A Man Walks Into a Church and Shoots It Up and All We Want to Talk About Is Football

A Man Walks Into a Church and Shoots It Up and All We Want to Talk About Is Football September 26, 2017

It started with one quarterback taking a stand – rather, taking a knee — during the National Anthem.  And this last Sunday more than a 200 National Football League players joined in the protest, egged on by the President.

Now players are losing their endorsements, more than 1/3 of fans are vowing to stop watching the game, and the President is calling for a boycott.

But I don’t want to talk football right now.

A man walked into a church and started shooting.

On Sunday, a legal,  Sudanese immigrant killed a woman in a Nashville church parking lot and then went into the church firing away, hitting six more people, until he was finally subdued by a hero.

On the same day as millionaire players were deciding whether to kneel or stand, a small church with no other agenda but to pray and worship became the target of one man’s evil.

I only stumbled upon this story by chance. Like you, my news feeds were clogged with protests and responses to the feud between the NFL and players and the president.

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There were about 40 people were in the church and if not for the heroic actions of a church usher, there could have been many more deaths. I have been asking people all day about this story. No one heard it. It’s like as a society we are choosing not to talk about an attack on Christian worshipers. We want to talk about people who are kneeling. Or not. And why. Or why not.

There’s no sacred space anymore

The 39 year-old woman who died in the parking lot, Melanie Smith, was a mother of two. Her family said she was “godly and compassionate.” She was probably hurrying to church and was  little late, hoping she would just sneak in without being noticed. She got caught by the gunman who had the same idea.

We used to have two places that were always safe, always sacred – schools and churches.

The Columbine massacre and all the copycats have changed schools forever. And soon churches will be on lockdown.

The lack of attention on this mass shooting is disturbing, but expected. After all, the demographics of these old, southern, evangelical church-goers don’t put them in the traditional victim class.

For the record, I wept for the Charleston Church and the nine people who were murdered during a prayer meeting. If you recall, I publicly stood with the AME church. Dylan Roof is now the convicted racist murderer. And this man should face the same scrutiny.

I wrote Reflections on Charleston: The one question without an answer at the time, and it applies here.  Change a few facts and words around and it’s the same story. The same hanging question mark hangs on Nashville shooter Emanuel Samson as it did Charleston shooter Dylan Roof’s head.

Sure he was white and the worshipers were black. And he’s from the south. And he probably drove a pickup. “Conclusive proof” some will say.He could have been an anarchist. Or an atheist. Or mentally disturbed. He might have been a conservative or a liberal.

Even if you fill in any of those holes with labels, you really won’t be able to answer the question, “Why?”

And some are blaming the gun. “If only we had gun control, this wouldn’t have happened.” We have laws outlawing drugs, and yet we still have the scourge. There are laws against child pornography, and yet every day a child is violated. There are thousands of laws on the books, but they do not stop the law breaker.

Take away the gun but you still will be left with the hanging question, “Why?”

Evil doesn’t always have a root cause. It just is. We’ll pour through his social media, his video rentals, the books on his shelf, and his television favorites, looking for clues.  The world is spinning on its own, with chaos and disorder pushing at the boundaries of good and righteous. And we push back, kicking at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.

We stand arm in arm with those who are hurt, losing loved ones and friends. And we stand with those who weren’t directly impacted, but feel targeted because of their race or their religion.
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Who’s the hero?

I heard a sportscaster talk about the “heroic stand” of football players yesterday, turning their disdain toward the President – and the flag – and refusing to come out for the national anthem or kneeling during the playing.

The 22-year old church usher, Caleb Engle, was indeed a hero. Stepping between the shooter and others, subduing him, and then still walking out to his car to get his own weapon to make sure the shooter stayed down.

To put your body between a shooter and a victim, that’s truly heroic.

The people injured aren’t young. Ages 84, 83, 68, 65, 60, and 64. And also injured was this 22 year old, protecting his elders, protecting the guardians of his faith.

Yesterday, Caleb issued a statement. He asked for prayer for the victims, the shooter’s family, and … the shooter.

He also deferred the “hero” label, passing it on to the first responders.

But I can’t get over the fact that:

A man walked into a church and started shooting.


Ben White







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