Charleston Church Shootings: Prayer Unites Us

We can link ourselves in prayer today, knowing that it is the first step toward healing and understanding.

Posted in , Jun 18, 2015

Charleston church shootings prayer circle; Guideposts

Once again the country awoke today to a senseless violent tragedy. Last night a gunman walked into a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, and opened fire on a Bible study group, killing nine including the pastor, Rev. Clementa Pickney, who was also a state senator and a voice for social justice.

And once again I ask myself why such evil exists in the world and occurs seemingly with more frequency–at least we are exposed to it more in our media-saturated world.

I stayed up most of the night watching the coverage. And then this morning, when a picture of the 21-year-old suspect in the killings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was released by the FBI, I found myself shocked again.

The picture was of a Caucasian man who looked younger than his years, almost like a boy you could see on any street or in any school in the country. Not some tattooed skinhead hate-monger. He was so ordinary-looking, I couldn’t help recalling that famous line about the Holocaust and the banality of evil.

But is evil ever really senseless or banal? Or is it an ever-present force in the world that we must resist and defeat at every turn? Something that is inherent in human society and can’t simply be written off as the act of a lone killer? How can someone be so consumed by hate that he would storm into a church and murder people as they studied God’s word? Where is the hope in that?

Yet I did find hope in one thing I saw last night. It was the prayer circle that formed almost immediately in the street outside the church and grew as word spread of the massacre. And it struck me that these praying people were as much a force for protection as the cops who ringed the area.


They cried out as they prayed, asking for answers from God. But the answer was their actions. In my heart I joined that circle, imagining my hand linked with theirs in prayer, my heart joined with theirs in sorrow and confusion.

We can do that as a nation, as more becomes known about this latest shooting rampage, with its hateful racial overtones. We can link ourselves in prayer, reaching out with our hands and our hearts, knowing that our questions may not be answered but our prayers will be because prayer is the first step to healing and understanding.

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