After a shooter murdered nine African-Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, this June, I went on HBO’s Real Time and observed that “religion had something to do with it.” This seemed obvious. Race was clearly the prime motive, but the fact that the targets were all worshippers at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston seemed to speak for itself.
It did not.
For daring to mention the obvious, I was mocked and accused of injecting a “non sequitur” into the conversation. The not-so-subtle suggestion was that I was attempting to downplay the racial aspect, which was false. It’s possible (actually, likely) that African-American churches are targeted both because they have historically been a place for deep-abiding hope and faith (which terrorists want to crush) — and because they have been a sanctuary for political and civil rights activism.
Liberals might have the reputation for being open minded and embracing nuance, but they are surprisingly reductionistic in real life. It’s not mutually exclusive to suggest that there might be a racial and a religious component to this. These murderers want to destroy the flesh and to send a message — to terrorize the soul. To paraphrase, we do not just wrestle against flesh and blood.
Since that appearance, additional tragic news has, unfortunately, only reinforced my point. According to some reports, the shooter in yet another mass shooting (this one in Oregon) was said to have “singled out” Christians. And just today, it was reported that the seventh St. Louis-area church was targeted by arsonists — over the course of just the last couple of weeks.
According to CNN, six of the seven churches were predominately African-American (also important, if obvious, is the fact that seven of the seven structures were houses of worship). Clearly, racism is at play, but might this be an attack on religion, too? Some local pastors seem to think so. “You can’t stop us from serving God, you can’t stop the church, and you can’t stop the message the church in trying to bring,” said Rev. Earl Nance Jr., of the Greater Mount Carmel Baptist Church.
The good news, though, is that even those wishing to score political points are, inadvertently, making valid observations. In one very short post yesterday, an Esquire blogger sarcastically wrote: “I am sure that this is not About Race, because nothing ever is About Race.” He then continued, “You want a “war on Christianity”? This, right here, is a war on Christianity.”
Interestingly, he was right … on both counts.