The power of forgiveness and inclusion, even a killer

We have come far, but it troubles me that we have stepped back a little. Racial injustice has lessened since the terrible days of Jim Crow, but we are not where we need to be. Some folks feel emboldened to react to Black Lives Matter protests, with All Lives Matter retorts. Yet, there is a percentage of Americans, whether it is 5% or 10%, that do not feel All Lives includes Black Lives. We should not cater to that ugly voice, but understand it is present in a limited few.

Five years ago, one of those limited few was invited into a church in Charleston, South Carolina. After listening to the prayers for a period of time, this person stood up and killed nine of the people present. The killer was a self-professed white supremacist, while those dead were African-American. The killer said he wanted to start a race war.

An article called “Five years after Charleston church massacre: How ‘Emanuel’ reveals the power of forgiveness” by Rashi Ali appeared in the USA Today last month on the fifth anniversary of the mass murder. The story highlighted a movie called “Emanuel” which was released the year before. Here are a few excerpts from the article, which can be linked to below.

“Five years ago today, Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, opened fire and murdered nine people. Roof, a self-admitted white supremacist, was found guilty on all 33 counts lodged against him and sentenced to death.

Through this tragedy, many of the people affected by the hate crime were able to forgive Roof. ‘Emanuel,’ a documentary released last year on the fourth anniversary of the shooting finds a beacon of light in the tragedy and puts the spotlight on the power of forgiveness. The film was directed by Brian Ivie and produced by Stephen Curry, Viola Davis and Mariska Hargitay.

‘I never thought I would be able to forgive somebody for murdering my mom,’ Chris Singleton tells USA TODAY about choosing to forgive Dylann Roof for gunning down his mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and eight others at church.”

Watching footage of the families of the murder victims forgive Roof is one of the most powerful acts of faith I have ever witnessed. I am in awe that they could look the killer in the eye and forgive him. Yet, we should not lose sight that the people who were killed by Roof and the ones who survived invited the killer into the church to worship with them. They included him. Think about that as well.

I am reading a difficult book which looks into the mind of a white supremacist. I will share more on that at a future time. To say it is troubling to read what this character believes is an understatement. But, I would want to read this character the above paragraph and ask what is his reaction. These people that Roof and this character think are so inferior and bad, forgave their killer and invited him in to worship with them. When Christians ask that question which appears on bracelets and bumper stickers as WWJD? – What would Jesus do? – the answer is what these African-Americans did.

The God I worship is color blind. The children’s song we sang so proudly, – red and yellow, black and white, Jesus thinks we are out of sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world – still resonates. If you know people who are in that limited few, tell them this story and ask them what they think. If they claim God favors WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants), you might want to add that Jesus would likely have looked like people in the Middle East as that is where he was from. He was a Jewish rabbi and a carpenter, and would have likely had sun worn skin.

Jesus preached inclusion and forgiveness. He spent a lot of time with those who have been excluded and disenfranchised. We should not forget those lessons in the bible. Inclusion. Forgiveness. Treat others like you want to be treated (with no caveats).

14 thoughts on “The power of forgiveness and inclusion, even a killer

  1. Hello Keith. I read an interesting observation on the many times a black victim of white violence forgiving the white person who harmed them or their families. You never hear it going the other way where a white person publicly forgiving a black person who killed or harmed their families. My question is that fact part of the inherent systemic racism from the US past? Have we created a system where POC feel they must forgive white people, but white people do not have to forgive POC? Hugs

    • Scottie, I don’t know if the fact that no one has done it is correct. Setting that aside, your point is well taken. I think it has more to do with the devoutness of the people involved than their color. Yet, it may have something to do with it. I do know the forgiveness of the Charleston families echoed amongst many. Keith

  2. There is no stronger symbol of forgiveness than Congressman John Lewis, whose body will soon lie in state in Congress (an often unforgiving place).

    In my recent tribute to him, I quoted extensively from a Black writer who was for quite a while incredulous that Lewis could have forgiven those who nearly killed him and treated him so grievously. But he came to see that Lewis’s grace and magnanimity gave him the power to change minds. Indeed, it did.

    I do think the fact that we don’t hear about the reverse stories—of white people forgiving Black people—is worth pondering.

  3. More than a few times I have wondered how the survivors of that massacre, and other similar events, could find it in their heart to forgive. I’m fairly certain that I could not. It speaks volumes about the kind of people they are … people who live their beliefs rather than simply talking about them. I wasn’t aware of the documentary “Emanuel”, but on reading your post, took a look at the trailer and now I plan to watch it. Thanks!

    • Thanks Alison. My mother made us go to Sunday school, so that song waa sung a lot. Forgiveness is hard, but it helps both the forgiver and recipient. Take care, Keith

  4. Beautifully said Keith, we enjoy your work. We all in Australia reckon WASP’s are White Anglo Saxon Protestants. Pendant that I am, I see Wikipedia thinks so too.

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