Understanding the Charleston Church murderer

On NPR’s “1A”, the interviewer discussed the massacre with Jennifer Hawes, the reporter/author of the book “Grace Will Lead Us Home: the Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness” and William H. Lamar IV Pastor, Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Their discussion followed along the same lines as so many here on CAF. Hawes was describing how the parishioners and friends struggled to forgive, and did forgive, the killer, even when the killer never repented. Lamar said that such forgiveness was misplaced and essentially unacceptable unless there is remorse, atonement, repentance.

What was most poignant was when the interviewer said something like, “I know that Christianity calls for unconditional forgiveness, correct? That Christians are to forgive without limit, 70 times 7 times?” Lamar’s response was “Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian, and Jewish people have a criteria for forgiveness.”

In my experience, forgiveness or non-forgiveness comes from a position of commitment to forgive, but its foundation is understanding, so that the first question is “why did he kill those people, what was he thinking?” Jesus, for example, showed us from the cross, that we can understand people’s ignorance and blindness, that they “know not what they do”.

Why did he kill those people? What was he thinking?

Before responding here, pray for the gift of understanding, call on the Spirit for the gift.


We are asked to “Love our Enemies” thus forgive our Enemies. You’re correct.


In addition, forgiveness for a heinous crime is very personal. A person choosing to forgive or not forgive a bad wrong should not be lectured, judged or critiqued by others, except possibly they might be guided or advised by a priest or spiritual advisor.

I have a real problem with people telling others they need to forgive, or that they shouldn’t forgive. It’s not their business.


Yes, to forgive anyone we “hold something against.” Mark 11:25. But it isn’t easy, and it can be superficial without understanding.

I agree, and I’m pretty sure both of the interviewees would agree also. The Linns wrote a book Don’t Forgive Too Soon, which examines that aspect of the topic pretty well.


Christ we must forgive everyone–to me, that means I do not need to understand the wrongdoer, only to realize that, like me, he is a sinner.

My mother was murdered more than 25 years ago. According to the man who killed her, her last words in this life were, “Jesus loves you.”


That’s basically the understanding I’m talking about. If you can say “I am just like them”, then there is a unity in that, a reconciliation.

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