African-American Church has “deep history of forgiveness”

Editor’s Note: This a follow-up article to the story we posted yesterday on the forgiveness offered by the victim’s families to the suspect accused of killing nine people during a Bible study session at a Charleston church (see below). Journalist Adam Harris wrote this article for BBC News.

“What we saw in court today was the best of the black tradition – that your evilness, your hatred will not distort the faith,” says Dr. Eddie  Glaude, professor of religion and African American studies at Princeton University. “There is a tendency to normalise black forgiveness and, in doing so, lose sight of what a miracle it is.”

The African American Church
The African American Church

By all accounts, the African-American church has a deep history of forgiveness rooted in faith and tied into the history of white supremacy in the US.

“Members of the black church believe in the ethos of the founding figures: all persons are created equal in the sight of God,” according to Dr. Alton Pollard III, dean of the Howard School of Divinity.

That notion is what makes it easier to forgive.

“God is always greater and because of that, even in horrific conditions, we can still be faithful,” says Dr Pollard. “Because of faithfulness, we have the capacity to forgive.”

That ability to forgive has emerged as both an act of mercy and a tool against oppression.

Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”

“There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us,” he added. “When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

Read the unedited, full-length version of this BBC News article – Charleston shootings: Power of forgiveness in African-American church

Here’s another BBC News article you’ll AME Churchwant to read – South Carolina shooting: Historic Church that hosted Dr King about the amazing history of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and its important role in the civil rights movement. In 1822, for example, the Church was a target of the authorities who foiled a planned slave revolt led by Denmark Vesey, one of the founders. More than 1,000 people were arrested over the plan and 35 of them, including Vesey, were executed and the church itself was burned to the ground. It was rebuilt in 1834. As it looks today. ⇒

Times of Rest When Forgiving

The quest for forgiveness need not be a continual bicycle race to the end. We cannot forgive constantly any more than we can stay on the bicycle Forgiveness-gulls-boatfor days at a time without rest. Forgiveness is hard work and so we need to realize this. We need time to refresh, to renew, and then to proceed again.

Forgiveness is not a one-time act for most of us. Instead, it is a journey. This journey has a beginning and when we forgive one person for one event, forgiveness has an end. At the same time, living a forgiving life does not have an end in this lifetime. We are constantly discovering new facets to this diamond.

Take the time to refresh when forgiving one person for one unjust event. And do not forget to enjoy the life-long journey of growing as a forgiving person.


Charleston Church Victims’ Families Respond With Forgiveness

ABC News Internet Ventures – South Carolina police have arrested a 21-year-old suspect they say shot and killed nine people during a Bible study session he attended inside their historic Charleston church Wednesday night.

Today, during his initial court appearance, the suspect heard not only words of anguish and pain from the victims’ families but words of love and forgiveness as well.

“I forgive you, my family forgives you,” said Anthony Thompson, whose relative Myra Thompson was killed. “We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. … Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”Stained_glass_window_Christ_Church_Lambeth

The families are determined not to respond in kind to the hate that resulted in the deaths of their loved ones, said Alana Simmons, who lost her grandfather, the Rev. Daniel Simmons.

“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate,” she said, “this is proof — everyone’s plea for your soul is proof they lived in love and their legacies will live in love, so hate won’t win.”

Felecia Sanders survived the Wednesday night attack by pretending to be dead, but lost her son Tywanza. She also spoke in the courtroom. It is not unusual in South Carolina for the families of victims to be given a chance to address the court during a bond hearing.

“We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts … and I’ll never be the same,” Sanders said.

Good Heart 6“Tywanza was my hero,” she added. “As we said in Bible Study, we enjoyed you but may God have mercy on you.”

After the suspect was ordered held on $1 million bond for nine murders, his family issued a statement offering prayers and sympathy for the victims, and expressing “shock, grief and disbelief as to what happened that night.”

“We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims’ families offering God’s forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering,” the statement said.

Read the full story from ABC News: // Charleston Church Victims’ Families Forgive Suspect in Court

Read CNN’s coverage: Charleston church shooter hears victims’ kin say, ‘I forgive you’

You talk about forgiving and seeking justice at the same time. I am of Asian origin and it is considered completely disrespectful to ask for justice from one’s own parent. It is even difficult to consider forgiving a parent because then you are saying that he or she is immoral, something I have been taught in my culture not to ever do. Now what?

I think we have to make an important distinction between condemning the parent and acknowledging the truth that all people are imperfect.  Imperfection does not equate with condemnation.  If you are able to see your parent as imperfect, then it follows that he or she will sometimes make mistakes or even do wrong.  You can then forgive while you keep in mind that this is not condemnation or disrespect.  In fact, it is an attempt to see your parent as possessing inherent worth despite the imperfection.  To me, this is a sign of respect for the parent as a worthwhile person.

