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Chris Singleton: Racial Violence, Loss, and Finding Your Way Out

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
October 3, 2022 3:00 am

Chris Singleton: Racial Violence, Loss, and Finding Your Way Out

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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October 3, 2022 3:00 am

Speaker & baseball pro Chris Singleton speaks about his mother’s death to racial violence—as well as seeking God amidst his gut-wrenching loss.

Our Daily Bread Ministries
Various Hosts
Matt Slick Live!
Matt Slick
Focus on the Family
Jim Daly

There was an event that took place in 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina that I don't think anyone will ever forget.

I remember that too. Devastating. Nine people killed by a young man, 21 years old. That a white male in his early 20s walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and began shooting.

Mr. Roof is charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a weapon during the commission of the crime. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people.

Roof showed no emotion as relatives of the victims addressed him over a video link. Every fiber in my body hurts. I would never talk to her ever again.

I would never be able to hold her again. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on the Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. That was a day our country was rocked, and I remember it because it had an effect on me. It had an effect on people that were there. And we've got a gentleman in the studio today who was personally affected. Chris Singleton is with us today, who travels the country as an inspirational speaker, former professional baseball player. So, Chris, I've heard you speak. You know, you're a YouTube phenomenon. Did you know that? Well, I didn't know that, man. I didn't, but I appreciate that for sure, man.

No, I mean, I've watched you, you know, in front of little kids and high schoolers and even businessmen and women. And one of the things I'll never forget, and I'd love to hear you talk about this, is what you call your five numbers. You know, 170, 50, 9, and 1. Did you see that? I didn't even have to look at my notes. I was pretty impressed by that, actually.

That was really good, man. No, I mean, when I first heard you say those numbers, I thought, you know, you're a baseball guy. You're talking about your average. You know, you said 170. I'm like, oh, 170?

Is that what he hit? And then you walk through those numbers, and it's really life-changing. So, help our listeners understand, what do those numbers mean?

I call it my struggle moment, man. Those numbers, to me, they keep me going every single day. So, there was one person that was misinformed and misled to hate people that looked like me. And unfortunately, this one person, he walked into my church, Mother Emanuel AME, and fired over 70 bullets. And during Bible study that night, over 50 of those bullets entered bodies.

He took nine lives, and one of those lives happened to be my hero, my mom. So, those numbers, to me, when it gets tough being on the road, when it gets tough being away from my family, those numbers lock me back in, and they keep me going to keep spreading the good word. Yeah.

So, can you take us back? I mean, you get a phone call. You're what, 18 years old? 17? 18 years old. I just finished my freshman year of college. Had a pretty good freshman year playing this mid-major school.

Pretty good. I mean, you even beat Clemson. Yeah, we did. Isn't that the first time in school history? First time in school history, we beat Clemson, man. Did you do anything in that game? I did. I had a great game, man. That was fun.

I already know this. I'm trying to let you tell everybody how great you are. Well, thank you for throwing me an alley-oop. I like that, man. So, we beat Clemson, four hits, dive and catch. And the coolest thing for me, man, my mom was such a baseball mom that she was a teacher at my high school.

She's on the intercom the next day. Did y'all see my baby last night? He had such a good game. Really? Man, phenomenal freshman season. But I call it the unthinkable is what happened to me and my family, because we see stuff like that on TV and in the newspapers or on our phone.

We're scrolling. But we never think it'll happen to us. And that's what that night, June 17, 2015, was for me. I get a phone call to come down to our church because something bad happened.

And ultimately, I get down there and I realize that it wasn't just something bad, but it was the unimaginable that my mother and eight other people were shot and killed. So, Chris, you have two younger siblings. I do.

I do. Did they go to the church with you or the hospital? I went straight to my church.

You know, this is fresh. And somebody said, Chris, get down here. So, I went down to my church and they put us in this hotel is what they had us in.

At this time, you know, you see all the social media stuff coming to your phone. Everybody's calling you, but nobody's telling you anything. You just know something bad has happened. And I didn't tell my brother and sister to come down there because I had no idea what the severity of it. So, ultimately, though, that night, I had to tell them that mom was gone. It wasn't just me. I had my high school sweetheart, my wife now that was there with me to help me break that news to them. But it was really, really rough for us in that moment.

If I remember right, you got a call from your mom's phone. Yep. So, you almost think it's her. Exactly. But it's not. So, you have no idea.

You get down there. When they say your mom was gone, because not everybody was killed. Nine were killed and she's one of them. Do you remember thinking, what do I do? Or what was your first thought? Were you angry?

Were you sad? Walk us through your emotions. First of all, when I got down there, I was just extremely anxious. I didn't know what was going to happen. And we're in a hotel room, but it's actually like a conference room in the hotel. And so, everybody in there is screaming and all the stuff's happening there, police in and out. And give us the details of what happened. Someone walked in.

Yeah. This guy walked in with eight magazines of bullets with hate in his heart, his mission of starting a race war. And he fired all those bullets in my church because of the color of their skin.

That's what happened. But that night, I didn't know why it happened or what was going on. I just knew that my mom went to Bible study. And later on that night, there was a coroner there.

And I always mentioned that I hope people are privileged enough to not know who the coroner is. Because I was 18 and I didn't know who she was. But she said to me, Chris, can you describe your mom as what she asked me to do? Ultimately, I thought, well, she asked me to describe this because my mom has hurt so bad. Or she asked me this because she's trying to confirm that my mom's okay. And so, I described my mom and finally she said, Chris, it's confirmed your mother's been taken away.

And so, when I heard that, it's like, you know, you go numb. And telling my brother and sister is probably one of the toughest things I've ever had to do in my life. How old were they at the time? Little brother, 12. Little sister, 15.

So, middle school, high school. Telling them that our hero, our mom, was no longer with us. And your dad? Dad wasn't there that night.

He wasn't doing too well. And so, I called him and, you know, called other people. I actually called my high school basketball coach. That's why I got such a great relationship with him. Because we think, sometimes as educators, you think you're doing what you're doing.

Maybe you're making an impact. But when my dad didn't answer, you know, my friends are calling me and this and that. And the third, I called my coach. And so, for me, that night was rough. It was really rough. There was no sleep that night.

My little brother, who was 12, actually slept in the bed next to him. And, you know, he's crying himself to sleep. And for a period there, I didn't give myself any time.

You know, I just started thinking, what do I got to do for them? And we always hear, you know, Chris be strong, stay strong. And so, I thought being strong meant never crying. I thought being strong meant never showing any emotion. And so, there was a small period of time where I thought strength was being a robot. And life has a funny way of letting you, you know, realize that's not strength.

That's just being fake. I'm grateful that God gave me the wisdom to be a real man and show emotion. And finally, you know, come back down to earth and figure out that, hey, we're all human. We all go through things and showing emotion doesn't mean you're weak.

It just means you're a human being. I mean, you had to keep it together. I mean, in some ways, were you the dad to your siblings? You know, I always say I was like a father figure. But I realized really quickly that being a father figure wouldn't work for them. Because I'm saying, hey, make sure you do this, do that, you know, straight A's, this, that, and the third.

They're like, Chris, if you don't get out of my face, man. So, I realized I just got to be a big brother because father figure wasn't going to cut it. But definitely taking care of them and always told them, hey, we want to make mom proud.

You know, we can't let mom down unless you do what she wants us to do. Whether she's here on earth or not, we know that she's rejoicing in a better place. Did you know the other victims that were killed that night? Did you know any of them?

Absolutely. You know, Mother Emanuel, you know, we're a small church. I always joke that the average age of Mother Emanuel had to be like 65. You know, it was an old church, right? And so, the young families, we stuck together, you know, everybody was like, you know, grandma, grandpa, or auntie, uncle. And so, when you did well at your game, everybody at the church knew. You know, when you got a scholarship to play in college, everybody at the church knew they celebrated you. It's like a family. Oh, man, for sure, it's a family. So, I knew everybody that lost their life that night, for sure. Oh, so, I'm just wondering, here you are, this young man.

This person walks in to start a race war. How are you not enraged? Did you get to the point where you're sad? You said you were in shock. Did you get angry? You know, sometimes people ask me, Chris, would you change a thing?

Well, absolutely, I would. I want my mom here with me. But I know for a fact that God put forgiveness in my heart because there's no way in the world that I could have said that I forgave my mother's killer. And the way that I describe it is when I forgave my mother's killer, it was like a reporter kind of rushed me and said, hey, Chris, you know, how do you feel about it?

I remember she was from the BBC. She said, how do you feel about all these things happening? What do you think about the killer? And I said, you know, I already forgive him.

Our family already forgives him. And my sister looks over at me like, we what? Right? And for me, I describe it as being on autopilot. You know, you know, you're driving home sometimes and you don't even know if you turn left or right, but you just get into your driveway. You're like, man, I don't know what stop light I was at.

I don't know what stop sign. I was on autopilot. And that's what it was for me when I forgave my mother's killer. And I know why now.

I know why. Because forgiveness wasn't just for me that day. It was for so many people that were like, man, if this guy and these families can forgive, how can I not? I've just seen so much good come from it. But I was upset then that my mom was no longer here.

I'm still upset that my mom won't see her grandsons play T-ball. So I'll forever be upset. But I think angry and having anger and no, I don't feel that in my heart right now. I haven't ever. I mean, was there a, do you remember a process of walking through, like you said, the anger to the forgiveness? Was it instantaneous or did it take a while? And what was that like?

No, man. I think, you know, when I first lost my mom, we didn't, we didn't know that she was killed because of the color of her skin. We just knew that a guy walked in and did that.

Right. It was just a mass shooting. We didn't know why the mass shooting happened.

And so I would just devastated that my mom was gone. I thought it was just, you know, a mass shooting that happened. I didn't know the reasoning behind it or nothing like that. I immediately looked at my brother and sister and said, man, you know, our mom is who feeds us. What are we about to do?

I have no idea. I didn't know anything about car insurance, didn't know anything about health care. I didn't know anything.

I was blessed to have a mom that took care of all that stuff. And so I didn't know. And so immediately I'm trying to figure out, well, how are we eating on Tuesday night?

Who's driving the school for the next five years? Like what's going to happen? And so that, that's what the process was for me initially. Now, when things died down, the media went away and all that stuff happened. Then I was able to sit down and think, man, my mom was really killed because she's black.

That's a terrible way for somebody to go. And I'm so grateful that in that time, I think God was molding me. Because me personally, man, if it was just up to me, I would have been like, hey, this happened.

I want to play my sport and that that's it. But God had other plans for me. And I didn't see that at the time, but I see that now. And the process for me with forgiveness is simple.

I think you got to say it out loud, right? I forgive Dylann Roof. I forgive him from taking my mother's life. And I think there's got to be something on the other side of that forgiveness, right? As a believer, there's something on the other side of salvation for us.

When we die, we, you know, there's eternal life. And so for me, on the other side of forgiveness, I think, man, now I don't have to think every single young white male is racist. That's on the other side of forgiveness for me. On the other side is now I don't have to be nervous when I walk into a room and I can have the door behind me and not be scared on the other side of forgiveness. So there's got to be something on the other side of it when you talk about the process of it. But initially, man, God put it on my heart.

I'd be giving myself way too much credit saying I did this and that and processing it. No, God put it on my heart. That happened and now I know why. I'm listening to you thinking, man, this faith. You're 18 years old and yet you had this foundational faith.

How did that come about? Yeah, I was raised in the church, but, you know, being raised in a church doesn't mean anything. It just means you have a, you don't got a choice.

That's what that means, right? And so I went to church like any other kid would. But, you know, I say there's a crossroads. When you go through something really tough, especially when your mom is murdered while she's praying, right? Praying in church. She was praying.

Yeah, in Bible study. You can say, hey, my mom is murdered in church. There's no way God is real. You could say that or you could say, God, I don't know how in the world this happened or why it happened, but I know only you can get me through it. And I went with the ladder and because I've gone with the ladder, that's where my faith has been strengthened tenfold. And I'm super practical about things because, you know, if your mom is murdered while she's praying, you could say, man, Chris, how could she be killed if she's praying to the God that you serve? Right. I said, God, I don't know how.

I don't know why, but I know only you can get me through this mess. And God has come through time and time after again. So I think my faith is definitely strengthened after it. I used to read my mother's Bible. She used to read from cover to cover. She was one of those types of people.

Right. Every year read cover to cover and she would highlight things. For me, finally reading the Bible by myself, not just, you know, trusting my pastor to do it or my mom to do it. Me read myself, I read her Bibles and in reading those scriptures, that's when I found my faith, not just relying on my mom or my pastor, but I found a relationship for myself. I mean, was there ever a moment where you, you know, struggled with the how in the world does my mom or anybody go to a church, sit in a Bible study, pray and lose their life? Did you ever struggle with, God, what are you doing?

Or did your siblings? I never struggled with the how, because I think, you know, there's obviously good in the world, but there's some real bad in the world, unfortunately. Right. There's some people that want to do evil things. And I've realized that we have the gift of free will.

So some people are going to use it and it's going to be cursed. And so I never struggled with the how, but I always struggle with the why. Like, why, you know, why did my mom have to go? You know, the person that would love everybody, you know, she was a track coach, would take you home from school after practice and say, hey, did you get a meal?

If not, let's go to, you know, Wendy's or Hardee's or something real quick. So I struggle with the, you know, why, why my mom? As far as my faith, I'm so grateful that I didn't go the other way. But, you know, my brother had a point in time where he said, Chris, you know, man, I see you're real strong in your faith, man, but come on now. Come on now.

Mom's praying and that's the same God that you're praying to. You know, so he really struggled with that for a while. And I struggle with it being big brother. I said, man, if my brother gets in a car accident, I don't know where he's going right now. You know what I'm saying?

And so I really struggle with that. But there was a guy who was a chaplain for the Patriots. His name's Jack used to be.

He's with the Texans now. I know Jack. Yeah, I asked Jack about it. I said, man, what am I supposed to do? My brother, you know, he says, no, that guy's not real. He's telling me all this stuff. I'm supposed to be leading him. He said, Chris, you don't push him right now. You push him right now.

He's never coming back. But he definitely had that struggle with, you know, man, Chris, I understand your faith has been strengthened because of it. But, you know, my mom was praying and she got killed.

So it's tough for me to believe. He definitely had that. I'm interested, like when you called your basketball coach, what did he say to you? This is a guy that has been there through everything for me. He's actually, I always say this. He's actually the first white person I've ever heard say I love you to me. And he truly meant it too.

He poured into us. And we still have that relationship to this day. But talking to him is all about encouragement. Sometimes it's not about what you say, but it's about being able to pick up the phone and just hear somebody's voice. And even today I'll text him every now and then just say, hey, thank you for all you've done for me in my life. And he's always like, man, I love you, Chris. So we still have that relationship. But being present sometimes is more important than figuring out the right words to say. Some people ask me, what should I say to this person?

Sometimes the words aren't going to cut it, but just being there lets them know that, hey, you care about them. So you were, you know, still in college at the time, right? Yep. So help us understand you're actually going back to school and playing baseball. I know, Dave. I'm still worried about how did your brother and sister get to school and how did they get fed? Because your dad was just AWOL. He just wasn't part of the... You know, he struggled, man.

I would say in my mind, my dad struggled with alcohol pretty bad. So in my mind, I said, man, this is going to get my dad back on track, man. You know, losing my mom, he's got no choice but to step up to the plate. It'd be a wake up call. You know, it'd be a wake up call is what I was thinking. But no, it was too much for him.

He was really sick. And so my aunt, she actually stepped up to the plate and they moved with my aunt for a year. And it was rough for them. They didn't want to be in Atlanta.

They wanted to be in Charleston where we're from. And so for about a year, year and a half, they lived there until I got drafted by the Cubs. And my whole college career after that was, hey, I'm going to make my mom proud. You know, she was always the baseball mom. I'm going to get drafted for my mom. You know, I always have this hashtag that says, can't let moms down.

Every post that I make says, can't let moms down. That was my goal, being an athlete in college. All I wanted to do was just play sports. I would get all the interviews. Hey, Chris, you want to do this, do that? You know, I'll do it. But baseball is my thing.

That's what I do. And that's how life was for a couple of years after I lost my mom. So tell us about, you know, you get drafted, you're playing baseball, you're married. Yep, married. And you have any kids at home at that time when you were in the minor leagues? I did. Yeah.

I had my little man, CJ, Chris Jr. So he's at home. You're on the road, you know, trying to make it to the bigs. Yeah. You're not playing baseball now. No. Walk us through the end of that.

I always say anybody that is married to an athlete, they got to be superwoman because, you know, you're gone a lot. Yeah. I was gone seven months out of the year. And at home, it's not just our son. It's my little brother and my little sister. They lived with you. They lived with me.

They lived with us. And so my wife is literally like superwoman. Your wife is superwoman. Oh, she is. Do you have your brother and sister living with your wife?

As soon as you got married, did they come to live with you? Yeah. And we're 21. We're 20. We might be 20. We might be 20 at the time.

And they're teenagers. So we're like, you know, it's hard, but we got through it. Let's just say that. I'm guessing you got a phone call or two from your wife. Oh my goodness. Yeah. I got the phone calls. Hey, Chris, this happened, that happened. I'm always trying to be man in the middle.

Hey, you know, let's just love everybody. So I got those, but I'm chasing my dream playing baseball, played a couple seasons. I love the Cubs, man. I got drafted by the Cubs. The first time ever going to a therapist was when I was playing the minor leagues because I struggle with my sport.

You know, everybody's like, oh, Chris, you know, you're letting your sport get you down, man. You've been through so much, you know, you've been through all this and you're letting baseball hurt you. And I was saying, man, baseball has been the one thing that I could have an escape from all the stuff I was going through. And when I wasn't having the success, it was tough for me, man, mentally.

I started seeing a therapist, it was free therapy, which was super eye-opening for me. I went for about a year. And then I ultimately, in 2019, I got released by the Cubs and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I'd been speaking in the off season, I got married on TV, I got married on Lifetime, so people saw me there. Wait, wait, wait, wait.

How did that happen? We got married on Lifetime. Somebody deemed me on social media, hey, Chris, we saw your story on ESPN, we think you deserve a free wedding.

I said, okay, well, let me give you my credit card number, that's what you want or something. Free wedding. And they said, no, we got the show, we think you deserve it.

And sure enough, Lifetime calls me, hey, Chris, we want you on the show. And so we got married on live TV, live TV. And they paid for everything? Paid for everything. Wedding dress?

That's the best part, it's free? Wedding dress. What? Ring?

The guy named, his name is David Tetera. No, I bought the ring. I bought the ring. I'm glad you bought the ring. You got to show some commitment.

You got to have some skin in the game. You're right. It doesn't count if you give her a free ring. But the guy, David Tetera, actually, he created a dress for my wife. She said, hey, I want my dress to look like this. And he created a dress for her called the Mariana, which is my wife's name. Free wedding. She's got her own dress.

It's phenomenal. You know, honey, I just want to say I'm so sorry. Our wedding was nothing like that. It wasn't your fault.

We had paper Pepsi Cola cups at our reception. Anyway, wow. Yeah, I like that, though.

That means it's strong strength right there. We made it 41 years. It has nothing to do with how much money you spend on the wedding. But that's so sweet. So your wedding is paid for. You get married. You guys are 20 years old.

Yeah, we're 20 years old. And here's the thing, you know, you know, being around pro sports over three decades, one of the hardest things is for an athlete to end the career when the career ends, whether it's by injury or personal choice, or you just don't get resigned. So you had that moment where they're looking at you saying, you know, I don't see a future. Did you struggle? Did you want to keep going? Did you walk away? What was that?

I walked away, man. I think for me, what I see with a lot of athletes is they don't know who they are. They just know what sport they play.

Right. So you meet somebody, Hey, I'm Chris. I'm a baseball player.

And that's all they know that they are. And so when your sports over, you have an identity crisis, right? You know, for me, I had a mission, Hey, I was signed every single signature, Chris Singleton, love is greater than hate. People would ask me, what does that mean, man? Tell them about my story. I got this mission of unity.

Now. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I was speaking in the off season. I was getting opportunities. And so when I got released, I immediately, you know, made a social media post, Hey, I'm done playing ball, but I'm going to continue this mission of teaching love, teaching how we can come together in practical ways. So that's what I started to do.

And God has blessed it ever since. So you've been doing, you said earlier, 150 or so engagements a year. Tone that down about a hundred, to be honest with you coming up pretty soon. But me and my wife actually sit down every year. We talk about how many days I can be gone. So we sit, we'll have gone a couple of strip in December and we'll say, you know, baby, how many days are you thinking this year? And this year was one 50 the year before she said, Hey, you know, if you're working as much, I'm not going to work. I'm gonna stay at home with the kids. I said, awesome. That was the transition the year before.

This year, her getting a babysitter sometimes to help out. I was another transition. And so I want to make sure that I don't become a public success and private failure. One of my favorite mentors, Inky Johnson said that, and that stuck with me. I never want to become a person where I'm speaking on a stage one day and somebody asked my wife, she says, Oh man, Chris is a great guy. And my biggest fear is that she says, well, no, he's not.

Maybe he's a good guy to you, but he's not getting a guy to us. That's a fear that I have. I have nightmares about that. So I will never let that happen. Yeah. I always say, you know, when a guy says to me, and this happened hundreds of times, you know, and his wife standing right beside him and he says something like this, God's number one in my life.

My wife and my family's number two and my job is number three. I never look at the guy. I always look at his wife, you know, when he's saying that it's like her face, her countenance will tell you this is true. Like she'll be smiling and like, yeah. Or she'll be like looking off or even maybe rolling her eyes like, yeah, he's saying that, but it's not real. So you're saying it's really your wife that determines if your marriage is good.

Absolutely, man. That's Dave and Anne Wilson with Chris Singleton on Family Life Today. Stick around. You'll want to hear what Chris has to say about being on the same page as your spouse in just a minute. But first, Chris has written a children's book called Your Life Matters, and you can get a copy at or by calling 800-358-6329.

That's 800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Now, if your house is anything like mine, then you're getting the family ready for all things fall, you know, like hooded sweatshirts and pumpkin spice, everything. Well, now you can add to that Family Life's newest resource called Gospel in a Pumpkin. It's a free download with activities, pumpkin face stencil sheets, and a guided script to help your kids learn about what matters most while you get your hands gooey and decimate, I mean, really just decorate some pumpkins. You can download Gospel in a Pumpkin for free today at And if you think the world needs more families talking about the Gospel around the kitchen table during this season, would you give to Family Life and make more resources like this available for more families?

You can partner with Family Life by giving today at, or you can donate over the phone by calling 800-358-6329. That's 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. All right, here's Chris Singleton on the importance of sharing the same mission as a married couple. And everybody says the cliche answer, hey, why do you do what you do? I'm my family. Everybody says that, right?

But you know, being gone 150 days a year, I'm not with my family a lot. And so for me, I always say, hey, baby, this is the mission. And if she didn't see fruit from that mission, she'd be like, uh-uh, you staying home. But I take screenshots of every DM that I get from somebody saying, Chris, what you did today changed my heart. What you did today, you know, makes me think I can keep going. And so I'll save all those so she knows, hey, he's not out there twiddling his thumbs. He's trying to do the good work. And she believes in my message and my mission. So it's been good.

Well, I was going to say, you can't do it without her either. Like you guys are a great team. You're in a team ministry. And I love that you're sending those to her because you're saying, look what we are doing for the kingdom and for unity in the body.

I love it. Chris Singleton, The Division Between Us And tomorrow, Chris Singleton will be back with David Ann to talk about how we are all valuable and that finding the individuality of those around us can fight the division between us. That's tomorrow. The audio clips at the beginning of today's episode came from Charleston County Government and Voice of America. On behalf of David Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-28 06:41:46 / 2022-12-28 06:55:57 / 14

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