By: Chris McCain
June 19, 2015
How does the call to live out an “active faith” inform our response to racially motivated violence?
It’s incredible how quickly things can change. Just three weeks ago, FTE gathered leaders of many ages, races, and church traditions to explore what it means to live out an “active faith” – a faith motivated by a deep religious conviction that what God is doing in this world bends toward justice and that we are called to be active partners in that transformation.
Inspiring faith leaders like Bishop Minerva Carcaño, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Rev. Dionne Boissière challenged young adults, church leaders and scholars to be even more intentional in their efforts, more focused on serving those in need, and more committed to faith in order that we all might reimagine what is possible. Leaders had conversations with peers and mentors about what we might do in our own institutions and communities to bring about changes that truly reflect God’s vision.
And we left inspired.
But just as the excitement of the Forum was wearing off, we witnessed yet another national tragedy. Last Wednesday’s mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, is heartbreaking.
From reports, this act of terrorism1 appears to have been carried out by a young, white man motivated by a deep hatred for African Americans. The gunman chose to attack a peaceful Bible study at the oldest A.M.E. congregation in the South—a church with a long history of faithful perseverance for the sake of racial equity in spite of fierce persecution and violence.
The nine victims included some of South Carolina’s most prophetic advocates for justice, including the Rev. Clementa Pickney, the church’s pastor and a longtime state legislator. For nearly two centuries, “Mother Emanuel” has been a church that embodies what we mean when we praise an “active faith.”
So, what now? How does the call to live out an “active faith” inform our response to racially motivated violence? While we may accept that heeding the call to an “active faith” can require us to work in uncomfortable – and even dangerous – spaces, who would imagine that a Bible study could ever become a place of terror?
I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but this tragedy reminds me of a fundamental tenet of our faith: that no matter where we are and what are doing, we are still fragile, vulnerable human beings in a world fraught with brokenness. We can’t easily comprehend how God may be at work in the wake of tragedy, but we must remain committed to the hopeful vision of the Gospel: that God’s love is from everlasting to everlasting, and that we must work everyday to share that love in a world that doesn’t have enough of it.
Let’s get to work.
1. For further thoughts on this tragedy as an act of terrorism, I encourage you to read the following pieces:
Photo Credit: Stephen Melkisethian
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