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STATE OF THE UNION
First Service At Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC Since Fatal Shooting. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired June 21, 2015 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:04] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: This morning all of the churches in the city are set to ring their bells in unison to remember the lives lost here this week. Let's take a listen.
We just heard or hearing, the bells ringing out across the city. I'm joined here by Dr. Russell Moore.
It's an interesting dichotomy to hear this very uplifting gospel song here at mount -- here at Mother Emanuel AME Church while also hearing in the background from churches all across the city very solemn bells ringing in memorial for the nine people killed. Almost encapsulating in a way the spirit of the day.
RUSSELL MOORE, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: That's exactly right. It's quintessentially Christian. Our emblem is a cross which is an instrument of torture and of death but also a symbol of hope. When I see all of this, I am reminded of what the bible says. We grieve but not as those who have no hope. This white supremacist terrorist could come in. He could kill my brothers and sisters in Christ over there but he couldn't ultimately harm them because as a Christian I believe that there is resurrection from the dead, there's hope for the future.
And that's what this community is doing. They're grieving for the loss. And they see it as something that is -- that is a true tragedy, but they don't do so without hope. And that blending of lament and hope together is the very best of what it means to be Christian.
TAPPER: It's beautiful. Let's go back inside and watch some of this hope firsthand.
(CHEERING AND CLAPPING)
[10:05:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alleluia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus, Jesus. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. We talk about Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. We talk about Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
(CHEERING AND CLAPPING)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the people of God shall say amen. And the people of God shall say amen.
CROWD: Amen. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the people of God just say amen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The spirit of the living God is in this place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And for that we say thank you. We come now to receive a morning offering and we ask that you govern yourselves accordingly. The ushers will come now and serve you where you are.
As a reminder to all of us, God loves a cheerful giver. And it's not just about your money. It's about your time and your talents given unto his people and your service unto him. To whom much is given, much is required. And for that we say thank you. For what God has already done.
Come now. The ushers will direct us in our giving.
TAPPER: We're going to take another very quick break. When we come back we'll go right back inside the Mother Emanuel AME Church. Stay with us.
[10:13:01] TAPPER: We're live outside the Mother Emanuel AME Church where beautiful services are going on inside. And outside of which a huge crowd has gathered this Sunday morning in the about 90-degree weather. Hundreds if not thousands are standing in solidarity with the families and friends of the victims of the shooting here, this horrific racist, terrorist act this past Wednesday.
I'm sitting here with CNN political commentator Van Jones.
And, Van, during the commercial we were talking about something. You might as well --
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
TAPPER: -- share it with the viewers because I thought it was quite beautiful in terms of the theology. The difference in the black church between happiness and joy.
TAPPER: This is joy.
JONES: This is joy. People watching at home just may not understand how can they be dancing, how can they be singing, how can there be this spirit of enthusiasm there in the wake of this horror. In the black church, there is a distinction between happiness, which is a kind of this external circumstances are good, so we're happy versus joy. We say hallelujah anyhow. I can find something inside myself, inside my circumstance, inside my faith, inside my God, inside my family, inside of who we are. To find some joy anyhow. And you have to demonstrate that, you have to celebrate that, you have to pull that out now.
That's not happiness. That's joy. And joy has a power to heal people. And unfortunately in this part of the country the African- American community has had to practice joy anyhow, hallelujah anyhow. And that's what you're seeing today. That's what you're hearing.
TAPPER: Yes. And we heard some of those sentiments expressed earlier when the reverend or whoever is filling in for the Reverend Pinckney who was slaughtered on Wednesday who said that the nine individuals who were so horrifically killed, they've been taken from us but we will see them.
TAPPER: We know we will see them. They just left before us a little bit.
JONES: Exactly. And for other things, as you hear this talking about love, you hear love will find a way. Love will have the final word. You're going to hear that over and over again.
[10:25:04] The hatred that was demonstrated can only be met and defeated by love. You know, Dr. King said hatred cannot drive out hatred. Only love can do that. We have a moral strength in this country that comes from the black church. You know, Dr. King is now considered the final founder. You know, it took 200 years to truly found a democracy here. Dr. King kind of the final founder.
And the stone he laid was a stone about love and redemption and forgiveness. But let's not take it for granted. It is incredibly difficult, incredibly difficult to do what they're doing here. This is Olympic level performance of love. An Olympic level, a world-class level performance of forgiveness. And we've almost come to expect that from the black community. We care just as much about these victims as we do about victims anywhere in the world, and yet this moral reserve.
