white and black, marching in unity across the Ravenel Bridge on Sunday night.” They were all walking together, in harmony, in spite of this terrible violence. The whole nation should follow their example.
You can see why Charleston has such good race relations. Because the people think like the people in this church!
A House Divided
Dylann Roof singled out this community because of its good race relations. His murderous rampage shows that there are evil forces in this world—forces that don’t want peace in America or anywhere else.
Do you really recognize what is behind that? 2 Corinthians 4:4 reveals that the god of this world is Satan the devil. Though he is invisible, he is worshiped in this world. That is why we can’t have peace! The devil hates peace! He and his demons have been cast to this Earth and are now confined here and using violence, hate and murder to destroy America (Revelation 12:9-12).
Christ made this amazing prophecy: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matthew 12:25). This is America’s future if it remains divided: It will come to desolation!
This world is full of nations waiting to pounce on the United States and destroy it. Russia and China and radical Islamists are gobbling up neighboring territory right now. They are eager to see America fall. And when they look here and see race problems, riots, chaos and anarchy, they see a very vulnerable nation! Do you think they wouldn’t attack America if it is divided, full of people hating each other and tearing each other apart? History cries aloud that they absolutely will! There are many nations that would love to see America’s demise!
If America continues down the course it is taking, it is inviting its own downfall. If we keep stirring up hatred, it will consume us.
Jesus Christ said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Again, that sounds like the people in Charleston.
The way these people responded would help tremendously to bring peace to America! The other way—the way we have been seeing so much—brings riots and race wars. How else can it end?
Like it or not, there is only one solution to America’s race crisis, and we must go to the Bible to find it. In Charleston we were given an example that shows that it works! What a monumental lesson. It is a lesson that America needs to learn—and quickly. ▪