The recent burning of several churches of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination (AME) both sickened and saddened me, especially coming on the heels of the deaths of nine precious saints of God killed in Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. All of the incidents seemed to fit the profile of terrorist acts specifically targeting the Black/African American existence. The seeming hate behind these acts is so strong that it is being identified as the motivating factor behind the murders at Mother Emanuel.
Hearing of these hate-motivated actions sickens me because they seem to be part of an unending cycle of negativity, self-hatred and hatred of others that has shaped the very core of life in America — past, present and possibly future. Famed Muslim leader Malcolm X said as much in his famous 1963 speech suggesting the assassination of President John Kennedy was a case of "chickens coming home to roost."
I resurrect this famous quote to glean from it the core message: The climate of violence that has been created and perpetuated (directly or indirectly) will one day visit our own lives. The scary part is that this violence will visit the homes of the just as well as the unjust. In Bible language, we are perhaps "reaping what we have sown." I believe that the recent violence at Mother Emanuel Church and criminal acts of arson against AME churches in the South can be interpreted as a visitation upon us of the violent American society that has been created and perpetuated.
Mother Emanuel AME Church was first destroyed after a slave (Denmark Vessey) failed in his attempt to carry out a wide-scale slave revolt. Mount Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina, was first burned in 1996 by alleged members of the Ku Klux Klan and was recently set ablaze again because of its AME, Black/African American, Christian witness in that community.
Many people would like to believe that faith houses are exempted from these realities, but that is sadly not the case. These realities are the norms that shape life in American society. We are perhaps experiencing chickens coming home to roost.
This greatly saddens me because it seems we in America are living an endless cycle of a lot of chickens doing a lot of roosting. Even as persons seek justice in the recent rash of violent and destructive incidents, I think it would be helpful to consider the possibility of these crimes being born out of the intrinsic climate of hate in America. In my opinion, these recent incidents are just as connected to the Kennedy assassination as slavery is connected to the treatment of Blacks/African Americans in this country.
The very history of African Americans in America is shaped by terrorist acts of violence, rape and torture mostly by people not of color; they're also shaped by White greed and thirst for power. Black/African Americans in most sectors of American society continue to bear the scars and the emotional trauma resulting from slavery days.
But I believe that as long as we have good people in the world, the good stuff that good people do will overcome even the climate of violence and hate we have fostered in this country.
As the pastor at Payne Chapel AME Church in Colorado Springs, I am proud of our AME history locally and nationally. We are this city's only AME church and the oldest predominantly African American congregation. We are striving to change the culture in which we live by focusing on the words of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament of the Christian Bible: "Love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as you love yourself."
Despite the recent violence within and against our sister AME churches, we continue to strive to be open to all persons who come through our doors with a desire to worship positively with God and with us.
Rev. Arthur B. Carter Jr., pastor of Payne Chapel AME Church, is also active in community groups that fight HIV/AIDS, as well as those that promote equality, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
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