And the other thing I just want to say as well is that it takes something to be a parent today of black children. When you have the Trayvon Martins, when you have the Baltimores, when you have these types of things. And it requires us to explain things to our children. You don't want to have to explain to children. You don't want to have to explain to grown people. And so you have to then rely on the theology. You have to rely on the deeper wisdom that's been earned in blood and tears over the centuries here.
And I think part of the reason some African-Americans get so frustrated is that, oh, well, this is an isolated incident. If this were an isolated incident, this community would not have these deep reserves to draw upon. It's proof that this is something that our community has had to learn to come to terms with again and again.
Racial violence directed against us. Racial violence directed against our church. Proves, look at the levels of performance. You can't pull this out of your hat on any given Sunday. This has to be a deeply rooted part of your faith and your experience and your theology and your tradition. And I am proud of the black church today to show that we cannot be driven to hatred even by these acts.
TAPPER: One of the most remarkable things I think we saw last week when family members of the nine innocent souls taken from us Wednesday night spoke at the judicial hearing, at the -- at the bond hearing or whatever it was of this evil racist whose name I'm not going to use, and forgave him.
TAPPER: Told them that they forgave him. Hours, hours after their loved ones were killed.
JONES: That was shocking even within the black church because it showed a level of grace that is very hard to understand and very, very hard to comprehend. I think, for me, you know, when you saw the African-American police officer standing behind the racist terrorist, and the look on his face as he heard those words, too. He heard the words at the same time that the murderer heard the words -- the alleged murderer heard the words.
And there was a look of pain and also a pride on his face. And I think that look of pain and pride is something that all Americans should stand with. But, again, for me, you know, I know these songs. I grew up in the CME Church. We're very close to the AME Church. We have some differences but we're very close in Tennessee. I grew up in Tennessee, I was born in the black church.
I have been to a lot of funerals. I wish that we had less practice going to funerals between the street violence, the hate violence, sometimes unlawful police violence. Unfortunately we now have a culture where we know how to do funerals.
Let's not take it for granted. Let's -- I want other leaders to step forward and say, you know what, something is wrong. We hear you. We shouldn't be over and over again on CNN showing funerals. White, black, let's sit down now. Let's find a way forward. There are Christian white conservatives who know these songs, too.
JONES: There are Christian white conservatives who know this theology, too, and know this liturgy, too. I think that we should -- that should be a basis to come together. You cannot defeat demons as a Christian unless you face them. There are demons that we don't want to face in our country. And that's why it's hard for us to overcome them.
TAPPER: Let's go back inside the church.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Led by Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the Reverend Dr. Daniel Simmons, the Reverend Sharonda Coleman Singleton. Brother Tywanza Sanders, Sister DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Sister Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Sister Ethel Lance, Sister Susie Jackson.
Reminded this morning about the freshness of death, comes like a thief in the night. But I declare that Jesus said it a long time ago. He said, I am the resurrection and the life.
[10:20:23] Come now. The altar is open. Bring your burdens to the lord and leave them there. Whether you're praying for yourself or the nine families. Realizing that earth has no sorrow. That heaven cannot heal. Come.
TAPPER: We're going to take one more quick break. When we come back we'll go right back inside Mother Emanuel AME Church. Stay with us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ushers will direct you.
TAPPER: Welcome back. We're listening to the minister's sermon right now. After this we expect to hear the sermon that would have been delivered by the Reverend Clementa Pinckney had he not been so senselessly slaughtered last week.
[10:25:07] Let's go back inside and listen to the services.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This I know. Bible tells us so. Pray for our children. And as we try to make sense of the nonsense, we pray that God will give us the clarity of thought to share with them. God has already shared. Still room. Great is our faithfulness.
Why don't you sing in congregation.
(SINGING & MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ask that the ushers continue to help our parishioners as they come to the altar. There is still room. They are going now ...
TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick break and come back for services.
TAPPER: We are expecting to hear the main sermon in just a minute or so. And we will bring that to you live. Stay with CNN.
TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN. We are bringing to you live services at mother Emanuel AME church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, the police tape was up, but it has now been taken down. The pews are filled, and we are bringing you the services. We will bring you the sermon live when that starts. But before that starts, just a couple thoughts I want to get from CNN commentator Van Jones. Van, it has not escaped my notice, nor yours that there are thousands of people outside here bearing witness, listening to the services, coming together and the overwhelming majority of the crowd outside is white.
