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Targeted Churches: The Racial Killings Upstaging God

Film illustration of a man with a gun in a church in dark colors and red. from: PWCD - church murders

Targeted Individuals

Written by: m.wilson

It might be a discrepancy more concerning to believers, but society could probably benefit from viewing targeted church killings first as religious hate crime instead of racial – that people are being targeted primarily for their religious affiliation – and with race ranking as secondary in importance. The racial aspect, and not to diminish the gravity or significance of these unthinkable church murders in any way whatsoever, but to focus the full attention on the racial aspect seems to diminish the power of the church, which for Christians is a house of the Lord. Therefore when a terrorist crosses the threshold into a place dedicated to moral goodness and the holy spirit, it is more that they have actually traveled out of the territory where matters such as race, as opposed to the condition of one’s soul, for example, would take precedence – despite what a shooter’s manifesto might say about it.

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Altering the discussion in such a way, as it pertains to churches, could be psychologically beneficial to those who worship in public along with their communities and strengthen the universal Christian/spiritual consciousness. It seems like a such wasteful distress to alienate oneself from his or her spirituality only because of what a violent racial supremacist believes.

Benjamin Nathaniel Smith  – World Church of the Creator – Church of the Creator

The World Church of the Creator is said to somehow combine Christian theology with white supremacy. One of its members Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, is said to have viewed himself as a soldier in a holy war against non-whites, which he viewed as subhumans with evil intentions. Before Smith committed suicide in 1999, he went on a shooting spree in Indiana and Illinois, killing Ricky Byrdson, an African American man who was walking with his children, and Won-Joon Yoon, a Korean doctoral student on his way to the Korean United Methodist Church. He also wounded nine others, one of which included an African American minister – each in drive by shootings.

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Years earlier, when the organization was called Church of the Creator, several of its members from the Los Angeles area were arrested in 1993 attempting to bomb the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was Rodney King’s church, the largest black church in the city. The FBI uncovered the plot after infiltrating the group in 1992, and the attack is said to have been planned after King, church Pastor Cecil Murray, and other members appeared on television celebrating the conviction of the two white police officers who had beaten King a year earlier.

The black church was a headquarters for the slave revolt…

The black church produced Martin Luther King and the boycotts…

(Rodney King beaten after speeding) – “Rodney King riot…” – AP

“5 Years After Charleston Church Massacre, What Have We Learned?” – NPR (2020)

“Just like everybody else that’s been killed because of hate and race, we need to continue to remind people that we continue to be hurt when all we want to do is be a people that could thrive like everybody else,”

– Risher

Dylann Roof

“I would like to make it crystal clear, I do not regret what I did, I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.”  

Dylann Roof, a ‘lone wolf extremist,’ killed nine people inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., at a bible study while everyone was holding hands with their eyes closed during a final prayer. More would have died having not been locked inside another room. In his journal, Dylann wrote that he targeted “innocent” people. And at trial, Dylann stated that he would not be represented by lawyers who wanted to make him seem crazy because he was absolutely sane, knew what he was doing, and did not want to lie about it. Dylann took the lives of these nine for what he viewed to be a greater cause, and it is one that may represent a progression in racial tensions beyond what would typically be discussed on the matter in terms of historical race relations beginning with the importation of slave labor in the United States – and that the victims died sacrificially.

Two years later, in 2017, a black man named Emanuel Kidega Samson attempted to avenge the South Carolina church massacre, aiming to kill 10 white churchgoers at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee. Samson had left behind a suicide note stating:

“Dylann Roof is less than nothing. The blood that 10 of your kind will shed is that of the color upon the RBG flag in terms of vengeance.” – AP (2019)

A witness who was pistol-whipped three times in his head testified that the gunman showed up to the church wearing ‘a tactical vest and motorcycle-style mask with a clown smile on it.’ However, Emanuele was only successful in fatally shooting one female (Melanie L. Crow) and wounding seven others.

“Rev. Clementa Pinckney talks about black political participation.”

Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, a church pastor and state senator who was shot and killed by Dylann Roof, is said to have valued and prioritized his work within the church before his political position as senator.

Devin Kelley

Devin Kelley murdered 26 and injured 20 inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. According to the San Antonio Express News, after committing the crime and having been shot by a good Samaritan, Devin sent text messages to his parents as he was bleeding out, asking them to rescue his wife Danielle, who he’d tied up inside of an apartment on the Kelley family’s 28-acre property. Kelley, a wife-beater, disliked the church very much and had since converted to atheism. It may have also bothered him that his wife had once dated Pastor Pomeroy’s – son, the (non-white) father who usually led First Baptist services but was miraculously absent that day.

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Kelley had been in the armed forces and possessed a greater amount of skills (‘in battle’). However, most of the 26 Sutherland Springs victims, the Holcombe family, the Corrigans, and others could be described as white–Caucasian. It probably makes more sense then to isolate the actual concept of church killing and examine what type of person would be able to murder so many people, nearly half of them children, as they are worshipping, in the first place. Randy Sutton, a former police lieutenant who spoke with CBS News in 2017 following the incident, said that in his opinion, it is foremost a perversion for killing before anything else.

“If you are going to carry a firearm, you got to be willing to use it. I don’t want to be second-guessing the pastor by any means.”

-Officer Larry Smith – Smith County Sheriff – Starrville Methodist Church (The Washington Post, 2021)

Religion is usually supposed to refer to the spirit and human existence beyond what is tangible; transcending the norms and structures of society. And while church may sometimes resemble town halls, social events, AA and NAACP meetings, it could be very healing to differentiate between the two when discussing the terrorist attacks occurring within its walls.

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