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What the [White] Church Can Learn from Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Jessup Think
Jessup Think
What the [White] Church Can Learn from Dr. King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

Dr. Meghan McMahonJohnson joins Mark and Rex to discuss the current unrest in America regarding racial injustice. The Church has much to learn from King’s prophetic and profound letter.


Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host Mark Moore, and I’m your co host Rex Gurney. In today’s episode, we’ll explore the current unrest in America concerning racial injustice and inequality. And the conversation will be framed by Dr. King’s profound and prophetic letter from a Birmingham Jail. The church in the white church most explicitly has so much to learn from his wisdom and insight. We’re joined by Dr. Megan McMahon Johnson, who’s our Director of Student care here at Jessa. And we hope you enjoy the sale. We hope it challenges you to think more deeply about issues of race in the church’s response.

All right, well, we’ve we’ve got a pretty easy topic today, we can just smooth sailing through this one. It’s clear in our world today, and particularly our nation, that we need help. We need healing. We need wisdom. We need guidance, guidance. And there’s been so many responses to kind of the social unrest and the protests that have happened over the last couple of weeks. And some of the responses have been really helpful, and really wise, and others, not so much. And, and so we want to kind of talk about today, like how the church has been responding. And, and for me, considering some of the churches, some of the statements that I’ve heard from the church recently, particularly the white church, I was drawn back to Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham Jail. And I had to I had to remind myself that while King is praised now, he wasn’t always praised by the church. And in the 60s, wasn’t always well received, was misunderstood was misquoted. And, and I needed to kind of remind myself of that, you know, and so I kinda was just doing some research on, on how particularly how the white church responded to King during his, during his work for, for civil rights. And I was pretty shocked by reading the letter from Birmingham jail again, through the lens of our current situation, how timely it was, and how if you didn’t know, that was written in April of 1963, you were thought he wrote it, in May of

a lot of the rhetoric, a lot of the rhetoric has not changed at all, at all, actually, Ryan, and especially the rhetoric that he was pushing up against hasn’t.

Right. Yeah. And and it’s sadly that case, you know, that we haven’t maybe learned from, from our mistakes, learn from our Centurion, Rex, I know, we’ve talked about this a lot, like has a history professor, this is our chance to, to be able to look back at history and and really learn or relearn these things are attempt to learn.

Yeah, I actually have, we may not want to look back of that much right history, because it actually hasn’t been that good with us. I mean, we might as well just sort of admit it. I am. Yeah, that’s so true. Yeah. You know, I grew up into domination. And, you know, I’m grateful for the denomination I grew up in. That’s the Southern Baptist Convention. You know, which is sort of like, I don’t know, the Catholic Church of the south or something. You know, it is, um, you know, the very fact that that denomination exists, is because of slavery. And because of basically, the, the Southern Baptist wanted to appoint slaveholders, missionaries. And the Baptist in the north said, No way. And the Baptist in the south just went their own way, and then became this huge thing. That’s sort of born literally in in racism. And And honestly, it’s just true. And even until the early 60s, if you were African American, and you tried to go to First Baptist Church of I don’t know, you know, almost anywhere in the south. Yeah. And tried to enter you would be ushered out by by the white deacons and the white ushers and told that you are not welcome. And that’s not that long ago. In fact, that’s that’s kind of almost was sort of surrounding Dr. King’s letter from Birmingham Jail. That’s in Birmingham, Alabama, if any of his folks tried to go to a white church, they would have been treated the same, you know, by people that I’m sure in many ways were good people or thought of themselves as good people, but you know, is this racist thing going on? And so I’m pretty sure familiar with that growing up with that?

And I think, sorry, I think the, the really important pieces in this to point out is kind of the structural foundation to all of this, and how, where it’s rooted, right? Because, you know, we always say, we have that saying, you know, we don’t learn from the past, you know, history tends to, you know, repeat itself. But unless we can really address the roots of, of where we are right now, we don’t get the full understanding or the full meaning of why there is sort of this contention about where we are as a society right now. Yeah. It’s so true.

Especially because so many, so many folks. I mean, you know, just assumed we were beyond this, and anybody who had actually was taking the temperature of anything with no, we weren’t, but but, you know, we sort of, and I say, we, and that’s my tribe, basically, right, white evangelical Christians just sort of thought we were beyond this, and then we find out that we’re actually not. Right.

