The Book of Proverbs repeatedly asserts that “wisdom” is making itself known all over the place — for those bothering to notice, that is. Chapter eight’s opening verses instruct: ” [O]n top of the heights beside the way, Where the paths meet,/Beside the gates, at the opening to the city … [Wisdom] cries out” (NASB). I’d only add, regarding the horror of last week’s Charleston, SC Bible-study slaughter, it might be more accurate to say it was via a bloody shriek that wisdom was seeking everyone’s attention.
Samuel Johnson long-ago reflected, “Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.” If you’re assuming an incident as traumatic as the Emanuel African-Methodist Church massacre would feature many a harsh, but worthwhile, reminder? You’d be quite correct.
Herein, a smattering:
— Assuming the details prove out as reported, this atrocity affirms: authentic racism still exists; and underscores the real thing is immeasurably worse than the weak-beer stuff unrelentingly tarred by that label at every turn.
Nowadays, if a white person dares expect a young “person-of-color” to earn decent grades, develop marketable skills, get a job, obey the law? Brace yourselves: spittle-flecked charges of “Racist!” will be en route, pronto. Never mind openly, aggressively repudiating self-anointed “civil rights” spokespersons or minority “leaders” — that’s sure to lock one’s reputation into the politically-incorrect dog house for years on end.
Micro-aggressions? Cultural insensitivity? An offensive “tone”? Forbidden words like “thug”, “melting pot”, “niggardly”? Huckleberry Finn? Outcroppings of racism all? Puh-lease: Dylann Roof mowed down nine innocents because of their skin color. That (and other inarguably hideous ignominies preceding it in American history) deserves the epithet.
What doesn’t deserve it? Lots of behavior regularly condemned as “prejudice” but which, more accurately, should be identified as generic, old-fashioned human churlishness; or even legitimate debate with someone who happens to be of a darker complexion. Ugly? Possibly. Uncomfortable? Maybe. But not race-hatred.
Convulsively plastering the “racist” pejorative on workaday slights or harmless disagreements affronts those of us genuinely grieved when actual, dyed-in-the-wool bigotry raises its diseased head.
As it did. Ghoulishly. In Charleston, SC.
— Bad people will always be around to do bad things.
This takeaway comes as no particular revelation to “Bible-thumpers”: we’ve known for centuries that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23). For the ranks of the “enlightened”, however, who’ve bought into Utopian pipe-dreams of man’s secular “perfectibility”, miscreants like the villainous Dylann Roof (and Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, Osama Bin Ladin, and the guy who flipped them off in traffic yesterday) arrive with the delicacy of an earth-mover, clarifying that wickedness, darkness, sin (!) remain an intractable problem among the homo sapiens sapiens set. The Creator has provided a heaven-come-to-earth solution (2 Corinthians 5:17); but mere mortal efforts, no matter how aggressive, how multitudinous, will never exhaustively erase the bad-people predicament.
Thus, in this “age” (as opposed to the “age to come”), defensible, even desirable, facets of life will be co-opted and abused by evil individuals. Government, for example, is God’s partial solution for riding herd on a fallen humanity — but nothing has annihilated more people than warped despots and “the State” gone awry. Money? No, not “the root of all evil”. “Love of money“, on the other hand — i.e., flawed men’s twisted attitude toward the green — is the problem (1 Tim 6:10). Same with sex: God’s idea for husband and wife! It’s soul-skewed men and women who distort it into something “naughty”.
Then, we have firearms: neutral tools; handy, occasionally invaluable, in the hands of heroes; a menace when it’s cretins handling them.
In Dylann Roof, I give you Exhibit A in the latest line of said cretins.
Like poverty, stupidity, racism (see point number one above) and hardship, human depravity will always be skulking around, on some level, to muck up this world’s landscape. Eventually, another law piled atop all those previously codified, an additional, freshly-minted regulation or yet one more sparkly social program, not only does nothing to expunge mankind’s corruption, it further mucks up that already mucked-up situation.
— Inconvenient as it might seem to those squinting at the 2nd-Amendment, a handgun among those churchgoers — still better, a couple of them — could have changed the whole calculus of Emanuel Church’s chilling scenario.
Churches are famously “gun-free” zones; reportedly, South Carolina houses of worship not excepted. Notwithstanding Roof’s purported resolution to do something about the African-American “threat” to the nation, note the twenty-one-year-old killer didn’t march down to hotbeds of gang activity or drug-dealing to carry out his malignant mission. Nope, he targeted instead mostly women, some of them elderly, and a couple of men meeting in a sanctuary where, he could safely assume, nobody was packing.
What if Pastor Pinckney and/or one of those praying grandmothers had surprised him with a .45 or .38 special?
Would that bracing alternative, really, have been so inconceivable from a devout gathering?
The author of the Old Testament chronicle Nehemiah took pains to point out while the beleaguered laborers of Jerusalem set about rebuilding their holy but broken city, each had one hand determinedly busy with the construction chores, while the other vigilantly “held a weapon” (Nehemiah 4:17). No homicidal desperado was going to break up that meeting.
Meanwhile, it’s fascinating that among the comparatively sparse utterances of Jesus recorded from His final days on planet earth, is the blunt admonition that His disciples make efforts to arm themselves. Consider how many other vital issues to which He could have directed His attention during those obviously fleeting hours; but He opts on charging them, ” [H]e that has no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” (Luke 22:36).
The Lamb of God, for mankind’s salvation giving Himself over to His enemies, exhorts his closest followers to be ready, on some level at least, to defend themselves against theirs. Counter-intuitive? Ironic? Okay. But those are His words, I didn’t make ’em up.
It must be that, contrary to lots of soggy religious tradition, godliness and prayerfulness aren’t automatically at odds with protecting oneself and one’s loved ones.
Fundamental verities. In our faces for generations. Now further underscored by the howl of nine, grievous deaths. This tragedy will be made even more meaningful if America goes beyond mere mourning to actively heeding what wisdom’s been trying to communicate; what it’s proclaimed once more, heartbreakingly, from the ” top of the heights beside the way, Where the paths meet”.