I have been watching with sad amazement at people being incredulous about some twisted little man walking into a church and converting it into a shooting gallery. Churches are supposed to be places of peace, untouched by the evils of the world, right? Anybody with bad intentions or a dark soul is supposed to be stopped by some sort of magical power allowing the faithful to be safe, just like what happened to Demian in The Omen.
Sadly, the shooting at Emanuel AME Church proves that this magical thinking is tragically and dangerously wrong. Dylann Roof, that poor excuse for conglomeration of human DNA, was not stopped by a lightning bolt from the skies nor repelled by a Star Trek-like force field, instead he waltzed right in, sat for an hour prepping himself for the killing.
“… a place where fugitives can seek temporary refuge in a particular city or on religious property…. (O)nce the fugitive entered sanctuary he was deemed to be under the protection of divine law, exceeding the control of worldly powers.
(For a great description & history of the concept, click here.)
And, of course, if the sanctuary is extended to those who commit crimes, those who are good people have to be covered by the same security blanket. At least that is how I think the whole idea of an inviolable church space became part of the collective mindset and it is a nice thought except it only works under if all parties agree to respect sanctuary. By now it is painfully obvious that Dylann Roof did not give a damn about sanctuary.
Attacks on churches go back to Colonial times to the point that townships passed laws ordering the faithful to be armed for services or be fined. During the wars of independence in South America, both sides had no problems using churches to either imprison towns people or even downright killing them all in a controlled environment followed by burning the building itself. During the Spanish Civil war, the Republican Reds would often purge towns of Loyalists by instituting firing squads, using the walls of churches as backstop and leaving the bodies right there to rot. Countless missionary churches were burned to the ground with people inside across Asia in the early to mid 20th Century. In 1980, archbishop Oscar Romero was shot during services in El Salvador by presumed Death Squads. Many churches are aware not only of the dangers from outside, but also from their own members who may have been going through tough times that they have instituted security teams, unknown by the rest of the parishioners and ready to act at a moment’s notice. So basically the idea that a church just because is a church is supposed to offer some sort of perfect protection is dangerous at its very core. In fact, it is the original Gun Free Zone.
Is it shocking that killers would come to the House of The Lord and slay the innocent? Yes, but it should be the same shocking as in any house, as in your house where you have the God Given right to defend yourself against an attacker. Yet, somehow we the Children of God are supposed to forego that right in His House according to misguided thoughts of what some people consider to be “peaceful.”
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.