After 2 church shootings — hope

Steve Brown's picture

I believe the greatest enemy of the Christian Church today is the Church itself. The history of the Christian Church has been a fractious one with new denominations peeling believers away in various directions. In fact, the institution of slavery in the United States created a first-class moral divide, leading to a segregated church up to the present day.

But God sent me a ray of hope on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009, proving to me that decent, respectable people living out the Gospel can overcome any difficulty that comes their way. Perhaps, the Christian Church may be able to reconcile after all.

I went to Bethlehem Baptist Church on Dividend Drive this past Sunday. I went there to show my support.

You see, some evil person decided to take a high-powered weapon and fire a series of holes into the entrance doors of Bethlehem Baptist and Flat Rock A.M.E. churches, two of the oldest African-American churches in Fayette County. I walked in the door of the church incensed that anyone could do such a hateful deed.

Local police, the GBI and the FBI are conducting investigations related to the shootings.

When you look at the little Bethlehem Baptist Church from the roadside, the modest building does not evoke a sense of strength and power, as some of the larger church buildings do in our community. I would dare say most people drive by and never give the small structure a second thought.

As I sat in the pew, I was infused with the grace of a congregation who was teaching the world the true meaning of Christianity.

We all read the last portion of the responsive reading together: “The Bible says that the way we treat others is the way we treat God, so choose love and treat others with respect so that your prayers can be powerful and effective the way God promises!”

Passages from the Gospel of Matthew passed through my mind. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” And, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” And, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” And, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The Reverend Elder’s message made clear that we should always look for the good, even in the midst of horrendous circumstances.

Everyone left their seat, came to the altar, held each other’s hands and prayed prayers of thanks.

The anger in my heart melted away and I actually began to pity the person who had committed the atrocious act. Realizing someone had a huge void in his heart, large enough to display such hate, caused me to thank God for the love I receive from my family and friends.

Are we not all capable of unspeakable acts of violent behavior?

So, I found myself, sitting in the church, summoning thoughts our world cannot understand, thanking Jesus for showing me human nature is generally wrong, praying for a gunman and giving thanks for a small congregation who is living the Gospel.

[Steve Brown is the former mayor of Peachtree City. He can be reached at]

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