VAN JONES, CNN COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. Part of I think what's so shocking. Got here yesterday, didn't know what to expect. The coming together in this town is unbelievable. There are white churches that at 10:00 began ringing bells. And there were bells ringing literally across this city. And the local news was showing different congregations of people, and they were in tears. I mean the white community here is as heartbroken as the black community is here. And I don't know if people are seeing that. And if that spirit of reconciliation could ripple across the country. There are white people out here who are breaking down sobbing as much and more than the people in the church. At least the people in the church have the music to uplift them. Out here you are just confronted with the flowers and the pictures and the grief. And you hear the echoes. But you're not held in the church. But they are still here, and it is not cold out here. It is hot out here. And they're not leaving. And so, I hope that people who are watching at home - but listen, if they can come together here, if they can reach out to each other here, they can show gestures of support and love here, then why can't we do that in Washington D.C. and across the country where frankly, the reasons for the divisions are harder to understand.
JONES: Here you can understand division. There is none. There is none.
So, something is happening here in Charleston. I'm proud that we're showing it. I'm also proud of you for calling it what it is when you say that it is racist terrorism. We can't defeat demons that we can't face. Now, James Baldwin said, not everything that can be faced can be overcome, but nothing can be overcome until at least it is faced. Here they're facing the demons and they're coming together because they are facing the demons. I think there is a balm in Charleston for America. And I don't have words for it. I am not usually at a loss for words. I do not have words for what I am seeing.
TAPPER: It just seems as though, when there is Islamic terrorism, we all say we need to understand it, we need to condemn it. This is America's original sin, racism, slavery. We need to call it what it is and we need to talk about the ideology that leads to an action like this.
TAPPER: This young man, again, who I'm not going to name, he was a he was a lone wolf in no different way than an ISIS lone wolf.
JONES: Absolutely. Absolutely, and now what you are seeing are two different ideologies right here on the world stage. You have an ideology of hatred and an ideology of love. An ideology of blame that is about racial hatred. We have to say that. But we also have an ideology right here behind us of racial reconciliation. You can't appreciate the beauty of what you have behind you right now until you really name the hatred and the evil that have been just right behind us a few days ago. It's the ability to talk about both that gives us the ability to find meaning and to move forward truly together. Those leaders in the country, in both parties of all races, who don't want to deal with both, the fact of the racial hatred but also the potential for racial reconciliation I think are letting the country down. But people on the street, white people on the street here are showing more courage and more leadership and more honesty than I've seen in the halls of Washington D.C. And they need to be given a respect for that, and hopefully we can take this spirit forward.
TAPPER: And we'll be talking more in a little bit after the services. We'll be talking a little bit more about some of the other political issues at play here in terms of guns, in terms of the confederate flag, in terms of not only racism, but the fear of some politicians of offending racists. And those are issues that we'll talk about in a bit. But I do think it's important to also point out that we have seen Dr. Moore, who is no one's idea of a liberal, come out and say some very strong things about the confederate flag. Whether you believe them or not, it is not a traditional conservative point of view. And we have seen others talk about the need for racial reconciliation. On both sides of the political aisle. But as you say, it's important for us to highlight not just the ugliness and the hatred, but the beauty. The beauty that we see here in the hearts of the people inside those -- that church sitting at those pews, their joy, as you put it, and the love.
I remember flying into Denver after Columbine, after that massacre, and you could feel the grief.
TAPPER: You could feel that the city was in mourning and the city was in pain. This town is definitely in mourning and in pain, but it is a different feeling.
JONES: Yeah. And I think, again, that has its roots -- we don't like to talk about this stuff but we have to in this context. And we had 230 years of enslavement here. And that's where the black church was born. So it was born in grief. It was born in mourning. It was born in trying to find some way to make sense out of something that you can't make sense of. It was born in trying to find some forgiveness and understanding in a context that was unforgiving. And that moral root in the enslavement of African-Americans then pushes through into the period of Jim Crow, segregation and American apartheid. And you have 100 years of that, as the church continues to refine its theology and the ideology that says, we are going to love this country despite the rejection. And we're going to love this country into its best self.
Now Dr. King becomes the best expression of that, but he was not alone. You had a whole cadre of African-American preachers, male and female, congregational leaders, church leaders, choir leaders, singers, who brought that idea forward and basically finally completed the process of building a democracy.
JONES: You didn't really have a true democracy in America until the 1960s when you finally got everybody with a right to vote, a meaningful right to vote. That process wasn't just -- it started in the 1700s, it was finished by this kind of feeling you feel behind us. The feeling that you feel behind us. Black and white together. That was always the song. Black and white together. We shall overcome. Well, guess what. Theologically, demons are not defeated by your grandparents and then you're fine. Demons are not defeated by your grandparents and then you're fine. Demons are not defeated by your parents and then you're fine. You have to define and defeat those demons in yourself, in your own generation, in your own time and overcome them. And hopefully that's what's beginning to happen here in Charleston. There is an opportunity to confront and transcend the demons in our own generation.
