By Larry Stiner Jr.
Do you recall the last time you ventured into a house of worship? Remember how that strong feeling of comfort embraced you as you walked through those church doors, briefly leaving the chaos and danger of everyday life behind you? At ease, you exhaled and allowed your spirit to be swept up by the angelic voices of the robe-wearing choir members as you sought out the perfect seat.
Upon the pew, you sat and glanced around to take in the sight of smiling men, women and children all dressed up in their Sunday’s best and waiting patiently to hear the pastor preach the word of God. Always powerful, the weekly message incorporated words of peace, love and acceptance.
Now imagine closing your eyes and bowing your head to pray. And just before you can say “Amen,” evil strikes: BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
Sadly, a scene like this actually played out during a recent Bible study session taking place in a historic black church located in Charleston, South Carolina. On a Wednesday evening, June 17, 2015, a young white male opened fire on a group of black church members who had welcomed him into their perceived sanctuary to join them in studying the Scriptures. Mercilessly, he pumped bullets into innocent bodies, reloaded and pumped more bullets into the same bodies as if he wanted everyone to die twice.
Finally, the gunman stood over one of three surviving witnesses and made a racially inflammatory remark before exiting the church.
With nine people dead, including the pastor, and a killer on the loose, news of the massacre quickly spread. Soon, the shooter was in custody and details surrounding this unbelievable tragedy began to emerge.
I was both sad and mad at once and nothing has changed as I gauge my feelings today.
Once again, I find myself in the midst of battling emotions. I am saddened by the unnecessary loss of such beautiful and productive lives. I feel deep sorrow for the families and friends of the deceased.
Moreover, my heart hurts for the black community as we have had to deal with so much pain in recent weeks, months and years. At the same time, the level of my fury remains high.
I am angry that a coward would commit such a horrendous crime out of pure hatred for a group of a different color. I am angry that certain media members and politicians initially did all they could to avoid calling this a hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism.
I am angry that I live in a world where racism keeps spearheading the murder of a people who have been in the crosshairs of America’s rifle for more than four centuries.
And then there is that confederate flag. I am angry that even in the wake of such a tragic event, that symbol of slavery and hate was still flying.
Yes I am angry but I also understand that action is needed to change things. Perhaps I should visit a church in honor of those nine victims. Perhaps I should bow my head in a house of worship and pray even stronger for peace, love and acceptance.
And if I do choose to go that route, you can bet I’ll have a bulletproof vest on under my Sunday suit and I’ll be praying with one eye open…just in case I need to stand my ground.