Barbara Brown Taylor says that despite their pain [the family members of the Charleston massacre victims] they did what Jesus had taught them: turn the cheek, pray for the persecutor, love the enemy, welcome the stranger. In everything do to others as you would have them do to you. “It sounds like advice for angels, not humans” she said, “so unrealistic, so undefended, it’s a wonder we repeat it at all. Yet there it is: the Christian teaching on how to respond to violence when it comes. Sometimes it actually works to disarm the violence in others, which is why we know the names of Gandhi, Tutu, and King. But that is not its main purpose. Its main purpose is to disarm the violence in us, so that we do not join the other team.”
Michael Lapsley is an Anglican priest working in South Africa. Because of his resistance to apartheid he had to flee that country. In 1990 as a result of a parcel bomb attack he lost an eye and both hands. Despite this he has worked tirelessly for healing and reconciliation in South Africa. He insists victims must be heard: “There are often areas of silence where people are told they must forget and move on. Yet everyone has a right to have their story heard in a safe place.” It’s something we do well to remember on this island.