Nine people are dead. Nine people. People.
But from much of what I read and see, that is perhaps the most inconsequential detail of this tragic event. What seems to matter is what this event says. What it teaches. What we can learn from it. What we should do.
Before the bodies of nine people were even removed from that hallowed place of worship, they had become pawns. Lessons. Points.
This is proof that we need gun control. That we need concealed hand guns. Changes to the mental health system. That the racial divide is growing. That we should vote differently.
Stories are written. Blogs posted. YouTube diatribes filmed. It is almost as if we were waiting for this moment. Almost hoping for it. Not that anyone wants people to die. But their deaths sure do help us spread our agenda.
Why can’t we wait? Why must we hurry past the pain and suffering and loss? Why can’t we simply be sad? Why must we make it about us, about our agenda, about our politics?
Remember Rachel Dolezal? Or Caitlyn Jenner? Or Josh Duggar? Remember how important those stories seemed? But notice how quickly we hurry on when they no longer provide instant fodder for our point of view. Notice how we run when something much more dramatic comes along that really proves our point.
One of the things that sometimes drives me a little crazy is the slowness of God. I hear Christians laud God’s patience, but often that rings hollow to me. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad the Lord is patient with me, slowly guiding me toward maturity. But I want God to move more quickly when it comes to big problems. To step in and wreak a little havoc.
And yet, God takes his time.
Remember when Jesus showed up at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Mary and Martha were in mourning for the loss of their brother. Now, if it was me, I would have run in declaring everything okay. I would have gone straight to Lazarus, raised him from the dead. See, problem solved. But Jesus takes his time. He stops and mourns with Martha. He stops and commiserates with Mary. He stops and weeps outside the tomb.
If Jesus can take the time to mourn, to be with people in their grief, why can’t we?
I think it is because we don’t see them. We don’t see people. They are far away. We don’t know them. They are a number. Nine. They are a color. Black. And we are more interested in what they can do for us.
Isn’t it interesting that these nine people become useful to us only after they are dead? Shouldn’t that tell us something?
Now, I know the time is coming to “solve the problem.” I am all for that. There is a time for solutions. For protests. For politics. For debate.
But when is the time for people? When is the time to just mourn? When is the time to weep?
I sometimes wonder if one of the reasons we seem unable to solve many problems is we too quickly rush to the solutions? In doing so we brush aside the people. And isn’t brushing aside people the root of the problem?
Have you noticed that I have not mentioned their names? Maybe that should be a sign for us. When we run to make something a cause, without even knowing the names of the people involved, we become a part of the dehumanizing.
Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons Sr., DePayne Doctor. These are not causes. They are not hashtags. They are not political issues. They are not points to be made. They are people. Created in the image of God. Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Let that be enough for a moment.