Right. And, and, and I think, for me, that’s what’s been really eye opening is just hearing some of the responses to, to the demonstrations and protests, and, and not hearing anything about the underlying causes behind the demonstrations.

Historically, I think, I mean, there’s a real reason for that, and part of this, because, you know, we as evangelicals tend to look at at sin, in personal terms, and not in systemic terms or structural terms. And so, you know, it’s like, well, I don’t Harbor, you know, racist thoughts, or I don’t think I harbor consciously racist thoughts. So everything’s okay. Because you’ve personalized it, not realizing that you benefit from a system that’s totally, you know, built on white privilege. Yeah. And that system has been in place for a long time and is still in place. And the issues are systemic, right, not just personal. Right.

I mean, that’s, that’s an amazing point. I wish there were there were more people who could see it that way. And that is not, you know, one of the biggest things I hear is, you know, what, I didn’t do it, you know, it’s not me, you know, I’m not, you know, I didn’t, you know, do these things to to Africans or to, to black people. But it right now, we really have to look at this, how it’s built into the very fabric of everything that we do, right. All of our systems are based off of the backs of slavery and white supremacy, and it still permeates very deeply within our laws within you know, we, especially with what’s going on now with our our criminal justice system, our police department, education, housing, like, this is a big thing. Right? It’s a big thing, you know, and we, the current environment leans toward reform within our criminal justice system in our police departments. But that really is just one piece of a larger of a larger hole, it is still a symptom of a larger problem that that exists within our country.

And the folks don’t, I mean, you know, folks like me, and I just need to open up to the fact that I’m a white American, and, and folks like me, don’t like to talk about it. I just actually read a book just a few months ago called white fragility, things that made its way to the New York Times bestseller list. And as I was reading through there, I was just thinking of so many people, I know that if you even mentioned the word like that, we still have a race problem or such. They get very, very defensive, very defensive, because personally, they don’t think they do and so they don’t still want to talk about it right. Now change the subject. It’s like the thing we can’t talk about the, you know, the elephant in the room that we can’t talk about, right?

If you don’t want to put people in a place of guilt, or, you know, any sort of conversation, right, like that’s, that’s not the goal. And and I think that’s the, sometimes the easy way to kind of lean out is that well, don’t make me feel guilty about something that you know, my ancestors did, and I’m like, Okay, well, no, that’s not really the point of bringing this up, right or, or putting these issues on the forefront.

But the fact that I can be who I am and enjoy the privileges that I have, because like my ancestors did what they did. I really, you know, wanted to get back to it. Dr. King’s letter because that’s, that’s what we’re talking about. This is just such a deep and expensive subject here. But yeah, you know, when I, when I, you know, read, think about white privilege and understand that I, myself have benefited from that often I, I don’t know what to do. And I know that sometimes when you don’t know what to do, because this because it’s so ingrained, and it’s so it would mean, change, it would mean some things about me and my situation culturally would have to change. And now is a big ticket for a lot of people and spec ticket for me. I mean, I don’t want to, you know, I guess some people say I’m, you know, one of those white liberals, and we’re part of the problem and actually has been reading some articles that say that, you know, for all of our bloviating, we actually have not done much to really address this issue either. And so it can make people like me feel sort of helpless, actually, about how to address things. And that’s not where I want to be. And that’s not where we need to be.

Yeah, and that’s, I think that’s what I find so helpful about Dr. King’s letter, because kind of going to his letter, you can look at how the particularly the white church and and with the letter from Birmingham Jail, just a little background. There was a statement put out, Dr. King was in Birmingham, speaking out against injustice is the many in justices that were happening in Birmingham, Alabama, at the time in the early 60s, in a group of white pastors, initially, in 1963. In January, they wrote kind of an open statement, calling for what they deemed law and order and common sense. It’s interesting how that language is added about today. Right, which Yeah, we need to be in tune to the language. And then again in April, and I think it actually was on Good Friday, they released a group of eight white clergymen from Birmingham, seven pastors, and one rabbi, kind of sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it was seven pastors and a rabbi, they released a statement and then King’s King’s letter from a Birmingham jail is in response to their statement. And in their statement they called King’s actions and his associates actions and the demonstrations in Birmingham, unwise and untimely. And he read their response. And then he gives us what I think is one of the most poignant and inspired letters of the 20th century. And, and his response, and his kind of understanding their condemnation can help us I think, learn Rex what to do, and how to move forward or at least how to begin to move forward what our posture could be. And one of one of the first things he says, which I think is really important for us during this time, he says this, he says, You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I’m sorry to say fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations, I’m sure that none of you would want to rest content with a superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham. But it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative. And it just when I read that, I was like, oh, cuz I’m, it’s so easy to hear that message from the church today of like, I wish there weren’t demonstrations, I wish, you know, I wish there was peace. But they don’t. And we could say we don’t right, express maybe the same amount of concern for the underlying causes behind the demonstration. And perhaps maybe that’s, at the very least, you know, I’m trying to look for like, bare minimum. At the very least, we can at least express a similar concern for the root causes of the demonstrations, as much as we are just calling for peace in our cities or, quote unquote, law and order and we’ll get to we’ll get to that phrase later as well.

