I was a white speck in an all black Baptist church. As a Roman Catholic this experience was refreshing, well beyond what I am used to. If you've never experienced a "home going" you're missing something very special about our rich American heritage. Yes, "our."
What I saw today was simply amazing. African Americans are some of the most spiritual people I have ever met. They are so expressive and genuine about their faith in God. I never cease to be amazed at the depth of their love of God and their unabashed, sometimes even flamboyant desire to express that love. And always in the context of a supportive, accepting community.
So as I watched today's pastor get emotional and almost inconsolable during his reflection on Clarice's life, I couldn't help but think of the victims of Dylan Roof whose lives were cut short during a prayer meeting in the name of hatred.
I absolutely abhor the death penalty. If this young, stupid boy is put to death, this tragedy will be complete. There will be absolutely no chance for hope and, I'll add, healing.
On an emotional level I feel as though he deserves the death penalty. But thinking it through I believe so much more could be accomplished if his life were spared.
I hope as a country we spare his life in order to make a bold and powerful statement.
By giving this boy the very thing he stole from his victims and their families, namely, life, we, as a nation, hold fast to the reality that all life is sacred, even his.
If given the chance, this confused boy, may, in 30 years or more, have ample opportunity to think about what he did in a fit of misguided passion.
Maybe he will one day come to understand the gravity of his unspeakable crime.
But even if this were not the case, even if 40 to 50 years from now he were to die in prison proud of his actions, the nation will have made a statement. And that statement would still be bold and powerful. It needn't be religious at all. In fact, it would be a message that transcended religious imagination. A message that our violence obsessed country/world so desperately needs.
That there is always hope.
But if the decision is made to make good on his annihilation, this much is true, he will have died a martyr in the eyes of some, evil in the eyes of others and never afforded an opportunity to experience a paradigm shift in his own consciousness.
So why bother? His life is only one life.
I believe that as a community, we are a reflection of the collective enemy within ourselves. If we can not offer life and consequently hope to someone so undeserving of it, we can not offer hope to ourselves.
"Forgiveness is more powerful than revenge."
That's what Clarice would say.