How the Charleston Tragedy Cries Out for God

We cannot even begin to make sense of this, on any remotely satisfying level, apart from the God of the Bible, and the theology that His Word teaches us.

Do you see? The worldling has an insoluble problem when faced with such tragedy as this horrendous slaughter. Taken seriously, the reigning worldviews of our day leave us helpless to describe murderer, victims, or incident, in any terms other than either “…and then that happened,” or even (God help us all) positive terms. Then after describing them, they have no way to categorize them, or have any relief to the emotional response they quite properly have. They are forced to steal categories from Christianity — categories they don’t really mean, and just as surely do not think through — to do any better than “this event makes me feel bad!”


The facts, as reported and as related in sterile prose, are simple enough.

Last Wednesday, June 17, a young man walked into the church congregation of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and sat through a prayer meeting. At about 9pm, he stood and opened fire on his unarmed, helpless victims. Nine people, ranging in age from 26 to 87, were shot and killed. Eight died on the scene, one died later in a hospital. Among the dead was the pastor, Clementa Pinckney. The murderer, now identified by the police as 21 year-old Dylann Roof, was able to reload five times during the massacre, which his reported words reveal as racially motivated. He has since been arrested.

What to make of it? How to make anything of it?

The incident can be approached from many important angles; I’ll select the one I think least likely to receive much consideration. It is this: we cannot even begin to make sense of this, on any remotely satisfying level, apart from the God of the Bible, and the theology that His Word teaches us.

I’ll do my best not to insult you with nuance and carefulness; I’ll just be direct. As you’d expect.

How can we even describe this situation, how can we even begin to measure its shape and immensity, apart from God? What do we say of it? That it is a “tragedy”? Of course, to Christians, it is every bit of that. But to an evolutionist? To a materialist? To an environmental extremist? To a postmodern sofa-sitter? How can any of them, with any credibility, call it a “tragedy”?

  • How could an evolutionist? What is the very engine that drives forward the development of species, if not the crushing of weaker members by the stronger? Is it a tragedy when a coyote “culls” a slow rabbit? Other than by emotional special-pleading, how could such a worldview even categorize this event as anything other than another step forward in the grand march of progress?
  • How could a materialist? One bag of atoms interacted with nine bags of atoms. The atoms aren’t even destroyed, just altered. Where’s the tragedy? Where’s the wrong that makes it a tragedy? What does wrong weigh? What’s the atomic number of tragedy? What instrument measures moral outrage? Is it measured in feet, or in pounds?
  • How could an environmental extremistAren’t we constantly told that human beings are destroying our planet? People are the enemy, right? What is nine fewer, if not a step in the right direction? Perhaps the murderer is an enviro-hero, for reducing the “carbon footprint” in Charleston by many thousands of tons per year, going forward?
  • And how could a postmodernistOh sure, to you and me, this is a tragedy. But that’s only our perspective. The consistent PoMo — though such a creature is a cryptid — is in a conundrum. He may feel bad about the slaughter. But for him to describe the act as a crime or as a moral outrage – that means he has to judge the shooter by a standard the shooter plainly does not share. Should the PoMo have coffee with the shooter? Or propose a 5-year moratorium on discussing it, until he has had time to think it through?
  • How could a pro-abortionist? It is reported Margaret Sanger’s belief that black people were weeds to be eliminated, and abortion was one great way to weed the garden, so to speak. Abortion kills more black people yearly than any other single sort of event. Well (I speak as a fool) nine “weeds” were just plucked, to this mindset. Where’s the minus?

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