It has been 5 years since Dylan Roof walked in the Mother Emmanuel and killed 9 people at a prayer meeting. I remember watching this on national news, and my heart breaking. BREAKING in my chest. At the time, my [then] husband and I were pastoring in Ferguson, Missouri–trying to figure out how to be married, clergy, activists and sane a year after Michael Brown, Jr. was murdered not even 10 minutes from our apartment.
What Dylan Roof did was evil. The absolute level of evil is for God discern when he closes his eyes for the last time. As for me and mine, my [then] husband and I kept pastoring. We kept serving, kept loving the community we were in, and trying to do what God told us. In 5 years time, what I have seen is two fold: people running away from anything Jesus-related, or they are clinging to it.
The folk whom are running from it, say they have abandoned it because it is a ‘White man’s religion.’ Forgetting that Jesus isn’t White, the Gospel went to Africa before it went to Rome, and the ‘fishers of men’ didn’t speak English at a native language. I say all that to say this. The White Evangelical Church has a lot to explain. A whole lot! Once more, it has taken the death of a man who was innocent to have dramatic, world-wide effect. You have to understand, as a woman of faith, the housecleaning that is happening in the faith community is overdue! It is overdue! Do you know how hard it is to preach this gospel with the assertion that most people believe that Christ is a ‘white man’s savior’? Let’s not even get into what it means to be a woman doing this work!
In the light of this resistance–this once in a generation resistance–it seems fitting that this memoriam would be commemorated! However, the best thing about this? The White Evangelical church is having to deal with these chickens coming home to roost, dens of foxes in henhouse, and packs of wolves in sheep’s clothing. What reassures me that a reckoning has come is when WHITE pastors are confronting racism in their respective denominations.
One of those pastors is Pastor Judah Smith of ChurchHome-Seattle. On a June 4th Zoom live, he said these two things: “We have colluded with the culture.” Meaning, there is still a thread of racism (real, palpable RACISM) that is going through the church. But the quote that struck me was this: “We have preached America as if–at times–its is scripture.” I see no lie present in this. None! The church, the one founded by Jesus Christ was NEVER supposed to collude with a culture. It was never supposed to align with one race of people! It was never designed to be a place where all people were not welcome! The fact Dylan Roof did this, killing the pastor of this church, only to have his body taken to internment under a Confederate flag? Insult isn’t even the word. In commemorating this tragic event, it is right that the church–a entity of change, hope, protection and security, begin to examine just how much of Christ is in the church.
I mean, it was founded by a Middle Eastern man, whom didn’t speak English and was a refugee whose non-English speaking parents teenage parents fled their home to prevent his murder, only to be murdered by this state in front of his mother for being a threat to power—maybe, the legacy of this moment is the change it would bring. Rather, that is bringing. Octavia Butler said it this way, “All that you touch is change, all that you touch changes you. God is change.”
Change has now come.