TAPPER: To bring everyone up to speed with what's going on right now. VIPs in the audience are being recognized. The Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott, others. When the sermon begins we will absolutely stop talking and we'll bring that to you live.
Something else that doesn't escape notice, Van Jones, is that we're on Calhoun Street. Calhoun Street. Mother Emanuel AME Church is on a street named after a former vice president of the United States, a founding father, and a man who was an ardent supporter, ardent supporter of not just segregation, of slavery.
TAPPER: And look, I am from Philadelphia. We have our Calhouns also.
TAPPER: The Taney Dragons little league team with Mo'ne Davis, the amazing pitcher, a team I love to root for. Taney, former chief Supreme Court Justice Taney wrote the Dred Scott decision supporting slavery. This country's founding fathers, as great as so many of them were, had some very ugly, ugly beliefs. Not all of them, of course, but many of them.
JONES: But the remarkable thing about the country is that we start off in this sort of schizophrenia. The founding reality is ugly. The founding reality has enslavement. Women can't vote. The Native Americans are being oppressed. But there is this founding dream. So, you have Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner.
TAPPER: At the very least.
JONES: At the very least a slave owner. Founding reality ugly. But he writes, we hold these truths to be self-evident that all are created equal. So the slave owner with this ugly founding reality authors this beautiful founding dream. And that's what makes America America.
JONES: We continue to try to close the gap between that founding reality and its ugliness and the beauty of that founding dream. That's what America is. That's who we are.
TAPPER: Right. JONES: And now, when you say we can't deal with the founding reality.
We're going to throw that out. We're going to pretend that we were born perfect and that we just got worse and worse every year, you miss the whole point. We were born imperfect. And Jefferson himself, if you go to memorial, it says, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just. He feels heartbroken about the inability to overcome slavery and other birth defects. But guess what. He also says we're all created equal. And so here you have in Jefferson himself this struggle. And we as Americans carry that struggle forward. But here is the reality. We continue to close the gap.
TAPPER: And we continue to strive to be better.
TAPPER: I think that's the point.
JONES: The thing is, the people who say America is only the ugliness, they're wrong.
JONES: But the people who say that there is no ugliness or our grandparents dealt with it, let's move on, they also are wrong. And what you see here in Charleston is the ability to hold both. You cannot run from the hatred here. Because look at the -- they literally just took the yellow tape down.
JONES: So you can't run from the hatred, but you can't run from the love either. You can't look at this.
TAPPER: It is a demonstration as close to anything I've ever seen, maybe going back to the "Charlie Hebdo" rally in Paris, where there is an evil.
TAPPER: And then there is a love that literally comes out of the hearts and souls of the general public that just beats that evil back.
JONES: Right. Right. And so I wish that the people who are afraid to talk about race and racism have more confidence in the American people and have more confidence in the human spirit. We can face our demons. In fact, the only way to overcome them is to face them. They're being faced here. This idea that, if you raise the issue of racism you're playing the race card. If you raise the issue of racism, you are making it worse, if you would just shut up and quit talking about it, it would get better. Well, guess what. It doesn't get better. But the remarkable thing is that, when you do turn to face it, you find a strength in the country, and you certainly find a strength in some of these communities here that I think surprises people and can inspire the world.
[10:45:08] TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick break here while the choir sings, and then we will be right back and bring you more of the choir and the sermon. Thank you for joining us. We'll be right back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Fall down
CHOIR: Fall down.
TAPPER: Beautiful sounds of the choir at Mother Emanuel AME church. The joy that we've been discussing here as we watch these services. We're expecting the sermon to begin after this song. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). We thank God for another day's journey. Let me take this opportunity on behalf of the Reverend Richard Franklin Norris, the presiding prelate of the seventh episcopal district which encompasses the entire state of South Carolina and for the more than nearly 600 churches in South Carolina, along with Mother Doctor Marianne Norris, our episcopal supervisor, I would like to take this opportunity to express once more and again their heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the nine families. Including that of this church called Mother Emanuel. It has been tough. It's been rough. We've -- some of us have been downright angry. But through it all, God has sustained us. And has encouraged us. Let us not grow weary and well doing. The only reason that bishop and Mother Norris is not here is because he has recently received a kidney transplant, successfully.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And for that we say to God -- oh, you didn't hear me. To god be the glory!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me also take this opportunity to thank the connection of church of African Methodism, led on by the president of the Bishops Council, Bishop McAllister and the senior bishop of the church.