Shaken. Not stirred.
By Carl Chinn
A wise man once told me that the surprise most people experience when they encounter God is the overwhelming grace that flows in those intense personal moments. The times in my life that have brought me to my knees have always confirmed that perspective.
Any concern presented to us (as husbands, wives, parents, friends, business or church leaders) comes with a certain portion of passion, energy, anxiety, fear or other graceless momentum.
Our default response should be full of grace. Security professionals call that de-escalation. If we exercise that process at home, on the road, and in the office it is good practice for the more serious situations. That is also meekness. Meekness is not weakness – it is strength under control. The first lesson learned from Charleston, SC this week comes from some great teachers;
Tywanza Sanders. 26-years-old.
Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney. 41-years-old.
Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. 45-years-old.
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. 49-years-old.
Cynthia Hurd. 54-years-old.
Myra Thompson. 59-years-old.
Ethel Lance. 70-years-old.
Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr. 74-years-old.
Susie Jackson. 87-years-old.
Those 9 people, as well as Polly Shepherd and Felicia Sanders had welcomed a 21-year-old unkempt white male into their bible study.
This was a Wednesday night bible study advertised as;
Is something missing from your life? Are you doing all you can to have a closer relationship with God? . . . Join us on Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m. in the lower level. . . .”
The white male sat with those 11 (and the 5-year-old grandson of Felicia Sanders) through the study, taught from the Gospel of Mark. The hollow-eyed empty suit of a druggie was looking for something to get his name in the papers and his face on TV. The shallow coward chose innocent peace-loving Christians unable to defend themselves, then murdered them one by one.
The 9 who died are now the ones who are getting their story out. Their story is that of an enduring faith in Christ. Their families are reflecting that faith by speaking of forgiveness. Oh there has been and will be anger – don’t misunderstand. But their default response has already been registered on the emotional Richter scale and that confirmed a faithful foundation full of grace.
Political leaders however view their heartbreak and quickly start to wonder how this awful attack could help their specific agenda. From the very top of our government, the very people who should model control and de-escalation, the flames of various agendas are simply fanned. Their default response is always to jump on the bandwagon of their party agenda, their campaign talking points, or their donor’s push buttons to use the personal tragedy of others to strengthen their position.
Perhaps we should make it mandatory that any political leader take a law-enforcement or security course on the value of de-escalation. They could learn a lot by shutting their mouths and listening to the first sounds that came from that Christian congregation.
Ø We will look at this for expanded security lessons learned later. But for right now the biggest lesson learned comes as the value of de-escalation.
Ø David Works, the dad of the two girls murdered in our church parking lot on 12/09/2007 told me yesterday that, “The power of forgiveness is stronger than the power of the gun. Our brothers and sisters at Emanuel AME are showing us that.”
Ø This knucklehead that attacked them was too shallow to contemplate what a race war is. He passed up other targets (a school and a mall) due in part because of their security, then chose a church because they had no security. His intent was to get his precious little name (Bozo Thug) into the history books so he could be somebody. He probably did hate blacks – with the same brain power that made him love cocaine. One idiot who can say racial things and pull a trigger does not a nation of racial hatred make.
Ø The first reaction out of Emmanuel AME Church is the one I will always recall. They demonstrated the value of de-escalation out of the gate. They are human – they were shaken to their very core. But their core will not be stirred.
Churches everywhere should be vigilant today. Events like this bring the worms out of the ground.