President Obama condemned the Confederate flag as well as gun violence during his eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, quickly turning political after recognizing the pastor for his simple gentleness.
“What a good man,” Obama said simply, nudging away a tear with his finger.
He pointed out how the crime cut more deeply because it occurred in a church, which he described as a “beating heart” of the community.
”The church is and always has been the center of African-American life,” says Obama, pointing to the history of black churches, in particular the history of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church.
Obama described the shooter as “blinded by hatred” trying to draw from the history of racist violent behavior.
“God works in mysterious ways, God has different ideas!” Obama shouted, adding the shooter was instead “being used by God” as the crowd stood and cheered.
But it wasn’t long before Obama got political, condemning the Confederacy represented by the Confederate.
Citing the lyrics of Amazing Grace, Obama pointed out that more needed to be done in America to see God’s grace.
He praised Gov. Nikki Haley’s call for the Confederate flag to be removed from the State Capitol grounds.
“For too long we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens,” he said.
Removing the Confederate flag, he said, would be an act that reminded Americans that “the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery was wrong.”
Obama said that the flag’s removal was only the beginning of the commitment Americans needed to take to make the world a better place.
“By taking down that flag we express God’s grace,” he said. “But I don’t think God wants us to stop there.”
He called for America to pay more attention to poverty, improving schools and education, to stop restricting voting rights, and to end racial discrimination in the nation’s justice system.
Obama then called for a “moral choice to change” American gun laws – adding that it “expresses God’s grace” to act.
“For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation,” he said, calling for Americans to search their hearts to support changes to gun laws.
Multiple shootings, he said, opened the eyes of Americans who were perhaps more willing to change.
“The majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners want to do something about this, we see that now,” Obama said, describing it as a “moral choice” that would “express God’s grace.
He concluded his speech by singing “Amazing Grace” with the congregation.