Thoughts on Charleston


How does one even begin to blog about a complex issue like hate that escalates to racism and murder? There are many facets, and I have a general rule of no more than 850 words per blog (fair warning: this one is over 1200). Writing a string of blogs is an option. But today, I choose to hit on just a few issues. It’s hard to know where to start. But start we must.

So here goes.

First, know that I am deeply grieved by the Charleston shooting. I struggle to comprehend, and not just when racism is involved. The Aurora theater shooting particularly freaked me out and still causes me to be on guard when fellow movie goers find the need to come and go throughout a movie. Sandy Hook is so bizarre and surreal that I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to fathom what happened there. I realize not all of these and other incidences of mass murder have racism as a base issue, but the one thing they do have in common is hate. Yes, racism is hateful. Racism that leads to murder is hateful. I get that. But a white person opening fire on a classroom full of mostly little white people is also hateful. Murder in the heart starts with hate in the heart. Period.

As you can see by my sidebar picture, I’m as white as they come. And as such, the response to this blog and my grief may be quickly discarded simply because I could never understand what it is to be black and hated by a white person for the color of my skin.

This is partly true. I have been hated by white people, though admittedly, not for the color of my skin. But there’s another way in which I don’t understand.

Let me explain.

I grew up in a town where not many black people resided, and yet, somehow, a black girl by the name of Shelly came to the tiny Christian school I was raised in and became my best friend in kindergarten, first, and second grade. I have loved black people since. The feelings her friendship evoked in me had a ripple effect. They just kept going and going, and I have found it easy to be open to other friendships with people who are different from me. When I had open heart surgery in Houston (in 1989), many of my nurses were black. They were immensely kind, helpful, and loving to me at a time when I wasn’t sure I wanted to live. Their love toward me made me want to stay – in a hospital I hated because it kept me as its prisoner. I even vowed to come back some day and work beside them because by the end of my three week stay, I considered them lifelong friends.

I’ve never found black people to be offish. I’ve found them to be gentle, generous, and non-judgmental, for the most part. So while I don’t understand what it’s like to be hated for my skin color, I also don’t understand the hate that some white people feel toward black people. Nor do I participate in it. What happened in our country hundreds of years ago, in my book, does not have to dictate the relationships I have presently. For as long as I can remember, this has been my way of looking at and dealing with relationships with those of a difference race.

(I don’t even like to use that phrase, because aren’t we all of one race? The human race?)

In addition to being disappointed and angry about the Charleston shooting, I’m also disappointed in and angry at some reactions to the shooting. Don’t get me wrong. The prompt forgiveness on the part of the victims’ families has been incredible. Divine, in fact. And nothing but praise and thanksgiving can be offered for their humble, Christ-like response to horrific injustice. What bothers me is the gist of what some across the country are saying about the topic of racism:

There’s no solution.

Hate is hate and it can’t be fixed.

Racism has always been a part of our history and it always will be a part of our future.

Those who are demanding that something HAS to change are the same ones saying nothing CAN change. Or will change. By doing so, it’s as if they prefer to roll around in the part of their society that is mucky and miry rather than grabbing a shovel and asking, “Where can I, with God’s help, start shoveling?”

Two of my favorite words in the Bible are “but God.” If we could look at racism and murder and all the underlying, sly sins that accompany the Charleston shooting as if we were in a desperate place (because we are), but also like God specializes in transformation (because He does), then we will have made the first step to recovery, healing, and peace. The problem is, we are too busy looking horizontal instead of vertical. At the relationship between ourselves and our neighbor instead of ourselves and God.

If I look at my neighbor, my hope is thwarted. If I look at my Savior, my hope is renewed. Not that we never look at our neighbor, but the idea is to gaze at God and glance at others.

We, the United States of America, need to be what our name indicates: united. And the only way that can happen is if we, the not-so-United-States, look to God who is the only One who can strengthen, convict, correct, inform, and help us live up to our name.


In marriage, a man and woman are united because they humbly submit to Him and His will for their lives. Simply living in the same vicinity does not unite them. Do you think a healthy marriage happens apart from the grace of God? Having been married for a quarter of a century, I’m going to say no. Therefore, if God can do the mighty work of uniting two people who are so alike and yet so different, while attempting to live intimately, then I’m willing to say that God can also do a mighty work of uniting a country where people who are so alike and yet so different are attempting to live next door to each other, but are instead killing each other.

All things are possible – with God. And while God is perfectly willing to do His part, some of us don’t seem to be willing to do ours. Not from what I read. Some are more concerned with reliving the past and perpetuating hate. They forgive, or at least say they do, and yet they don’t forget – they dangle the past over every white person they encounter. Still, some say they hold no racist views, and yet they don’t speak up or defend in any way when racism rears its hideous head.

Somebody in this situation is going to have to be Jesus, and it’s you and me. Both of us. All of us, actually. Until we as a country and as individuals start to believe, live, and love like our Savior, the negative comments will prove right: nothing will change. We could talk about that every day all day, but my main point is that this is not a hopeless situation. So let’s stop inferring that it is. The fact is:

He is able to keep us from stumbling and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. ~Jude 1:24

We need a starting point in all of this, but we can’t even take the first itty bitty step if we insist on admitting defeat before we tie our shoes. It’s complicated and feels beyond comprehension. It can seem hopeless. More and more so with each massacre. But let’s allow that feeling of hopelessness to prompt us to call on the God of angel armies. And rather than spreading words of descent, let’s sing a song of ascent:


I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore. (Ps. 121)


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