I think it goes a lot also toward you know, we hear the church say a lot you know, there has to be unity. And there you know, this this idea and you know, rightly so of reconciliation that we hear now, like those are the words that we that we use today. But in order for there to be unity or something Some sort of reconciliation, there also has to be this admittance that there is something wrong that we are reconciling. Right? And that, it seems that now we are, we here, we’re dealing with the same thing that that Dr. King was expressing to two B’s, you know, white evangelicals at the time, like you, you don’t want us to do this, but you’re not addressing why we’re doing. The same thing we hear now, you want to call for unity, and that we are, you know, one race and all one under God, but we’re still not addressing why we’re, you have people that are calling out and, and expressing anger and frustration and sadness over their treatment. So, you know, we see these two parallels right, of 1963 and 2020.

Right, and, and we’ve got to, we’ve got to be able to see those parallels and begun, I think you’re so correct of, of our now our posture, I think has to include I mean, before there’s unity, or reconciliation, or you could at least say a part of reconciliation, like the first step of reconciliation is recognizing what is wrong, recognizing the injustice.

And that’s why even some, you know, words that we end, you know, I mean, as soon as you say anything here, people are going to get offended. And that’s one reason, I think, why so many of us don’t want to talk about it because of that, right, but I’ll just go ahead anyway. You know, whenever, whenever you you, you try to say something like, and I understand the sentiment behind it, and it sounds noble and and and theologically I think it’s sort of theologically correct, but it totally misses the point when when it’s like, you know, it’s not just black lives matter. It’s all lives that matter. But as soon as you say all lives, has you matter, you have totally changed the conversation. And you’ve totally ignored what the the original conversation was. It’s a it’s a very idealistic and and, you know, spiritual detour. So where you don’t actually address the problem. Yeah,

yeah, that’s a that’s a good point, you know, and you see all the kind of means and things like that, that are going around right now. You know, we talked about, you know, breast cancer awareness, or, you know, another tragedy that happens, you know, Boston Marathon bombing, you know, it’s like Boston, strong, you know, we stand we’re walking for breast cancer, we don’t then shout out Well, what about colon cancer? Or what about? Sorry, you know, what about that? No, we were we know that there’s a cause at hand. And that’s what we’re focusing on. Right. But it is, it is very, it has become very evident. I think, maybe more so now, just with where we are with social media and everything else that it’s very easy, I think for it has become it seems very easy for the church, unfortunately, to bypass that. And it’s well, but let’s focus on unity. We, we want it Yeah, okay. Let, let’s just focus on unity right now, let’s not really focus on you know, the the issues at hand,

and its unity on on, on on, you know, a very narrowly construed set of terms that that’s the fault, the issue, you know, we can be unified as long as you sort of agree with, right. And that’s, you know, I often will, and it’s a set up, and I think I’ve mentioned this on the podcast before, with one class I teach here, when I’m talking about politics and Christian faith, and I just mentioned, what is kind of true that you know, you know, election cycle. You know, every election cycle we’ve had for the past at least 20 years or so that about 80% 85% of I will say evangelical Christians are firmly aligned with a certain political party. And everybody will will, you know, shake their heads, yes. And then I say, Well, wait a minute, actually, that’s not really true. We have to put some qualifiers on it. And those qualifiers are ethnic qualifiers. And so when I say 80%, I’m talking about white evangelical Christians, if you’re going to talk about African Americans, who are theologically at the exact same place, as these white evangelical Christians, the whole thing shifts to like 9010 the other way. And so what’s obviously happening here is that there are two different worlds here. Just you know, we live in Well, actually, we live in one world, but we experience it two completely different ways. And then you start talking about Latinos and Asians and everything else too. And so you know, we’re, we’re, you know, unity and and that’s great, but unity on his terms, right?

