Bishop Eaton – Long Season of Disquiet (Charleston)
Long Season of Disquiet Letter, Bishop Eaton (on Charleston)
It has been a long season of disquiet in our country. From Ferguson to Baltimore,
simmering racial tensions have boiled over into violence. But this … the fatal shooting of nine
African Americans in a church is a stark, raw manifestation of the sin that is racism. The church
was desecrated. The people of that congregation were desecrated. The aspiration voiced in the
Pledge of Allegiance that we are “one nation under God” was desecrated.
Mother Emanuel AME’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was a graduate of the
Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, as was the Rev. Daniel Simmons, associate pastor at
Mother Emanuel. The suspected shooter is a member of an ELCA congregation. All of a sudden
and for all of us, this is an intensely personal tragedy. One of our own is alleged to have shot and
killed two who adopted us as their own.
We might say that this was an isolated act by a deeply disturbed man. But we know that
is not the whole truth. It is not an isolated event. And even if the shooter was unstable, the
framework upon which he built his vision of race is not. Racism is a fact in American culture.
Denial and avoidance of this fact are deadly. The Rev. Mr. Pinckney leaves a wife and children.
The other eight victims leave grieving families. The family of the suspected killer and two
congregations are broken. When will this end?
The nine dead in Charleston are not the first innocent victims killed by violence. Our only
hope rests in the innocent One, who was violently executed on Good Friday. Emmanuel, God
with us, carried our grief and sorrow – the grief and sorrow of Mother Emanuel AME church –
and he was wounded for our transgressions – the deadly sin of racism.
I urge all of us to spend a day in repentance and mourning. And then we need to get to
work. Each of us and all of us need to examine ourselves, our church and our communities. We
need to be honest about the reality of racism within us and around us. We need to talk and we
need to listen, but we also need to act. No stereotype or racial slur is justified. Speak out against
inequity. Look with newly opened eyes at the many subtle and overt ways that we and our
communities see people of color as being of less worth. Above all pray – for insight, for
forgiveness, for courage.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America