“Cowards die a thousand times before their deaths…” -Julius Ceasar
About a year and a half ago, a young white male (Dylan Roof) knocked on the door of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, known as “Mother Emanuel”, in Charleston, South Carolina. Bible study was being conducted, and he was invited in. He hesitated for a moment, thinking better of what he intended. After a moment’s discouragement, he followed through with the plan to murder those whom attended Bible study by shooting as many African-American people as he saw.
Today, there was some small measure of justice. I ascribe to the quote by Plato regarding justice: “True justice cannot be found in this world.” He was found guilty on 33 counts including murder and hate crimes. I exhaled. Yet, this is still not over.
I thought about this today. As African-Americans, we have this illusion that surrounds and shrouds us, that some of the human beings on this same life spectrum do not consider us fully human at one end and gods at the other. We have this image to project. Soon after he was captured, and before a court, the families of the victims were brought in, and expected to have a statement or express their forgiveness towards him. These 9 people whom had been killed–had the lives of their loved ones up-ended and expected to grant mercy–because as we know, most African-American people are “God-fearing and forgiving.”I do not think I would be able to give that type of strength to confront someone whom killed a portion of my family in less than a week.
This situation made me that much more resolute in my faith, and to continue to not be afraid of what would happen were I to continue to preach the gospel. The thought came as to whether or not, I should get a gun to carry with me. I then thought better of it: shepherds don’t fear or kill sheep.
Here we are almost two years later, and there is a phantasm that hovers over our community now. What is the “right” thing to do? Should there be advocacy for his life or his death? How much of faith is measured into that? Should faith be measured into that? There are strong opinions on either side, and there would be no other way to discern otherwise. With the climate of this nation stormy and dark, there is already a cry for blood and retribution for those that have indeed been wronged by those of opposite races, namely white people.
I offer this…do not make him a martyr.
Those that are of like belief, imbibed with racism, xenophobia and murderous intention, they look for those whom they can idolize. They look for those whom they can hold to an esteem or a strange bravery and emulate. Someone they can say they honor because they did what they could not do. What concerned me more, was his mother had a heart attack during the proceedings. I could not reach compassion for her, and that scared me. This woman whom raised her son, not to kill, with some semblance of right and wrong, whom she loved–took the lives of 9 other human beings. That act, his act, almost killed her as well.
I do not believe killing him will solve anything. It will not sate the hate and bitterness that has become accustom to this part of the nation. It would serve no purpose to add to it. Yet, there is the matter of measuring justice with mercy. Justice demands action to what has offended. Mercy tells is how far we should go and if we should go.
My faith tells me, to forgive him so I will not be at risk for moving towards bitterness which would impede how I love and treat other people. My faith tells me redemption is found and accessible for all whom seek the Lord. My faith tells me, I, as a created being, do not have the right to take the life of another person. What I believe should happen is he be sentenced to life without parole. He should be reminded of his actions—everyday. He should know as the world changes, shifts and realigns, his situation will never improve. His situation shall never change. The most he could ask for is comfort, not freedom. He should be reminded of his actions and what he did. To that end, that should be his inspiration to change. He will have more than enough time to remember June 17, 2015–2025–2035–2045 and so on.
My faith tells me that there is no place, neither shall there be a place, where God is not. If that be true, that means Dylan Roof will meet Him not matter how many years he refuses to see Him.