I know, it’s six o’clock on Saturday evening, but knowing how many of my fellow preachers will still be working on their sermons late into the night, I thought I’d share a compact list of the writings and speeches that have been most helpful to me in addressing the tragic terrorist act that cost the lives of nine black men and women of faith this week. There’s so much more out there, but these were my starting-places.
First, I cannot recommend highly enough Rev. Dr. King’s eulogy for Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, and Cynthia Diane Wesley, three of the four girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963. One passage has been making its way over the landscape of social media: “[The victims] say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.”
My friend and colleague, the Rev. Dominique Atchison, writes a stirring call to faith, prayer, and action on her Huffington Post blog. “1 Thessalonians 5:15-17 says, ‘See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing . . .’ I am by no means a minister who is going to tell people who are subject to racism not to be angry. I am not ever going to be the person who uses to wag my finger at young black people who take to the streets to express their frustration with violence perpetuated against their bodies.” She continues, “I am, however, going to say that this moment needs our faith. This moment needs the unexpected prophetic voices that have heard from God. This moment needs our focus. And these things come through prayer. And in spite of this young man’s attempt destroy the sanctity of prayer, we need prayer—prayer that is active, prayer that is hopeful, prayer that is unceasing.”
On the correct designation for the shootings as terrorism, and a brief history of racialized terrorism in general, see this post by Dara Lind.
While it can be comforting simply to label Dylann Roof—and other white, racially-motivated terrorists—as mentally ill, Keith Brekhus alerts us to how “calling a racist killer mentally ill is a dangerously delusional form of white denial.”
Here’s a great article on the need to do away, finally and irrevocably, with the Confederate flag, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. And from an explicitly white, Christian perspective, a beautiful challenge from Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Russell says, “The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire. White Christians, let’s listen to our African American brothers and sisters.
“Let’s care not just about our own history, but also about our shared history with them. In Christ, we were slaves in Egypt — and as part of the Body of Christ we were all slaves too in Mississippi. Let’s watch our hearts, pray for wisdom, work for justice, love our neighbors.
“Let’s take down that flag.”