Martyrdom — And The Charleston Church Shooting
For a few years now, my wife and I have been attending Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, Va. There are a lot of things I love about the church, but it’s part of the Southern Baptist Convention, and — for a variety of reasons — I’ve never identified with that particular denomination, preferring to call myself simply an “evangelical.”
But one of the things that reassured me about the tradition of this particular church was the fact that its (I believe founding) pastor was a man named John B. Reed — an abolitionist who opened a school for freedpeople — and who was, presumably for this purpose, brutally murdered by the Confederacy.
There is a long tradition of such martyrdom in America. We saw it when four innocent black schoolgirls were murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. And we saw it last night with the horrific shooting at that AME church in Charleston. (And around the world, we saw it when Ethiopian Christians were martyred at the hands of ISIS.)
I don’t want to downplay the racial element. That appears to be the prime motivating force here — just as it was in the Birmingham bombing (and in the murder of John B. Reed). But I suspect there’s a special section of hell reserved for people who enter into what is rightly called a “sanctuary” and target God’s children.
John B. Reed’s life had purpose — the men and women killed last night had purpose — and that is perhaps as close as I can find to a silver lining. They were true believers — who else do you find at a church at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday night? God forbid something like this should ever happen to any of us, or our loved ones. But if it does, I can think of no place I’d rather be when my time comes.