On Charleston: A Father’s Day Reflection

ByPicture (1) Lee Prophitt

“He was born to shimmer, born to shine. He was born to radiate. He was born to live, born to love. But we’ll teach him how to hate.”

Prophetic words from Shawn Mullins in his song “Shimmer.” I have been reading a lot this week about the shooting in Charleston. Late Wednesday night I read online about what happened. I was up because my wife and I just recently had our second son.

I held him close while reading, and later watching, the news bubble forth.

The next day I read about the gunman:  A white male, young and potentially mentally ill. He seemed disturbed or severely misguided, to say the least. The story unfolded like a horror film. I felt outrage, shame and fear…all at the same time. My emotions overlapped and whirled around inside, and one thing is for certain:  I was angry. I was confused. I lost some of my heart.

I imagine I do not hold the patent on these particular emotions during these last few days.

Furthermore, what fuels them more-beyond the reality of the senseless tragedy- is the media rhetoric which fell so quickly into political speech, editorially opinionated indignation, and partisan defensiveness.

In summation of the rhetoric the last few days:  Our President speaks about the tragedy, and then reminds Americans that in his opinion, gun laws need to be more effective. He speaks of a change of mind-set that must take place. This lit off a firestorm of response, wondering why the President is talking politics at such a time as this? Left and right then continue to volley over a myriad of topics trying to define what this “thing” was or was not.

It was an attack on Christianity.

It was not a hate crime.

It was a call for stricter gun control.

It was not a racially motivated incident.

At this juncture, I am choosing not to form an opinion about any of the statements above. It matters not to me that President Obama played golf Saturday and the resultant implications as to what level he cares about America. I lose no sleep over Franklin Graham blaming video games for gun violence. It matters not to me that Bill Maher insists Republicans are hiding from the facts of racism in this incident. I am not disturbed by the fact that there are millions of responsible gun owners in our country who fight for that right.

Moreover, while all Americans have the right to our opinions and whether we are right about them or not, our conversations feel more like trying to use a bucket to bail water out of the Titanic.

To continue the simile, it seems like we are more interested in our agenda–any agenda–than saving the ship. It feels like we are more interested in pointing fingers at each other than using them to plug the holes in the hull.

I long for a time where honest discourse and disagreement leads to effective compromise and decision making. I have to say that, in my opinion, neither “side” is doing an honest job. Also, I have not witnessed this in action for a very long time.

And so, I lied before. I will form an opinion. I know what this shooting was:  Pure evil. It was a tragedy beyond measure. It was the evil actions of a confused, misguided and hate-filled young man.

As Father’s day is upon us, I keep coming back to what I think is bothering me most. Dylann Roof learned to hate. I am not suggesting that he was raised poorly or taught by his family to hate. All accounts speak to the opposite. But somewhere, somehow and in some form, he was taught by this world to hate. It consumed him. He acted accordingly.

Is it possible, that to a small degree, he learned from our partisan divisions, petty arguments and uncompromising opinions? What was his example of people in this country getting along? He would have found compliant and peaceful souls inside that very church. He decided to shoot instead.

I know that someday I will be forced to teach my sons about the existence of hatred. For this I am most angry. My boys were not born knowing hate and in this I firmly believe. I will teach them to love their neighbor with all the ferocity I can muster. But will it be enough?

I must trust God to protect them from evil.  God is stronger than our dividing lines and will (and has) overcome hatred…time and time again.  Thanks be to God.

Published by Joe LaGuardia

I am a pastor and author in Vero Beach, Florida, and write on issues related to spirituality, faith, politics, and culture.

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