Just like almost everyone else, I listened last week as the news came out about Dylann Root. As the media outlets gathered steam and sensational details, some true and some false, the horror of nine lives lost became increasingly hard to fathom. Root’s acts were deemed hate crimes early on. But it’s hard to figure out hate that deep, that ruthless, towards people, especially when its directed at those to whom you have absolutely no knowledge as individuals. The only thing that you know is that their than their skin is a different hue than yours. (This is not to construe that knowing someone would have somehow made more sense or been less violent and senseless.)
As it came out that he had not been raised in a family of racism, his best friend growing up had been African American, the acts become even more incomprehensible. Looking for explanations, we now know his manifesto stated that the Trayvon Martin case affected him. His cousin says the fact that a love interest chose a black man over Dylann turned him. And then he was listening to white power music.
But even all of those things don’t add up. There is a bigger, simpler, explanation and it came out of the mouths of the grieving community of Charleston, out of the church where Root created unspeakable carnage, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Numerous interviewed individuals, all the ones I saw, their skin all shades of soft brown to dark testifying to their genetic heritage, called it what it was. Evil.
My aim here is not to argue about gun laws or availability. That is a complicated issue, that no matter what side you argue on, speaks ultimately to the desire of each and every person who knows of Root’s murders to wish that we could promise our world and children that this kind of thing would never happen again. It’s to point up that one thing we have to accept, all of us, is the simple truth, the indisputable truth as spoken by the grieving who called it exactly what it was, in terms that allowed each and every person to deal with it effectively. Those acts were evil.
Evil is real.
The interviewers took closeups of those testifying to the evil, panned around the murder site, did their best to appeal to a society who wanted to understand. And yet I didn’t get the impression that the answer that the Christians were giving was one that many listening were cottoning on to. It didn’t seem to me that many were appreciating just how wise and brilliant their heart knowledge was. And because of that, the news of the miracle that we witnessed as the souls of those grieving was laid bare, and is still being articulated, was passed over like nothing miraculous happened. Oh but it did. A miracle occurred and the news media didn’t bat an eye or camera in the face of it.
Let me explain.
How many of you have ever been in a real prayer meeting?
I wasn’t there while Root sat among those nine people praying, he contemplating his actions as he listened, but I might as well have been. I know the power and love they were calling down from Heaven. Those people were praying for every single person, fact, worry, local, national issue that they wished to have supernatural power intervene in as they moved about in their community. They were praying for wisdom and the heart to act the way the Spirit that each of them were certain lived inside them wanted them to act. They were praying for that skinny, weird white boy that sat in their midst. They were calling on the love that they knew first hand from a man who lived, died and rose to Heaven 2000 years ago because He loved them with all His heart and knew that evil rested in the breast of man and woman and without his sacrifice would never overcome evil.
And it wasn’t just those in that prayer meeting that felt that way. Because those nine lived their lives in the light of love from above and it was permeating that community. Those nine weren’t the only ones who believed in evil and a love that transcends it no matter how it manifests.
You know how I know this? Because when the interviewers allowed those Christians to say what was on their minds, they said in one voice the most astounding words. They said what they knew those who had died would say in this case.
We must forgive, we cannot hold bitterness in our hearts, and we must allow God’s love to triumph.
These were the people whose brother or sister or pastor were just gunned down.
I guess a cynic of the first order could put this attitude down to mass hysteria, maybe a case of grief so profound it clouded normal human reaction. But none of that makes sense. These people did not look hysterical, disturbed, or in any other altered state that would affect their ability to put honest words to what was in their hearts.
How many people do you know that could do what I just described?
I think we have to call what these people were testifying to for what it is. It’s a miracle.
It’s the miracle of true, real love.
They could give love in these, the worst circumstances imaginable, because collectively and individually they know what it is to be loved unconditionally by their Father in heaven. They count on it. They count on his grace to make sense ultimately of the evil of this world. We each have the free will and they are well aware that in the breast of humanity lies the potential for unspeakable sin, evil is you prefer.
Those Christians prosper some kind of love if you ask me.
Maybe that’s the reason the news media failed to see the miracle before their eyes. Not only did they not understand the import of classifying Root’s actions as evil, but they also didn’t understand the kind of love that would fuel the hearts of those Christians to that level of grace. That’s hardly the image of love we have if we think about it in today’s terms. We don’t really think of love as being something real. Love is quite fleeting, transitory, subject to the whims and whiles of attitudes and personalities, a mere matter of brain chemistry, hardly anything that has such faithfulness and can withstand any assault.
There’s was a love personified, that is strong and as real as the universe in which we live, the perfect, promised counter to evil.
There is only one explanation for that kind of love. It’s miraculous love. It’s supernatural love. It’s love beyond the bounds of human understanding. And yet, within the reach of our hearts.
Love is real.
You’ve seen the miracle of it, the truth of it, from the people who worship in the historically black church that serves Charleston.