We were horrified to hear of the murders in Charleston and have been following the aftermath, posting some of the relevant articles on The Well's Facebook page. We are grateful to Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil for giving us permission to post this piece from her website at The Well. Read more of her posts and learn about her reconciliation work at saltermcneil.com.
Time to Respond…
I’ve been thinking almost non-stop about the shootings last week in Charleston. And, as I mentioned last week, I had to preach at my church yesterday as well. It’s been a profound burden for many and it’s weighed heavily on me since I first heard the news. But as I was preaching yesterday and continuing to process it all last night, here’s what bubbled to the surface in my mind:
The shooter? Dylann Roof? He said that he wanted to start a Race War. A civil war. A war of hate.
And do you know what I say to that?
No way. Hate will not win. Instead of starting a hate war, we are going to turn this into a revolution of love. What Dylann Roof intended for evil, God will turn into good. I’m certain of it.
Did you see the video where the families of the victims expressed forgiveness and mercy to Dylann Roof? That astounded me. The people of Emmanuel AME Church have started a revolution of love and we will continue to carry it for them. This we can and will do.
For the next several weeks, I’m committing the space on my blog to this revolution. First up, I’d like to share something that I read in my sermon yesterday. It’s a letter to the Black community written by my son’s friend, Bethany Barnes.
DEAR BLACK COMMUNITY (a follow up letter to my “dear white people” post and promise written from the perspective of any white people/Christians who want to seek racial reconciliation in America and the church)
We hear you. We validate you and your experiences even though we will never know what it’s like to be discriminated against based on the color of our skin. We WILL listen to your stories, we will hear your frustrations, we will pursue any injustice we see or that you tell us about, and we will not diminish your experience. We will mourn together and we want to facilitate change.
We hear you. And we are so sorry. We have failed you; in our schools, lives, communities, government, AND churches. But we promise to do better. Starting today, right now. Your lives DO matter.
To the five-year-old precious child who “played dead” to avoid her own death, your life matters. We will not let your story be devalued, diminished, or untold. We will not let you go one day of your young life without feeling immeasurable love. We are so sorry that your life was compromised by such inconceivable hate.
To Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Senator Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. Sharonda Singleton, and Myra Thompson — the nine lives lost due to senseless, calculated, abundant hate: your lives mattered and they still do matter. We are so sorry that in your last minutes on this earth you were told otherwise, but we promise to show your families now that your lives DO matter to us.
To the woman who’s life was purposefully spared, and was unfairly chosen to carry the burden of seeing a true act of evil carried out, and told to tell the true reasons why...your life matters. We will listen to and believe your story without breaking your character down and diminishing your experience. We will pray with you and be there for you.
To the family members and friends of those lost...we promise to not stand idly by and do or say nothing. We promise to speak up and stand up with and for you and all people of color in the future. We will listen. We will be your allies and not your enemies.
We will work to break the narrative and villainization of black males in America. Black men, your lives matter. We will stop the categorization and stigmatizing of black women in America. Black women, your lives matter.
We will not mock, downplay, or blatantly ignore anything that we do not understand, to make ourselves feel more comfortable and less like “the bad guys” in situations of race or inequality.
We acknowledge that hundreds of chapters of KKK groups, as well as countless neo-nazi, white supremacy, and other racially motivated hate groups STILL exist TODAY in AMERICA. We will no longer act like things don’t exist just because they don’t affect us or our lives or make us feel uncomfortable thinking about.
We know that colorism, classism, systematic racism, other “isms” and forms of discrimination and race hatred exist, and that you are treated unfairly because of it.
We accept, acknowledge, and proclaim that this act of terror in Charleston, South Carolina was completely hate and racially driven. This crime would not have happened had the victims been white. We know that racism is not a thing of the past, but a thing of the present and our future if we do not do something. We acknowledge our privilege, take responsibility for our action and inaction, and want to put an end to this centuries long narrative that is still alive today.
I’m tired of hearing that people don’t know what to do. We do know what to do. It’s clear as day. Micah 6:8 tells us to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing.
Bethany Barnes, the woman who penned that letter on her blog, is only 23 years old. She knows what to do. She expressed kindness, justice and humility in her letter. If you want to know what to do, go and do likewise.
Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil is a thought leader, author, speaker, and teacher. She hails from Trenton, New Jersey and has devoted her life to the work of racial, ethnic, and gender reconciliation. With a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and a Doctorate of Ministry from Palmer Theological Seminary, Dr. Brenda has over 25 years of experience and is recognized internationally as one of the foremost Christian leaders in her field. Currently an associate professor at Seattle Pacific University and teaching pastor at Quest Church, her mission is to equip the next generation of Christian leaders to become practitioners of reconciliation in their own spheres of influence. Learn more about Dr. Brenda and her ministries at her website, saltermacneil.com.
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