- - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

An armed man walks into building, opens fire and kills nine people, all of the same race. Who or what provided this opportunity? Can one walk into a shopping mall, movie theater or restaurant, randomly open fire and kill nine people of a specific race? It certainly could not happen at a public school or university, a military base or any other government institution. How ironic that it took a church to provide such a target-rich environment. Yet places of worship is the very place where diversity is taught as virtue, and not enforced as law.

If the church is to be found innocent in this crime, then there has be some justification for us to worship primarily among our own ethnic and social classes. In Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, King never dreamed of a nation without race, but rather a nation where we are judged by the content of our character, not by the color of our skin. If segregation by choice can be justified at church by self-professed followers of Christianity, where else should we really expect that race not be recognized?

It is true that many churches have broken this barrier and have richly diverse congregations, but many more take pride in their rich ethnic heritage. With the whole world watching the funerals of the nine innocent victims of the recent shootings, what was the constant message chosen as front-and-center for the news cameras? It was the name of the church: African Methodist Episcopal. Such a name is hardly a symbol of inclusion, yet it offers no offense. Is a church that is recognized as the “oldest black congregation” any less divisive than a flag? All have the right to be offended; some just have to work a little harder at it.

This is by no means an indictment of the AME church or black churches in general. Most people choose to worship with their ‘own,’ yet church signs often read “All are Welcome.”

Perhaps it is time we respect our differences rather than embrace them.

BRAD SMITH

Rock Hill, S.C.

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