By Lance Olimb
We were rendered speechless by the news. Shocked by the hate. Staggered by the cowardice. The tragedy in Charleston was an appalling event. In the face of this kind of evil there is a sobering silence. Partly because there is a right and respectful silence for the grief and loss of those experiencing the intimate reality of tragedy, and partly because no words are adequate to explain or understand violence of this kind.
This silence is uncomfortable and difficult.
Through the sorrow, the silence offers an opportunity and a responsibility. We have the opportunity and responsibility to listen to the voice of brothers and sisters in our midst. Though this particular outbreak of violence and hate is not about the kind of church Emmanuel AME was, it certainly gives us ample reason to reflect. We have a divide of understanding and experience within our churches. Anthony Carter comments,
"Someone has said that the most segregated time in America is at 11 o'clock on Sunday morning. The evidence for this unfortunate reality is all around us. The issues that racially divide Christians in America today are complex and multifaceted, existing on several levels (political, economic, social, as well as religious)." 1
Are we listening? Are we praying? Are we actively seeking to address the "unfortunate reality" of racial divides?
Let me encourage you to see what happened in Charleston as more than a political issue. For Christians, it is decidedly a gospel issue. Our message of reconciliation must not be merely theoretical or spiritual in nature. In Christ, there is no partiality. We are one body. Every nation and dialect and culture and skin tone will be united in Christ. The gospel will be evident to the world around us when they see that it moves us beyond culturally and racially bound relationships and families of worship.
I do not know how to address all the "complex and multifaceted" issues that have created this divide and continue to perpetuate it. There is no easy formula in matters of this kind. However, we must remain committed to reconciliation and reject apathy regarding these concerns. In humility, we must admit we have failed in many ways to reflect the true, impartial love of Christ toward ethnically and racially different brothers and sisters.
Will you pray with me that God moves our churches, and the churches of Tallahassee, closer to the beautiful picture of worship in Heaven? Will you pray that God uses you to make steps toward that end? Ask God to help you make meaningful connections with brothers and sisters who are different than you.
Pray. And listen.
Listening with you,
1 Anthony J. Carter. On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African-American Christian Experience (Kindle Locations 511-517). Kindle Edition.