To clasp hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”
— Karl Barth
The good news coming out of the beautiful city of Charleston is:
the news of so many people of different colors coming together and clasping hands in prayer against the disorder of a world that is violent and broken and ever and always in need of the healing power of the living Christ who weeps over it all.
I noted on my Facebook page yesterday, when I was pouring out a lot of my distressed thoughts and feelings about this act of unadulterated hatred, that if I had the means I’d go to Charleston to be in prayerful solidarity with the praying people there.
But I can pray — and I’ve been praying a lot — for the nine victims and all their loved ones.
Because prayer, not the sword or the gun, in Christian faith has always been held up as the ultimate spiritual weapon.
I’m praying even for the disturbed young man Dylann Roof, he who committed such an incomprehensible act, that somehow he will come around to the realization that he lives in the only real and literal Hell there is — the Hell of his willful separation from the love that overcame hatred and violence on the cross.
Such Christian conversions have happened before in the lives of hate-filled racists. Consider the case of the white hater who brutally whipped down African-American Congressman John Lewis at the Selma bridge and left him for dead. That man eventually repented and found Christ, asked the ever-merciful Lewis to forgive him, and embraced the Congressman in an act of Christian reconciliation. (See here for that story from 2012.)
And reconciliation, not vengeance, is at the core New Testament teachings.
There are other forgotten cases of the most hard-hearted Klansmen and racists who killed in denying freedom to victims, only to repent and find new freedom in Christ.
Personally, I oppose the death penalty largely, but not solely, for that reason, the fact that it denies one born in the image of God to be re-born in new life in Christ. I just don’t believe that the Christ who cried out for the forgiveness of his tormenters would stand by an executioner and give his blessings to the very justice of an eye for an eye that he denounced.
And yes, I get that not everybody shares this stance of mine, and that’s OK.
So while I hope you’ll join me in praying for 10 people and not just nine, let’s at least pray and commit toward the advancement of the kingdom of Heaven that Jesus ushered in by reaching out to those of different colors, faiths, world-views and cultures until all is made new.