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A “Christian” Initial Crime Scene Investigation of the Horrific Charleston Shooting

June 18, 2015

On September 15, 1999 I waited up through the night to see if my best friend was still alive.  Dax Hughes was my college roommate years before and at the time of the shooting both of us attended the same seminary.  He was also college pastor at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas and was on campus that night when Larry Ashbrook opened fire in a crowded sanctuary at a See You At the Pole rally.  I left phone message after message (this is before we had cell phones) for him in hopes that he, and his wife Christi were still alive and not injured.  It was around 3:30 a.m. that I finally received a call from him and although my fears were briefly relieved, the carnage left by this event would rock a church and community.  It would also mean that Dax would forever be linked to any other massive violent event, especially church shootings.  Today, Dax and I serve as senior pastors together in the same church.  When I saw the news of the Charleston shooting, I immediately went back to that fateful night.

I’m so disturbed by the Charleston shooting.  As a pastor I can’t help but think about my own vulnerability.  As a church goer I’m hit by the irony that the church is supposed to be a place where broken people can find love.  Love certainly makes us vulnerable.  As an American I fear the violence and hate all around us whether it is motivated by race, religion or some other source.  As a Christian I seek to understand events like this from the perspective of my faith and the Scriptures that I have so diligently studied to shape me.

With that in mind, here are my initial thoughts that I pray are shaped by a truly Christian perspective.

(1) All people should grieve this event.  Black, white, Christian or not – this is pure tragedy.

(2) I don’t blame anyone for thinking that race might have played a large role in this tragedy.  No, not every act of hate or injustice is racially motivated.  Hate is a human issue not just a race issue.  Many acts of violence are against people of the same race.  However, racial violence has been an epidemic since the world began.  If you are a Christian and don’t take racism seriously then you haven’t read your Bible closely enough.  It is a major biblical topic including the dominant question of the New Testament church (Acts 15, Galatians 2:11ff).  This is the reason that part of the glory of Jesus will be gathering people together of every race, tribe, and language.

(3) Our culture struggles to believe in God but how can it deny the existence of sin?  The culture’s view of humans rests on a philosophical assumption very different from the Christian one.  The culture tends to believe that we are born neutral or good.  When things like this shooting occur we want to find what went wrong in the shooter’s environment.  From a Christian perspective, we will never deal with the root cause of hate, violence and injustice until we look within ourselves.  Sin is breaking the world.  It breaks individual hearts and communal harmony.

(4) Unfortunately, every public place must prioritize security, including churches.  I’ve been told by many people, “we have a small church so we don’t need a security plan like large churches do.”  This is just naive.  Shooters rarely use any logic at all meaning every church must consider security a priority.

(5) If you are a white Christian then the victims of this shooting aren’t “their” people, but rather “your” people.  I have more in common with a follower of Jesus whose skin is a different color than mine than I do with another white person who rejects Jesus.  My primary identity is Christ not color (Gal. 3:28).  My spiritual family includes all those who have also been adopted into God’s family by Jesus.  These are the people with whom I will spend eternity.

(6) The gospel means that God is the greatest victim of violence and injustice in the history of the world.  Instead of ending injustice, God entered into it through the cross.  He didn’t end violence with force; but instead, He countered it with love.  At the cross the only sinless one that has ever existed was violently executed.  In doing so, He redeemed injustice and turned it into saving love.  For me, there is no answer to injustice more beautiful and satisfying.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Joyce Ramer permalink
    June 18, 2015 12:57 pm

    Thanks you for the brilliant words of wisdom. So glad you posted about yours and Dax experience. I thank God for both of you Love my two pastors

  2. Gail Reno permalink
    June 18, 2015 2:01 pm

    Bro. Nathan, This is wonderful. Thank you for writing it and being so truthful and open. I thought of our (Larry and my) precious church this morning and remembered the grief it went through when God called him home. It was not a national tragedy but it certainly was a life changing tragedy to my family, our church, community and me. It changed all of us forever. Life has never been the same. So many decisions had to be made. The church was wonderful to us, loving, supporting and serving us. It broke my heart ( again) to leave but it was also breaking my heart to stay (18 1/2 years of precious memories will be with me forever). Thankful to have you “back home”. We have missed you but your Ministry Brothers did a great job. I am very thankful that God lead me to HWC. I pray you have a good day and thank you again for all you do. Gail Reno

  3. MomOfFour permalink
    June 18, 2015 2:39 pm

    AMEN!!! (Shouted with great enthusiasm and also great sadness)

  4. Gloria Joyce permalink
    June 18, 2015 3:35 pm

    Love this article. Touched my heart deeply. With love, Mom

  5. Betty Jackson permalink
    June 18, 2015 4:08 pm

    Thank you Nathan for those ” so very true words”! We must be in prayer for the victims families, the city of Charleston, and our nation. Also pray for Dylann Root and his poor family. They must be devastated and so ashamed.

    Glad to have you back…. Betty

    Sent from my iPad


  6. Gloria Joy permalink
    June 18, 2015 4:38 pm

    Thank God for your insight of the truth about this terrible tragedy. You told us the truth. Dax & you are a blessing to all of us…….Dad

  7. Janet Jackson permalink
    June 18, 2015 5:04 pm

    Beautiful Nathan! God bless you and Dax as you work for God and not for man!

  8. Susan Kunath permalink
    June 18, 2015 8:50 pm

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They are very touching. Thank you for all you do. Susan

  9. Cathy Travis permalink
    June 19, 2015 8:15 am

    Excellent read, Nathan!

  10. danny rose permalink
    June 19, 2015 9:15 am

    you told the is so sad…things like this will happen until jesus comes back

  11. Jackie Cradick permalink
    June 19, 2015 10:58 am

    Very good and I hate that we had to find about your long ago tragedy with this “repeat” of a sort that brought it flooding back. God bless America AGAIN
    There will always be wars or rumors of wars. Just praying WWIII does not happen and for sure NOT on our soil. Land of the Free because of the brace🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

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