I want to take another point of personal privilege to talk about something that I feel very connected to. As most of you know, I live in South Carolina and have done so longer than anywhere else. Perhaps a little less well known is that the alleged Charleston church shooter, Dylann Roof, was a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, of the same denomination to which I belong (I don’t know if he was active), and that two of the victims of that shooting were graduates of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina (I am a life member of that seminary’s Auxiliary). The presiding bishop of my national church, Elizabeth Eaton, was scheduled to be at the funeral today of one of the victims, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a South Carolina state senator. Bishop Eaton said last week:
The suspected shooter (Dylann Roof) is a member of an ELCA congregation. All of a sudden and for all of us, this is an intensely personal tragedy. One of our own is alleged to have shot and killed two who adopted us as their own.
I am thankful for the circumstances that let me hear some of President Obama’s eulogy for Senator Pinckney. Temperatures were around 98 degrees when the Habit for Humanity build crew decided to pack up a little early because of the heat. When I got in my car the radio was tuned as it always is to South Carolina Educational Radio, and the President’s speech was in progress live.
I though his remarks were in places profound, in places moving, and wholly directed at a message of reconciliation. Some on the extreme right think Obama is a Muslim, but maybe they have never heard him sing “Amazing Grace” as he did today in a talk couched in the terms of Christian grace and God working through horrific events. Some say that he promotes political division based on race, but you cannot find a trace of that in today’s eulogy—he spoke of the forgiveness expressed by the families of the victims and he even praised Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for her actions in the wake of the Charleston tragedy. This is what good people do in response to grief and loss.
So I am sharing the funeral video with you. Obama’s talk starts an hour and 22 minutes in.