We know now that Dylann Roof acting alone in the shooting and killing that occurred at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. The outpouring of shock, anger, sadness and grief was abundant on social media and on television.
As a white preacher on his last Sunday at his current church, I should be preaching to comfort my people upon my leaving. Instead, I will address the Charleston shooting and the problems of hate, fear and racism. Pastors, if you are preaching the sermon this Sunday or weekend, save it for another day. You need to preach on the racist and hate shooting in Charleston. White preachers and churches, I’m really talking about you.
Racism is alive and well in America. We do not live in a post-racial world. We live in a post-Jim Crow world. Racism is just as ugly today as it was 70 years ago; it’s just not codified.
Dylann Roof walked into a historical black church in Charleston. Sat in the Bible study/prayer meeting and waited. He then killed nine people. According to witnesses, Roof said, “You have to go.… I have to do it.… You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country” before he opened fire. A truly racist, hateful, and evil action and words. According to his Facebook page, his profile is full of racist content. A picture of Roof displayed a jacket with flags from apartheid-era South Africa.
Unhelpful media talking heads, like Senator Lindsey Graham, remarked that this racist shooting was an assault on Christianity. Last time I checked, Christian churches are not known for, in Roof’s words, “…rape of our women…” Clearly, a hateful and racist motive was at work.
This shooting in Charleston cannot go unmentioned in your sermon, preacher. The words you preach must must be words not of fear, but in faith in God during this difficult time. Your prayers must be filled for Charleston, Baltimore and Ferguson. For the victims and their families. For justice to be done. Your sermon must preach that love is not just a feeling, but a behavior.
In Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” King wrote to eight white clergy leaders from the South:
“You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.”
In the coming days, there will be superficial social analysis of Charleston, Baltimore and Ferguson that deals with effects and does not address underlying causes. Racism, and its culture of hate and fear, is at the center of this senseless shooting.
Preacher, this Sunday do not merely pray for Charleston, but lead your people into action against racism, hate and fear.