south carolina

Bullets and the Radical Welcome

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Something incredible happened there after the murders. Family members publicly forgave the killer. People filled the church the following Sunday — some sitting on the very spot where blood had to be cleaned from the floor – and proclaimed their commitment to compassion and forgiveness.

And the next Wednesday night, they did what they’d always done on Wednesday night. They held a Bible study. They welcomed anyone who was interested, and sat together in the same room where nine people had died and committed themselves to the Spirit of radical welcome. The topic of discussion that day: the power of love.

How to Win the Bahá'í Vote in South Carolina

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At a time when politics and corruption have become synonymous, how refreshing and impressive would it be to see, as the central platform of presidential candidates, a strategy towards healthy and integrative goals that allow our nation to “become glorious in spiritual degrees even as it has aspired to material degrees?”

Of course, the values Bahá’ís hold during their own elections – honesty, integrity, and considering one’s neighbor as oneself — are really universal values.

South Carolina Bill Worries Immigration Advocates

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Evangelical advocates for immigration reform are concerned that proposed South Carolina legislation will make it more difficult for faith groups to help refugees in the Palmetto State. The bill, which passed a state Senate committee in late January, could make organizations that sponsor refugees liable if the new residents should later commit a terroristic act or other crime.

How to Restore the Glories of the Old South

I have an idea for people who value their region's heritage so much that they continue to wave what they think is the Confederate flag (even though it is actually the battle flag of Northern Virginia).

I suggest that they volunteer to be slaves. For life.

Fact: The 19th-century Southern way of life would have been impossible without enslaved people.

Fact: The one thing that could bring back that romantic bygone era would be if, once again, some 39 percent of the population were enslaved (that's the average percentage of enslaved people in the Confederate states). But this time let's recognize that no one values personal liberty as much as Southerners. And let's take their word that the Confederate flag has nothing to do with racism. Let's encourage true Confederate patriots, especially white folks who are not racists, to volunteer to work in the fields from sunrise to sunset. There will be no pay, of course, and no bothersome education; but food, lodging, and two sets of work clothes per year will be provided. And the South will rise again.

Rejecting White Dominion

book of genesis
Hand scanning the Book of Genesis. Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock.com

I didn’t see the film Malcolm X in theaters. I waited to see it on video. Big mistake.

I watched it in my home, just off campus from University of Southern California, late at night when everyone else was sleeping. Another big mistake.

At the time I was living in a house with one other black person and a bunch of white and Asian friends. I was attending a mostly white school and a mostly white church and had attended a mostly white institute for urban transformation that was borne out of my church. Ironically, it was there that I was required to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. But I never read the whole thing, only sections.

So, I sat in the dark living room, lit only by the television screen, and watched Denzel Washington bring Malcolm X to life … by myself. And there, in the dark, Malcolm’s words about Jesus hit me to the core.

What People Meant For Evil …

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The Rev. C.T. Vivian, who was central to the achievements of the civil rights movement of the 60s, said in an interview with me this week that the evil perpetrated at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., was “the best thing that could have happened.”

Not the deaths of the innocent people, he says, but the evil act that was carried out in a house of worship made way for critical action that might not otherwise have happened. “It came out even better than anybody would have thought,” he said, “because we not only got the flag down, but more than that, we got rid of the great Southern symbols. If we handle it right, we have a good chance of getting a whole lot done more than we thought. Black ministers have to go to white ministers and say this is the day that we've been waiting for, the day when the public is really ready to have the war of yesterday forgotten.”

Vivian may well be right, but the incident made this writer wonder, yet again, about the whereabouts of God in the presence of oppression. 

Only Black Deaths Matter

South Carolina lowers Confederate flag
A crowd celebrates after a South Carolina honor guard lowered the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds for the last time on July 10. Photo by John Moore / Getty Images

When the Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse Friday morning, Gov. Nikki Haley spoke solemnly of the nine black churchgoers who were shot to death less than a month ago at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“We have all been struck by what was a tragedy we didn't think we would ever encounter,” Haley said of the horrifying massacre before she signed the bill with nine pens that will go to the families of the victims. “Nine amazing people that forever changed South Carolina's history."

Haley also referenced the “grace” shown by the nine families when they forgave the white gunman. She said their grace helped usher the state toward this long overdue decision. The assassinations at Emanuel AME, followed by forgiveness from the grieving families, were similarly cited by several South Carolina lawmakers as their reason for voting to remove the flag. Black Deaths Matter. That’s the painful and dangerous narrative being developed out of South Carolina. Only Black Deaths Matter. Our nation is capable of doing the right thing – such as taking down the Confederate flag in the year 2015, a flag that represents the racist, immoral, unconstitutional defense of slavery and Jim Crow – but only when black deaths happen and are met by a response deemed acceptable. Ever since this flag was raised in 1961 to send the message that South Carolina would not honor equal protection under the law, tens of thousands of small and large protests have not been enough to move the power brokers to take it down.

S.C. House Approves Removal of Confederate Flag

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Today, at 4:00 p.m. EST, Governor Haley of South Carolina intends to sign a bill to take down the Confederate battle flag that is currently flying over the state capitol. The flag itself will be removed at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, and moved to a museum.

Calls for the removal of the Confederate flag, seen as a symbol of racism and oppression, have been buildingsince the murder of nine African-American men and women at Emmanuel AME in Charleston, S.C., last month. Dylann Roof, the accused murderer who is alledged to have been motivated by racial hate, has several pictures online posing with the flag as a symbol of white supremacy.

The flag itself increasingly been seen as a symbol of hate, even among traditionally conservative white southern Christians, with Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention going so far as to say that “the cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire.” 

This decision to take down the flag made its way through a marjoity vote in the South Carolina House earlythis morning. The vote comes nearly two weeks after Bree Newsome, a Christian activist, took down the flag herself in an act of civil disobedience on June 27. For her, this was an act “not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally in 2015.”

Report: Fire at Black Church in S.C. Was Not Arson, Feds Say

REUTERS / Clarendon County Fire Department / RNS
Fire crews try to control a blaze at the Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina in this June 30, 2015 handout photo. Photo via REUTERS / Clarendon County Fire Department / RNS

Although arson is blamed for at least three fires over the past two weeks at several predominantly black churches in Southern states, a blaze that destroyed Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal church in South Carolina was not deliberately set, according to a federal source, the Associated Press reported July 1.

Churchgoers had feared the worst because the church in Greeleyville, S.C., was burned to the ground by the KKK in 1995. The latest fire broke out June 30 during a night of frequent storms and lightning strikes.

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