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Monday, 29 June 2015

In which twelve people display a little-known and seldom-seen Christian virtue

[You can begin a chain of linked articles on this topic by clicking here.]

There's something striking about the Charleston Massacre that's not, to my knowledge, yet been commented on. According to news reports a week in (early reports of tragedy always being overturned by later ones), on June 17, 2015, a young man named Dylann Roof joined a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The twelve others present at the Bible study welcomed him, although he had apparently never been seen by any of them before.

What they didn't know was that Dylann had come with one purpose in mind, and that was to kill them--evidently in hopes of starting a race war. What happened was probably different than anyone would have expected, because when he pulled out a .45 pistol and started shooting, none of the twelve resisted him. Rather than a war, it was nothing but a massacre, and when the shooting stopped, nine more martyrs had joined the celestial ranks.

What's unusual about this is that Methodists aren't known for non-resistance. Yes, several Methodists were persecuted for refusing to take up arms against England during the Revolution, but that was probably more due to their loyalist sentiments than their adherence to any biblical doctrine. Yes, the senior pastor of the church, as a South Carolina state senator, had voted for gun control and had even banned guns from his church--but gun control, far from being about the elimination of firearms, is all about the concentration of firearms in the hands of law enforcement, denying them to everyone else but criminals.

Yet for all their lack of theological reasons for doing so, all twelve victims practiced the primeval Christian response to violence: they didn't fight back. Some even jumped in front of the gun, like the girls did in the Nickel Mines shooting, to take a bullet for their friends.

So confused was Dylann by this turn of events that he forgot to count his bullets, and, after reloading twice, failed to save the last one for himself. He put the gun up against his head and pulled the trigger on an empty chamber. Not having had an escape plan, he fled in disarray and was easily captured the next day.

So, in taking all 15 of his bullets, the congregants at Mother Emanuel saved one more life: that of their killer. There's no other explanation for this, other than that non-resistance, and loving one's enemies to the point of laying down one's life for them, is an inherent Christian virtue.

This was reinforced at Dylann's bond hearing, where the survivors were unanimous in offering him not hate or acrimony, but love and forgiveness. In short, the Methodists of Mother Emanuel acted like Christians.

All hail the martyrs of Mother Emanuel. All hail the Christian virtue of non-resistance.

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