Most Americans, I believe, have been shocked and grieved by the murders in the Charleston AME church. Nine members of the predominately black church were simply attending a Wednesday evening Bible study/prayer meeting before they were killed.
Among the dead was the pastor of the church, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a South Carolina state senator. From all accounts I’ve heard, he was a genuine Christian man. The consolation, of course, is that he and the others who were dedicated to the Lord are now in His presence.
The perpetrator, Dylann Roof, based on all the evidence thus far, is a confirmed racist who seems to believe that blacks are taking over the country. Reports also indicate that he is a drug addict. His actions were planned well in advance; he didn’t even live in Charleston, and why he chose to target this particular church is still unknown.
What are the bright sides of a story like this? First, it appears that the Charleston community, black and white, have come together in unity over this heinous act. At this point, there doesn’t seem to be any movement toward violence. Rather, a spirit of harmony and prayer is dominating.
Second, it’s fascinating how Roof was captured. A woman in North Carolina, Debbie Dills, had been watching Fox News yesterday morning and had seen pictures of the car and Roof. As she was driving to work, she realized a car in front of her with South Carolina license plates matched the description. She pulled up beside the car and noticed that the driver looked just like the photo on TV.
At that point, she called her supervisor, Tom Frady, at the florist shop where she works. He stayed on the line with her until the police were contacted and took over. The entire time, she continued to tail the car.
I saw her interviewed this morning on Fox, and she is a deeply committed Christian who gave God all the praise for allowing her to play a part in the capture of this fugitive. So, out of tragedy, we have another testimony of how the Lord can work through an individual to bring justice.
Yes, this was a racial incident. It is to be condemned as such. It also has another element to it that we need to be aware of—it was an attack on churchgoers within the building. While that part may have been incidental in this case, I have often wondered how long we are going to continue to feel safe in our churches. There is a militant anti-Christian segment of our population—both atheist and Islamic extremist—that knows churches are soft targets. It’s hard to imagine this event won’t embolden them.
Christians need to stand together and remain faithful to the message of redemption from sin. We also need to be alert to the rising hostility toward our beliefs. Things are changing in America, and those changes are a portent of the dangers we may face in the not-too-distant future.