“I still feel like I had to do it. Anyone who hates anything in their mind has a good reason for it.”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31, NIV translation.
When Dylann Roof strolled casually into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston on June 17, 2015, and murdered nine parishioners, including the church’s senior pastor and a state senator, he not only established himself as one of this nation’s most despised mass killers in recent memory, but he also set into motion a populist uprising against Confederate symbols that found it’s way into Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend, leaving dozens injured and three people dead.
It’s disturbing to think the bloody choices of a single sociopath could so easily inspire such a contentious movement, wherein the battle lines are drawn in every major southern city in every southern state, including San Antonio, and would ultimately carve a target on every statue, plaque, or monument that even remotely references a Confederate hero or slave owner. Not only has The Stars and Bars become the new swastika, but even the Dukes of Hazzard have been singled-out for celebrating racism more than car chases, Waylon Jennings, and Daisy’s fine ass in those tight denim jeans. Even today, the vandals who pulled down the Confederate Soldiers Monument in Durham yesterday are being hailed as social justice heroes, with every online story featuring video clips of the protesters continuing to kick and spit at the statue as it lay broken on the ground. Guess they showed that statue who’s boss.
Now, whether you believe these symbols and monuments are a legitimate chapter of Southern heritage to be preserved and, possibly, learned from, or you are on the side of ripping that heritage to shreds because it celebrates slavery and oppression, one thing both sides have to admit is that none of it, not one part of this largely-contrived debate, serves anyone but the careerist politicians using the conflict to bolster their beloved legacies and desperately-needed support base. For Democrats, it’s a convenient way to erase their own heavy hand in the grim history of the slave trade and Jim Crow. For the Republican establishment, it provides a link to rural America that most Beltway politicians require in order to maintain their “folksy” roots, if they ever had any. For everyone else, it’s just another free ride on the Outrage Train, whichever side you happen to be on. Makes for noble-sounding Facebook posts.
The real loser in all the mayhem, destruction, and violence that has resulted from one cowardly killer holding up a Confederate flag in a social media post is, of course, the forgotten story of a small community of local Christians, the parishioners of the Emanuel AME Church, who found it in their hearts to forgive the murderer who walked into a bible study on just an ordinary day, and brutally stole nine lives from their family.
That’s courage. That’s faith. That’s love. And their forgiveness represents the best of us, and what we are truly capable of.
Of course, it’s not nearly as sexy or satisfying as kicking a statue.
Jesus loves you and so do I,