Stained Glass

June 19th, 2021

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the churches were at the front lines of civil rights. This includes churches such as Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, First Baptist Church, and Bethel Baptist Church Interpretive Center. The most well-renowned hero of the civil rights movement himself Martin Luther King Jr. was well-known to be a pastor. Don’t forget Rev. Shuttlesworth and Ralph Abernathy. Churches were the center of community, and during these times they became fortresses for the outcast. Using their local influence, the best way to communicate and organize for the movement would be through the church, because of how in tune they were with people regardless of background.

However, there were other churches that twisted the biblical message in the opposite way. Using their influence in the white supremacist community, they motivated their congregation’s actions by twisting the Word in other directions. They would promote ideas of God ordaining the separation of His creation, saying, “Ethnic prejudice is as universal and deep as the foundations of the earth,” or,”God Almighty drew the line and it cannot be obliterated.”

So where do churches stand today? I am dismayed to say that (with bias from my representative heuristic) churches have been hurtful to many changes for the better, even the leftover steps of racial integration that could not be completed last century. The balance has not been found of cultural integration and theological maintenance. Swinging too far to one side, we have forgotten the second greatest commandment of “Love your neighbor as yoursel.” McKinstry spoke to us about the necessity of knowing our Bible and how it applies to us and the time we live in, not just its first impression upon reading. As C.S. Lewis wrote, God and God alone ultimately reconciles our sin. Therefore, our judgement should not be to attack well-founded (though different) interpretations. Instead, it should first be to reconcile with each other, “removing whatever seperates us” (McKinstry). Maybe churches can restore practices of unity through diversity and be return to the front lines of reform.

Jon Sison

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