I am closing in on my time in Charleston, South Carolina. Two days ago a jury, just down the street from my hotel, sentenced Dylann Roof to death for the killing of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. It is the first time someone has been given the death penalty under federal hate crimes law.

Young Dylann Roof has roots in white supremacist ideologies. He scoped out the church ahead of time, spent one hour in Bible study around the table with them, including their pastor, and when they stood to pray, he shot them. His actions were undergirded by beliefs that have been around in for a long time that some people are superior to other people. Nothing could be more antithetical to the Christian faith than this.

There are feelings and questions here on several fronts. Many victims’ families are forgiving. Other people in this town feel like this punishment is true justice. Some wonder if a death sentence doesn’t just make Roof a martyr to other white supremacists. Others feel that this sentence simply trades death for death and doesn’t do anything.

What does God think of such a sentence?

Is anyone outside the bounds of God’s redemption?

What must we do as individuals and as the church to publicly witness to the humanity and dignity of all human persons?

We have talked much these last few weeks in class about the Imago Dei – the image of God placed in us at creation (Genesis 1:27). The image of God is in all people.

In every day, every interaction, in every system, how do we transmit this truth?

Thanks for engaging with me in this conversation. I look forward to more!

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