Tony Woodlief | Author

Death in Charleston

Tonight I made my way home through rain driven from a shrouded sky. It struck the scorched asphalt, and everywhere was steam. I remembered the verse, how rain falls on the just and the unjust, and as I squinted against the blanketed white and shifting curtains of rain I considered how the reverse is true: sometimes the righteous are struck down alongside the unrighteous.
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Right now, those who intend aid and those who aim to exploit are descending on Charleston, and I have no counsel to add to theirs, at least none that most people want to hear. I do have four sons, however, who want to know why a boy would sit for an hour in a prayer service, and then murder all those praying people, those people who welcomed him though he looked nothing like them.

So what do you say to your children, who know of boys murdering worshippers in their church, of boys beheading saints on a Libyan beach, of boys shooting schoolchildren? Do you tell them that they are likely safe, as if all is well so long as horrors befall other people? Do you tell them it will get better? Do you tell them the television chatterers have the answers?

What can we tell our children about this world we have made for them?

I tell them what little I know to do, in the face of evil. It’s simpler and harder than sophisticated adults want to hear. It has no grand quality. It’s not ambitious, it’s not “scalable,” you can’t get a grant for it, you can’t run it out of a federal agency.

All I know to do, children, is what we’ve been told since grace rained down on hard-hearted man: love your neighbor as yourself. Love him until he sees the light, or until he cannot stand the sight of you. Love him with no purpose beyond loving him. Love him where he is, love him in spite of him, love him unto death, as you have been loved.

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