I grew up here, at the intersection of the Bible Belt and sweltering heat. The Deep South, a place still scarred by the burned-down ruins of Civil War casualties—now hemmed in by park signs and walking trails. We’ve tried to tame the past by walling it off and calling it history, but some of the same undercurrents still course through this place. Some of the same hate and racism still live here.
And this week, we saw the tragic proof. Dylann Roof, a young man mired in the hate-filled propaganda of white supremacy, gunned down 9 people in Charleston, South Carolina. He waited through the Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church before he killed six women and three men, including Pastor Clementa Pinckney. As Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said:
"This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience. It is senseless and unfathomable in today's society that someone would walk into a church during a prayer meeting and take their lives."
While we don’t yet know all that led to the shooting, Roof’s Facebook page includes images and updates that suggest he had a very warped conception of humanity—one not founded in the truth that all humans are descendants of Adam and Eve and of one blood (Acts 17:26). In fact, his profile picture from May 22 shows a jacket with patches that celebrate white domination in African nations.
That disturbing image includes just one comment—a comment that shows the Deep South no longer has to be what it once was.
The comment comes from Marcus Stanley, an award-winning gospel musician and African-American from Richmond, VA. In 2004, Stanley was shot eight times at point-blank range; he survived but temporarily lost the ability to walk. A man with such a past has a great deal of reason to be angry, but when he tracked Dylann down on Facebook, he left a very surprising comment that shows the true power of the good news about Christ:
“I don’t know you, but when I searched for your name from the news outlets it led me here. You’re not captured yet, so there is a chance that you may see this message. I don’t look at you with the eyes of hatred, or judge you by your appearance or race, but I look at you as a human being that made a horrible decision to take the lives of 9 living & breathing people. Children do not grow up with hatred in their hearts. In this world we are born color blind. Somewhere along the line, you were taught to hate people that are not like you, and that is truly tragic. You have accomplished nothing from this killing, but planting seeds of pain that will forever remain in the hearts of the families that lost their lives and countless hearts around the country. If you’re still out there and you have your phone with you… Give your heart to Jesus and confess your sins with a heart of forgiveness. He is the only one that can save your soul and forgive you for the terrible act that you have done. I love you Dylann… even in the mist of the darkness and pain you’ve caused, but more importantly HE loves you.”
The rest of the message is just as powerful:
Please join with us in praying that God will raise up more people like Marcus Stanley, who will respond to tragedy and hate with the love and forgiveness of Christ. Also, pray for those who have suffered at the hands of Dylann Roof and the entire city of Charleston.