The face of evil changes, but its heart does not. The hatred of Dylann Roof exceeded his humanity. It is said that he stated he almost did not go through with the killing because the people were too nice to him. They welcomed him with open arms, but he did not even treat them with the dignity that one would give to a stray dog as he gunned down people as they closed their eyes to pray. Dylann Roof says that he did not grow up in a racist family, judging from the reaction of his family, I believe it. I can barely imagine the shock, shame and disgrace they must feel. In his manifesto, Roof explains his transformation. It may provide some insight into heading off future Roofs. Cicero, he is not. In fact, he is not even up to the level of the Turner Diaries, which spawned a small but new generation of White Supremacy race warriors in waiting. There is not likely to be scores of warriors heeding his call to arms. The story now shifts from his action to our reactions.
I think the Southern Baptist Convention had exactly the right tone. In part President Russell Moore stated, “We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ….There is hardly a more vivid picture of unmasked evil than the murder of people in prayer.” He continued, “Virtually every week we see another incident of the sin of racism in American Society, from unarmed African-American men and children killed in the streets to worshipers gunned down in their pews. This must end, and the Church of Jesus Christ must lead the way.”
At least a dozen Presidential candidates have issued statements. The best statement from a Presidential candidate comes from the rookie, Dr. Ben Carson. Others grapple with how to unite us and characterize this evil. The current President goes off on a gun control diatribe. Cotton, an NRA board member counters that if state senator/pastor didn’t oppose concealed carry in churches, 8 or 9 people may still be alive. While those maybe appropriate discussions for future policy, they both miss the heart of the matter. Hillary Clinton, as usual, issued a placeholder statement of condolence not one of substance and healing. Senator Bernie Sanders had a powerful statement but seemed to step on it when his rally held 30 feet from a prayer vigil for the victims was so loud that it overwhelmed those in prayer. Many Republicans also missed the opportunity to show leadership.
The left wants to focus on racism and gun control, the right on religious liberty and self protection. It seems as if the political class in America treats this tragic massacre like every other issue in today’s politics. It is part of a partisan struggle for capturing the narrative that benefits their side. Dr. Ben Carson and Senator Rand Paul seemed to rise above either platitudes or partisanship. This tragedy was about racism and evidence for the disrespect for faith that many have. We can unite in pushing back on both fronts. This is not an issue we need to debate. It is one that left and right can join together in fighting provided that we can see beyond our own noses.