I feel I need to comment on tragedy in Charleston not because it was a mental health issue but precisely because it is not.  People are going to try to state that this is one person who was mentally ill who did this act and not the manifestation of racism that it is.  Although I believe that anyone who commits murder, at least, at the time is insane I do not feel that this act deserves to be placed in the mental health arena.  I find it hard to find words for such a tragedy.  Not because I am black but precisely because I am not.  I am amazed by the fact that some families have come out and stated forgiveness precisely because although I would try I am not sure at this point I could do it.  Obviously better Christians then I can ever hope to be.

I wish to quote a letter from the Presiding Bishop from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that was written on June 18, 2015:

“It has been a long season of disquiet in our country. From Ferguson to Baltimore simmering racial tensions have boiled over into violence. But this …the fatal shooting of nine African Americans in a church is a stark, raw manifestation of the sin that is racism.  The church was desecrated.  The people of that congregation were desecrated. The aspiration voiced in the Pledge of Allegiance that we are ‘one nation under God’ was desecrated.

Mother Emanuel AME’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, as was the Rev. Daniel Simmons, associate pastor at Mother Emmanuel.  The suspected shooter is a member of an ELCA congregation.  All of a sudden and all for all of us, this is an intensely personal tragedy.  One of our own is alleged to have shot and killed two who adopted us as their own.

We might say that this was an isolated act by a deeply disturbed man. But we know that is not the whole truth.  It is not an isolated event.  And even if the shooter was unstable the framework upon which he built his vision of race is not. Racism is a fact in American culture.  Denial and avoidance of this fact are deadly.  The Rev. Mr. Pinckney leaves a wife and children.  The other eight victims leave grieving families.  The family of the suspected killer and two congregations are broken.  When will this end?

The nine dead in Charleston are not the first innocent victims killed by violence.  Our only hope rests in the innocent One who was violently executed on Good Friday. Emmanuel, God with us, carried our grief and sorrow – the grief and sorrow of Mother Emanuel AME church – and he was wounded for our transgressions – the deadly sin of racism.

I urge all of us to spend a day in repentance and mourning.  And then we need to get to work. Each of us all of us need to examine ourselves, our church and our communities.”

Thank you for listening.  I pray that in my lifetime that we will learn to judge people based on their abilities and not on their race.


Eaton, E. It has been a long season of disquiet letter Retrieved from: ELCA.or

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