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God said itToday, this nation experienced the worst mass shooting in our history, and the whole world is in mourning. A man with an assault rifle entered a gay bar in Florida and began shooting. According to the FBI, he may have had leanings toward extreme Islamic ideologies.

There’s so much to say about this event. I started this post, hoping to remain calm and keep a reverential tone in order to pay my respects those souls lost, but as I listen to details on the news, I feel myself simmering.

There are so many reasons to be outraged.

I’d say, “don’t get me started,” but don’t look now. It’s too late!

A semi-automatic rifle? Why in the world are such weapons available commercially in the state of Florida?

Attacking people because they’re gay? What does that have to do with anyone else’s life? How does one lose anything because someone else found love?

Doing this in the name of religion? There’s no way in the world that God would sanction this crime against humanity.

Trying to instill fear in the name of a terrorist group? I hate to break this newsflash, but it’s actually having the opposite effect all across the country.

At the Tony Awards ceremony tonight, actor Frank Langella said this in his acceptance speech: “When something bad happens, we can use that moment to define us, to destroy us, or to strengthen us.”

We join hands with the world in prayer today, for the souls to rest, for the families to heal, and for those seeking peace to find consolation.

Mother Emanuel Church

On the day before, he’d felt that his life wasn’t going the way he’d hoped. He might have thought of getting his GED or enrolling in trade school.

On the day before, he was just another kid with an ill-advised haircut. Most of his free time was spent surfing the net, looking for something he couldn’t quite name.

In another version of this day, he might have found a supportive mentor. A teacher from his youth who suggested a project to help the community, or a friend who offered him a job.

But on this day, his life took a terribly wrong turn. Dylann Roof brought a gun into a church and killed nine cherished children of God at a prayer meeting. The whole world cried out in pain upon hearing of this senseless tragedy.

What happened next was astounding. On the very next day, victims’ family members addressed him directly and said they’d forgiven him and were praying for him.

Now he’s entered into the public consciousness as a perpetrator instead of a person. It’s possible that with education and encouragement, he might have gone down a different path, using his own sense of disenfranchisement to help others in similar situations.

If only he had felt that his life had meaning on the day before. If only he’d known that no one else stands in the way of the life he’d hoped to achieve. If only he’d known that God’s grace extends into the hardest of hearts on the darkest of days.

Now, on this day, may we take comfort in the words of this wise sage, and come together to heal as a nation.

“We ask questions, Lord, we ask why… But even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death….we can look through the windows of our faith and see hope and light, and we can hear your voice Lord, saying, I’m with you.”

Rev. John H. Gillison, Emanuel AME Church

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