While Gallup reported last week that "religion" is in decline in America---the Truth and Light of Christianity is shining brightly in the darkness of hatred and violent killings that occurred 4 days ago in a church Bible study.
While the lives of many in the congregation were forever altered, the Emanuel AME church in Charleston held services, as scheduled, yesterday.
In preparation for worship services, parishioners cleaned the room and mopped the floor in the room where 9 were killed during Wednesday evening Bible study.
Members of the church who had lost loved ones went to court on Friday---not to start litigation, but to start the healing.
They faced the man who had killed their loved ones and said, "I forgive you."
They also told him how God felt about the matter.
Prior to yesterday's public worship services at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the members cleaned the room--- including mopping the floors where 9 people were killed during this past Wednesday evening Bible study.
Also prior to yesterday's public worship services, church members who had lost family members in the killing went to court.
As the shooter faced the judge on Friday, he also faced the family members.
In profound grief and loss, each told 21 year old Dylann Roof they forgive him.
"I forgive you," the emotional daughter of Ethel Lance, 70, one of the victims, told Roof. "You took something really precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never be able to hold her ever again, but I forgive you."
Myra Thompson, 59, was also among the 9 killed Wednesday night. One of her grieving relatives urged Roof to "repent" and give his life to Christ.
"I forgive you, my family forgives you," Anthony Thompson told Roof. "But take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one that matters most---Christ---so that He can change your ways no matter what happened to you, and you'll be OK. Do that and you'll be better off than you are right now."
Yesterday, as the parishioners worshiped in Charleston, most news organizations tried to marginalize, minimize or simply ignore the most powerful aspect of this story.
Mike Huckabee was a guest on NBC's Meet The Press yesterday.
Chuck Todd, NBC moderator, immediately launched into questioning Huckabee about the Confederate Flag at the State House in South Carolina.
Huckabee's responses were wise and reasoned---he ended by turning the questions on Todd.
Then the interview turned to Charleston and the church, with Todd raising the issue of race, the police, etc., and asking how would you, as president, address this issue?
Huckabee's response was class.
He said, "I think the best way to address it is the way that we have seen from church members there at the Emanuel AME Church. If you look at the pastor, the pastor who was murdered, it occurs to me that here is a shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. A great example of biblical love, of Christian spirit."
And when you hear the family members as we heard on that very powerful interview earlier, it reminds us that Christianity is not cartoonish, contemptible, laughable faith that people today try to marginalize," he explained.
"It is a powerful force of healing and reconciliation," Huckabee told NBC.
Huckabee continued: "And while I know there are many people in our culture who don't want people to bring faith into the discussion, Chuck, after watching that family and seeing the members of this church in court the other day, I would say that most Americans stand back in awe and maybe would understand that it is precisely faith that would help this country have true racial reconciliation."
Not only would the powerful faith we have seen displayed in Charleston bring about racial reconciliation, but reconciliation in all aspects of our culture.
While biblical Christianity has fallen out of favor with secular activists, and interest in religion is reported to be in decline, true Christianity restores. It impacts personal lives---and it impacts a culture.
Associated Press reported last night that services went well yesterday in the church in Charleston.
Rev. Norvel Goff, in the absence of the slain pastor, led the services.
He thanked all who are standing with them---including the police.
He said the media expected something different. "They expected us to riot--they don't know us."
Star Parker, a black woman, Christian activist---"foot soldier" she calls herself, said last night after her team spent the day in Charleston, "There was no hate in Charleston like the media want you to believe. There were media from all over the world---even Ethiopia. My team mentioned that these reporters seemed disappointed that there were no anger or riots."
Goff told the people, "It has been tough. It's been rough. Some of us have been downright angry, but through it all, God has sustained us and has encouraged us. Let us not grow weary in well doing."
I'm reminded of the words to a song often sung by my close friend, the late Andrae Crouch:
"Through It All"
Verse 1I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
there's been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.
ChorusThrough it all,
through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.
Verse 2I've been to lots of places,
I've seen a lot of faces,
there's been times I felt so all alone.
But in my lonely hours,
yes, those precious lonely hours,
Jesus lets me know that I was His own
I thank God for the mountains,
and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I'd never had a problem,
I wouldn't know God could solve them,
I'd never know what faith in God could do
Be Strong. Be Faithful.