Like so many, I continue to be deeply troubled by the racially motivated killings last week at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. But, I am also becoming uneasy about the response to those killings. I am not talking about the right wing response which seeks to discount or deflect or justify the motivation behind Dylann Roof’s action, but the response of so many who, like me, find the murders heart breaking.
Two responses concern me.
First, some portion of our attention and some amount of our energy is becoming focused around the Take Down the [Confederate] Flag petition which is circulating on social media. While I agree with the sentiment, I don’t want this effort to lull us into thinking that if we accomplish this we have made some real progress. Because unless we find a way to have the much needed and honest conversations about race even if the flag comes down the sentiments which allowed the flag to fly in the first place will still be present. Second, while I don’t mean to minimize it at all or take away from the witness of the families and of the Emmanuel AME congregation, focusing on the forgiveness they have extended feels a bit too easy. Like forgive and move on. And, in this situation, it is not my place to forgive or maybe even to talk about forgiveness.
What I have found myself thinking about is this verse from Christian scripture:
“Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger.” – Ephesians 4:26
This verse is often interpreted to mean make peace with those with whom you are angry before the end of each day. But what if it means something very different…at least in this situation.
What if it really means: Be angry and stay angry.
Be angry at the racism which motivated these murders and so many others.
Be angry that racism is so easily glossed over in and by our culture.
Be angry, that because they are difficult, we too often avoid the really hard, but really important conversations.
Angry enough long enough to finally do something to change that which we are angry about.
But do not sin.
Do not allow your anger to turn into hate or to become violent or to demean the other in the same way the other has demeaned those whose skin color is different from her or his own.
I don’t want to forgive and forget.
I don’t want a flag taken down without hearts and minds changed about why the flag was there in the first place.
I don’t want my heart to heal.