With that said, we now have to deal with the issue of ever asking a parent for a change in behavior.  I think it depends on how you do this.  Following the ideas in the first paragraph, you need not approach a parent in an accusatory way, but instead in a constructive way.  For example, suppose your parent is continually harsh with you.  Do you think you could say something like this: “Yes, I will try to do better.  My intentions are good and so I hope that you see that in me.”  In other words, you are pointing out something in you—in you—for the parent to see.  You are not confronting or correcting then.

See Farther with the Eyes of Justice AND Forgiveness

To forgive is to see farther than justice alone allows you to see.
When you seek justice, you ask, “What has this person done and what consequences should happen to him or her?”

When you seek forgiveness and justice together, you first ask, “Who is this person as a person?” and then you ask what the consequences should be.



When I immigrated from my home country to another that I thought was more free-thinking than mine, I was met with discrimination. Owners and even workers thought that I was taking jobs that should belong to those who already were citizens of that country.  It is ironic that this new country of mine, from an historical perspective, had many, many immigrants come into the country in the last century.  The people keeping me out of a job are the descendants of immigrants.  Yet, they cannot see now that I have much in common with their own families.  Their lack of sight is my occasion to forgive them. I may not have a job yet, but I do have my faith, my convictions, and peace of mind and heart.  And with perseverance, I will land that new job soon.

Can I forgive someone who has not directly hurt me? For example, I am a teacher and one of my students was deliberately hurt by another student. Can I forgive the one who acted badly to a student whom I admire for his honesty and perseverance?

You describe a situation which some philosophers call secondary forgiveness. In other words, you have been hurt indirectly rather than directly by a person’s injustice toward someone who is important to you. Whenever an injustice occurs which hurts you, then you are free to forgive.  This can even occur when you do not even know the victim(s) but experience hurt nonetheless. An example of this tertiary forgiveness is this: the leader of your country enters into what you consider to be an unjust war with another country. You can forgive the leader if that is your choice to do so.

A Supposedly Unsolvable Situation in the Middle East

I heard recently that a top peace negotiator was discouraged by the events in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. He said that the divide between the two is “unsolvable.”

Having just spent two weeks in Israel, I am convinced that there is a solution toHandshake the entrenched political and spiritual warfare in the broken Middle East. It is not an immediate but instead a long-range solution requiring patience and much perseverance. It is this: education on family, school, and community levels regarding what forgiveness is, what it is not, how to practice it, and how to bring it alongside justice. Those so schooled, perhaps in the next several generations, very well may find the way to community peace. “Justice first” may never come.


Another Helpful Forgiveness Hint

We sometimes think that those who hurt us have far more control over us than they actually do. We often measure our happiness or unhappiness by what has happened in the past.
My challenges to you today are these: Your response of forgiveness now to the one who hurt you can set you free from a past influence that has been toxic. Try to measure your happiness by what you will do next (not by what is past). Your next move can be this—to love regardless of what others do to you.


Woman Forgives Man Who Ran Down and Killed her Husband

Daily, London, UK – A 74-year-old woman in Bournemouth, England (about 2-hours southeast of London) has appealed to a municipal judge to help the driver who ran down her husband avoid a prison sentence.

Patricia Machin said she had no “ill thoughts or grudges” against Brian Williamson, the driver of the car that killed her 77-year-old husband Gerrard as he was crossing the road to buy his morning paper. Mrs Machin even hugged the sobbing defendant as he left court after receiving a suspended sentence.

“It isn’t that I have forgiven Brian, it was that I never blamed him in theForgive for peace of mind first place,” Mrs. Machin said. “It was a mistake. He has suffered enough already and will have to live with what he did. I didn’t want to see him going to prison; he is someone’s son after all.”

In a letter to the sentencing judge, Mrs. Machin wrote:

“I have never for a single second had any sort of angry or vengeful thoughts towards this young man. If asked, he would confirm to you that just after the accident and his arrest, I comforted him in his distress. Even though at the time we stood beside a pool of Gerrard’s blood, and I was panicking, because having gone out to look for Gerrard, I was faced with the horror of the situation, I felt only pity for the driver.”

In a separate letter she sent Williamson just before the sentencing hearing she wrote:

“Today is a very important day and I will be in court to support you. On the day of the accident, however bad it was for me, I realise it was 1,000 times worse for you. Will you make me a promise, that you will get on with your young life, knowing that you will always be supported by my prayers?”