The funeral for a beloved, slain man was tragic. The grace-themed eulogy delivered by President Barack Obama was anything but.
The service Friday for South Carolina Sen. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME Church, was steeped in the traditions of the black church. But the black experience in America also has at its roots the kind of violence Dylann Roof allegedly brought to Bible study.
The heart of the black experience in America lies in that church, where violence and faith intersected. Obama got at that with a preacher's cadence and vigor, and a professor's precision. Roof sought a race war. What the killings brought instead, Obama reminded us, was grace: an opportunity to love each other and a banishment of the Confederate flag that Roof esteemed as a symbol of hate. Grace as forgiveness from God, which none of us deserves as sinners. Grace for Roof from the victims' families, whose faith teaches them they cannot hate the sinner. And grace granted to all of us through opportunities to walk away from hate, to address a criminal justice system, an economic system and an educational system that aren't always colorblind because we who decide whom to hire and jail and rent to aren't always colorblind.
Obama talked about guns and violence and a culture that teaches too many young men to hate, issues that get attention in the wake of tragedy but very little at other times.
In the end, the president led the crowd in "Amazing Grace," a stirring moment that hopefully isn't the end. The light is lit, the path clear. In the wake of unthinkable violence, we came together in love. We are one nation. One people. We share a common purpose. In the aftermath of tragedy, we are granted the ability to see each other with love. We cannot squander this grace. To do so would mock Pinckney, those who died with him, mankind's nobility and the God on whom so many in this nation rely.