The events of these last two weeks will undoubtedly be counted among the most important in decades. I suspect we will not fully understand their implications for years.
- President Obama visited Charleston on Friday to deliver a eulogy for Senator Clementa Pinckney. Senator Pinckney and eight of his parishioners were murdered last week in the sanctuary of his church, the historic Mother Emanuel AME on Calhoun Street.The president’s theme was grace. There could be no more powerful lesson about grace and love than the reactions of the victims’ family members. At the accused shooter’s bond hearing last Friday, they spoke directly to the young man and one after another expressed their sorrow, and their forgiveness, for what seemed an unforgivable crime. In Senator Pinckney’s own words from April 26 of this year, “We know that only love can conquer hate.” These graceful people have surely taught Charleston, our state and the nation more about love than has been conveyed in recent memory. And they have taught us about the power of religious belief to cope with and gain strength from tragedy. Senator Pinckney and his parishioners are true martyrs for the cause of love and kindness. And South Carolina seems, finally, to be paying attention. We will know more about this next week when the Legislature votes on removing the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds.
- Across the Atlantic, another towering religious leader, Pope Francis, has released his much anticipated, and revolutionary, encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, (Praise Be). Like the Emanuel AME community, Francis emphasizes the central role love must play in our world, in this case, to stop catastrophic environmental degradation. From his extensive declaration, “A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings.”
- Laudato Si coincides with the publication of a new EPA report on the staggering costs of failing to address climate change, as the Washington Post reports, and with NOAA’s most recent status report (below) revealing that May 2015 was the warmest May on record, based on global temperatures. Bloomberg News provides an exceptionally clear illustration of rising global temperatures and its irrefutable attribution to human activities, in this article and series of graphs.
- Finally, among this dizzying array of historic events is one of particular note. President Obama ended his eulogy in the TD Arena by singing “Amazing Grace.” You can watch, and hear, it on this CNN video.
- And from the Post and Courier, you can read about the 33 year old church West Ashley organist, who felt called to “assist” the president deliver this part of the eulogy. This strikes me as remarkable. I’m not aware of another example in modern Western history in which a world leader sang, not for entertainment, but to make a profoundly serious point. Could there ever be greater testimony of the power of music to convey the fundamental truths of the human heart?