Charleston victims’ families were allowed to address Dylann Roof today as he made his first court appearance via video link since being arrested for the shooting deaths of nine worshippers at a South Carolina church.
No one has more of a right to want to tear this little punk’s head off than the people who were allowed to speak and the silent number of friends and family members whose hearts were hurting in the wake of the massacre.
But while most of the world was wishing death on Roof — his own uncle said that, if found guilty, he would gladly “push the button” to bring about his execution — or trying to score political points over unrelated issues like gun control or, in Hillary Clinton’s case, the dangers of free speech, the surviving Charleston victims had one thing on their minds.
“I forgive you!” said the daughter of Ethel Lance, pictured above right. “You took something really precious from me. I will never talk to her ever again, I will never be able to hold her ever again but I forgive you! You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people but God forgives you. And I forgive you.”
Anthony Thompson, a relative of Myra Thompson, had this to say (via the Daily Mail).
“I forgive you, my family forgives you. But… take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one that matters the most — Christ — so that he can change you and change your ways no matter what happened to you, and you’ll be OK. Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”
While 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders’ mother didn’t make forgiveness the subject of her comments, she offered more heartache than anger, telling Roof that he killed “some of the beautiful-est people that I know” who had welcomed the man “with open arms.”
(Roof even said he almost didn’t go through with the killings because everyone was “so nice” to him.)
The Charleston victims and their families have done something that you don’t see a lot of in today’s media. They’ve given us an example of how religion can actually have a positive effect on one’s life and the society at large.
I’ll admit to not being as religious as I was brought up to be. Along the way I have lost connection with many of the teachings that were handed down to me — sometimes with good reason — but there is no denying that if the rest of us lived our lives with the same hearts and minds that these surviving Charleston victims are showing, the world would be a better place, and this country, in particular, wouldn’t be the divisive, ridiculous outrage cycle it has become.
We might even learn how to accept one another for who we are and work to better society without letting our differences get in the way.
So many hearts are with you today, Charleston victims. You have suffered agonizing loss, but you are collectively showing us a reflection of the good in us all. And that should be what the media, politicians, and the rest of us are talking about.
[Image of Charleston victims via family photos c/o The Daily Mail, linked above]