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Charleston Aftermath: Forgiveness
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Charleston church forgives

Summary: How Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has responded to the shooting.

With the logic of racial relations making abrupt steps and progressions through seemingly random events in popular media – with every black youth slain by a police officer, or visa versa, and various other racially charged events – many wondered what would unfold from the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. After all, the shooter, Dylann Roof, had a website entitled “the Last Rhodesian,” which exposed his declaration to incite a race riot.

  
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“Lots of folks expected us to do something strange and break out in a riot,” said Rev. Norvel Goff, in a sermon delivered at the church Sunday, the first since the slaying of nine worshippers at a Bible study, which cost the life of the pastor as well. “Well, they just don’t know us,” he said, and the congregation cheered.

Instead of hate and politically charged speech, the church offered what Christian churches are known to offer: forgiveness. Families of the victims expressed forgiveness to the man who killed the ones they loved.

“I’m reminded of some news media persons that wondered why the nine families all spoke of forgiveness and didn’t have malice in their heart,” said Goff during the service. “It’s that the nine families got it.”

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Whether the rest of the country is so eager to forgive seems less likely. Many regard this mass killing as essentially a symbol of racism, and naturally a response is called for.

That response has had some outlet in the recent debate over whether the Confederate flag should keep its post over the state capitol in Columbia. After all, in Roof’s photos on his website he spat at the American flag and at times held the Confederate flag.



Over the weekend, protesters gathered at the capitol’s front grounds and called for the flag to be removed. “Take it down, take it down,” the crowd chanted.



 

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