By Kimla Lemmons-Greene
As I walk into most sanctuaries I immediately feel a sense of peace and calm. After all where else should a person feel like this? The very word Sanctuary means- a place of refuge or safety.
When Dyalnn Storm Roof walked in to Charleston African Methodist Episcopal Church could this have been a place of refuge for him and the reason he actually sat through the Bible Study before he opened fire on the members of the congregation. Could it be that the message had gotten through to him before Satan changed his mind? We’ll probably never know, but one thing is for certain if he got enough of the Word to realize and understand that although his crimes were the material nightmares consist of; he can be forgiven and have eternal salvation.
Hate crimes against the church have been going on for years. The most infamous example of church destruction occurred on Sunday, September 15, 1963. When the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was fire bombed, the explosion was felt by the entire Black community. Not only were four innocent children killed in the attack and several people injured, but a community’s sense of security within their church was forever shaken. This set the precedent for the burnings of the Black church all across the South.
Alfred Daniel King (AD as he was called) was the third child born to Martin Luther Sr. and Alberta King. According to his father, “He was a little rough at times and let his toughness build him a reputation around our Atlanta neighborhood”. Like his brother he graduated from Morehouse in 1959 and then went on to assist his father at Ebenezer Baptist until he was called to pastor the Mount Vernon First Baptist Church in Newman, Georgia. Like his brother he was a hardcore believer in non-violence. He often marched and protested with his brother, but opted to stay out of the spotlight. When it came to non-violence according to his father, he often marched side-by-side with his brother. In October 1960 at a lunch counter sit in with his brother Martin Luther King Jr., A.D. was arrested along with his brother. A.D. worked on many campaigns with his brother and even after his brother was assassinated; he continued to fight the good fight. After his brother’s death there was speculation that he might take over the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, however A.D. expressed no interest in doing this. In 1968 he returned to Ebenezer Baptist church and was installed as co-pastor. Sadly, on July, 21 1968 Alfred Daniel King drowned at the age of 38.
On June 30, 1974 the mother of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed as she sat playing “The Lord’s Prayer” on their new organ during Sunday Morning church service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. The same church her son; the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been baptized in and later co-pastored before his assignation. Her killer was a 23-year black man, Marcus Wayne Chenault, who also killed Deacon Edward Boykin. Mr. Chenault unlike Mr. Roof was out to kill Christians. His lawyers declared him insane. He was originally sentenced to die in the electric chair, but the King family was opposed to the death penalty, so he was sentenced to life in prison. Mr. Chenault suffered from a stroke and died at age 44.
Mr. Roof a pure racist. He couldn’t claim mental illness or any other illness except self hated. There were photos of him setting The American Flag on fire while spitting on it. He had photos posted on his web site before it was shutdown of him posing with a handgun, the Confederate flag, along with the well recognized Nazi code numbers 88 ( an abbreviation for the salute Heil Hitler) and 1488 written in the sand.
During the 1990’s came a new wave of burning of the Black Church. This continued until about 1996 when congressional hearings were held pertaining to this problem. The most recent church burning occurred in 2008 on the day on day the President Barack Obama was inaugurated into office. A church in Massachusetts was burned and a white man was arrested in what was called a racially motivated arson.
Crimes against the church are still being committed today. From about 2010 – 2013 copper thefts among local churches in central Arkansas was the newest fad among copper thieves. The damaged units would cost churches tens of thousands of dollars to replace. In the mean time it caused many churches to hold services in sweltering buildings.
On September 12, 2011 three armed young men walked into a church in Little Rock, Arkansas and robbed 17 members of the congregation during Sunday school. They not only took the money collected during Sunday school, they took wallets jewelry and anything else of value. These young men ages 14, 15, and 20 years of age should have been in Sunday school instead of robbing the churchgoers that were in attendance. For $108 and a few valuables these young men have started walking a path unfamiliar to young black males, straight to the nearest penal facility.
Then there was legislation in Arkansas that was only one vote away from being passed that would allow parishioners to carry guns into church. That bill didn’t pass, but it makes little to no difference since Arkansas enacted the law allowing persons to carry a concealed weapon.
Since this incident most churches have beefed up their security with armed police officers. I was shocked one Sunday when I was running later than normal for church and the doors were locked because the offering was being taken up. So even in smaller churches that don’t have the means to hire armed off-duty police officers they have taken simple measures to ensure the safety and security of the church members.
Like the members of the Emanuel AME Church Sunday morning service is good but sometimes I just can’t wait until the next Sunday to hear a word from the Lord. Wednesday night Bible study is a vital part of Christian growth. Not only is it vital to Christian growth it’s vital to surviving in the turbulent times we live in. When there is chaos all around you. If you practice any type of faith you need to keep your spiritual cup full at all times as well as I use to hear old folks say stay prayed up.
Don’t be surprised if you arrive in Heaven and see young Dylann. The Bible only speaks of one unforgivable sin and that’s Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Why won’t he be in hell you ask? God is a merciful and forgiving God! Because this is the kind of God we serve he gives the opportunity to repent and ask for forgiveness for our sins. If this young man does that he’ll be in heaven among the rest of the saints. However, in Acts 3:19 it specifically tells us to first, REPENT!
For none believers I know that it’s hard to believe that it’s just that simple to be forgiven of our sins no matter how horrific they are. I’ve given you the scripture: Read and meditate on it for yourself. However, you’re feeling dismayed and downtrodden by this news maybe this will help you feel better. We serve a just God!
Good and confused? Although God does forgive us for our sins there are still consequences we must pay.
My heart goes out to the victim’s families also to the family of the accused, and finally to the accused. I don’t in any way condone any part of what he did. My only prayers are that he sincerely repents before it’s too late and that this does not become a copycat act. Church should be a place of refuge for those who are in need, and a place of safety where people can worship freely without the fear of being murdered in the House of God!
I feel like Martin Luther King Sr. after the deaths of two of his sons and the murder of his wife, he was quoted as saying, “I cannot hate any man”.
Mathew 7:1 Judge not less ye be judged. No human is perfect as we are reminded in this verse, so be mindful of this is as you ponder is there a special place in hell for people who commit crimes against the church?