Today marks the 52nd anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church where 4 young black ladies were killed as they were getting ready for Sunday morning worship. This past spring, my family had the opportunity to visit Birmingham, AL. We saw the church (we were not able to go inside), visited the Civil Rights Institute, and walk through the park where the Children’s Crusade began. It was an eye-opening and humbling and amazing visit.
16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL
I have a hard time imagining what this day must have been like. As we stood before the church, I tried to image my children in the basement of our church, getting ready for a time of worship. I tried to imagine the sound of the bomb. I tried to imagine the smell and the fear and the chaos and the emotion. I began to weep.
And as our family learned more about that day (and the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement in general), Professor was particularly engaged. We learned that in the city’s chaos after the bombing, 2 black boys were also killed. One of them was Virgil Ware who was 13 years-old and was shot and killed by 16 year-old Larry Sims. This killing was particularly shocking to Professor. As we read about the murder of a young man his same age, Professor turned to me and said “But mom, his killer was an Eagle Scout. Scouts aren’t supposed to act like that Mom. Why did he do that?” Tears welled up in my eyes (and are again as I type).
That’s a good question. Why? We human beings are complicated creatures. Created in the image of God, sin entered the world and it hasn’t left. Too often, humanity has continued to place what we want above what God wants. We pass those selfish desires on to those around us, to our children, to the people we are charged to care for. And too often we pass along that “I” am created in the image of God and forget to pass along that others are also created in the image of God.
And too often we forget that together, WE are created in the image of God.
I still can’t imagine what that day was like. I still can’t imagine what the bombers were thinking and feeling. I still can’t imagine what the 16th Street Baptist Church family and friends were thinking and feeling. I still can’t imagine what the mothers and fathers were thinking and feeling.
And maybe I don’t really want to because it might hurt too much if I do.
And maybe that keeps me disconnected from the fullness of the image of God.
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; …So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them (Genesis 1:26-27a)