Across our nation, we again try to come to terms with an act of senseless violence. What we know is that a twenty-one year old white man took a gun into a Bible study at an African-American church in Charleston and, after attending an hour of the study, opened fire, killing nine people at point blank range. This act comes after a series of police shootings that raise serious questions about race and law enforcement. It comes after campus rampages at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Santa Monica.
Our last issue
focused on racism. Both the editor and I received a significant amount of vitriolic and angry email. We may wish to fool ourselves into thinking that the church is enlightened. We are not. Our nation is not. We have not purged the demons of racism and prejudice. And our love affair with violence and guns makes for a maddening and wicked mix.
African-Americans in this country are in poverty because of racism. African-Americans are disproportionately in prison (our modern slavery) because of racism. African-Americans are being killed because of racism. Look at the statistics. Look at the history.
Surely, we need to pray for the victims--again. Some will say, we should do something modest and measured about gun control. Some might even suggest we try to address why African-Americans are disproportionately poor and in prison. My sense is that nothing is going to change until we get rid of the guns and we actually pay the price, as a nation, for what we have done to generations of African-Americans from the days of slavery until today. The wasteland we have created calls for a new Marshall Plan to transform the lives of our brothers and sisters. It is time. There are no excuses. The next time we recite our baptismal covenant and say the words, "to respect the dignity of every human being," race relations and reconciliation are what we should be thinking about.
At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, June 28, during the upcoming General Convention in Salt Lake City, I will march alongside scores of bishops in the
Bishops United march
to rally people of faith to seek common ground to curtail gun violence. I will march and pray for the victims, their families, and for our nation's leaders to bring an end to this senseless violence. I bid your prayers, advocacy and action as well. It is long overdue.
May the grace and peace of Christ be with us all.
The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes