Day 5: Wednesday, June 17 (by Jonathan Bert)

June 18th, 2015

At dinner the other night, I sat and wondered what might be different if Dr. King were alive today. We have certainly come a long way since the Montgomery bus boycott. However, inequality is still rampant in our society. I am sure that Dr. King would not have stopped. I am certain that he would still be fighting for equal rights for women and for the LGBT community, for immigrants and for religious minorities. What I am saying is that I do not believe that we have carried on his legacy well. Perhaps we have become distracted from the cause or perhaps a wave of complacency has washed over this country. Whatever the reason, there is work to be done. There is still a need for change.

Tonight we had the joy of meeting Carolyn McKinstry and hearing her discuss the value of reconciliation in our world. Mrs. McKinstry was in the 16th Street Baptist Church when a bomb was set off in September of 1963, resulting in the death of four little girls, her friends. I would have loved to sit down with her for a couple of hours to discuss her thoughts on how reconciliation can happen in our country.

Something she said really struck me. When she was young, she often wondered about what was being preached in the white churches. Those who were responsible for killing African Americans and those who held up signs of hate, often did so in the name of Christianity. As a matter of fact, on a membership application for the KKK that I saw in a museum in Selma, being a Christian was one of the necessary qualifications to join. When Mrs. McKinstry went to earn her Master of Divinity and the students were taking turns explaining why they were there, her response was that she wanted to find out what they were reading. The message she heard in church was a gospel of love and she did not understand how it could be turned into such hatred. This story caused me to tear up. How many other little girls and boys grew up wondering the same thing? How did so many white people not get it? How do so many people today still not get it?

Although I have only read a couple of chapters of her book, I would like to share with you the last few paragraphs as I feel they are especially pertinent as we look to make changes in society.

As I ponder on the title of this book, While the World Watched, I see that the world has stood back passively and watched people hurt other people for many years. But now I believe it is time for us to stop watching. It is time for us, with God’s help, to take action. For some reason, God has chosen to use imperfect individuals like us to bring about his will and his Kingdom purposes on this fragile planet. I am convinced that through the intentional actions of caring, concerned individuals that we will see healing take place in this world.

Our society has taken down the signs on the public toilets and   water fountains, but the battle is not yet won. Governments and organizations haven’t been able to erase human suffering on earth. I have come to understand that hearts must be changed one person at a time in order to truly put racial prejudices and violence behind us. The better way—the only way—is the personal way. The only hope for true transformation is for concerned, compassionate individuals to stop watching and decide to become ambassadors of forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation. Only God can change hearts, but he can use us and our stories to reach out and touch those in need of healing.

As believers in Jesus Christ, our responsibility is to teach God’s love and forgiveness to a world where injustice and pain often rule. We must show the way of love—love for God and love for our neighbors. We as a people can no longer be silent. We must speak out in love and speak out against those things that hurt others.

For many years we have seen the effects of hate on our world.  Now it is time to prove what love will do. One day at a time, one individual at a time, and one act of kindness at a time—we can heal the world. We must stop watching and begin healing.

—Carolyn Maull McKinstry, While the World Watched (p.285–286)

May it be our mission to not stay silent. May it be our goal to speak out in love, overcome hate, and promote reconciliation.


Me and Carolyn Maull McKinstry

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