Yeah. And and a unity without a recognition of wrong that has been done will never lead to true unity never lead to true reconciliation. There’s also this, this feeling of I think with their, with the white clergymen from Birmingham their their commendation or condemnation of King during this time and the actions also centered around the tension that is felt during demonstrations and protests. And I’ve heard that just recently within the church, right is just like, oh, people are uncomfortable by the social unrest. And, and when you hear King’s response, it kind of puts it in perspective, because protests are meant to be uncomfortable. That’s why you do it. Right. protests are meant to, to have tension now, what I’ve always appreciated about King and and people like Gandhi before him, and any kind of non violent kind of civil civil disobedience, you know, our, our call for civil rights King talked about there’s four elements to any non violent kind of movement. And the first one is an a gathering of all of the information to see if injustice has happened. And the second, which I would say on that, one is the information has been gathered, we’ve come to a decision. injustice has happened, right. And I know, we still there’s still a lot of people, we have to get on that one. And second one is negotiation. Third one is self purification. And then the fourth one is direct action. And so for obviously, for King nonviolent direct action, like marches, Satan’s protests, and he was talking, you know, in the letter, they kind of they, the clergymen, were asking the, the community of black community in Birmingham at the time, to not do demonstrations that they should try to be more peaceful, try to go through the courts, you know, and it was, and when you read it, you’re like, Okay, I can see maybe in their minds where they’re trying to logically make like, hey, this just will be peaceful. But, but I love King’s response here, he says, He says, you may well ask, why direct action, why citizens marches and so forth, isn’t negotiation a better path, you are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis in foster such a tension, that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate, is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to dramatize the issue, that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension, as part of the work of nonviolent resistance may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I’m not afraid of the word tension. I have earnestly opposed violent tension. But there is a type of constructive, non violent tension which is necessary for growth. That call for you know, and that’s the that’s what I think is interesting. There’s, there’s there can be a response to demonstrations and protests, you know, and kind of this uneasiness with the tension that it creates. But hearing from King like, that is the purpose that tension is meant to make it bring us to a point where we can no longer ignore it, we can no longer as as the white evangelical church, we can no longer just say, Oh, that’s not a problem anymore, or it’ll it’s getting better. Just give it time, let it keep getting better. But we have to and I know that this is, this is not a time to say, hey, just stop demonstrating. This is a time to say we hear you. Let let us start the conversation again. Let’s start talking

about it again, right. Like these are these are things that move you you, just like you said, You can’t just sit back and say okay, well, you know, just using the the current situation that are happening in society today. Like you can’t sit back and just say, well, let’s let the courts decide. Let’s let it go through the system. Right, right. Because the system is what we’re fighting. And I think Dr. Cam I mean that his entire letter. It’s kind of like the mic drop of all mic drops, right? It really is. He wasn’t just an especially in this piece. He wasn’t just challenging. I think the, like the rhetoric that was so prevalent at the time, but he was also very much challenging the system. You say, okay, we you want us to negotiate instead of March in the street, but the very people that we’re negotiating with are segregationists. They, they, their roots are based in slavery, and segregation, and, you know, the, the, you know, murder and killing of blacks during that time, the the way that things happen, so, okay, negotiate, but negotiate with who? And to what extent, right.

And even that appeal to let the courts let the courts kind of have their day, in a sense, this is in 1963, the Supreme Court ruled against segregation in 1954. And, and deemed illegal unconstitutional, and that with all haste, it must be it must be righted. And it’s still obviously wasn’t in 1963, you know, almost a decade later. And it would take even longer than that.

So the great state of Virginia in order to try to avoid, you know, that court order desegregation, actually one county was is print something County, in Virginia was in the sort of south central part of the state, and famously, they just literally shut down all the public schools, rather than, rather than a you know, and, and as long as we’re talking about a legacy of some of the things is that, you know, it’s just a historical fact that many of the Christian schools that were associated with churches in the south that started the 1960s were really what historians call segregation academies. Because, yeah, you know, it’s like, we’re gonna pull our kids out of the public schools, they have to, you know, have have, you know, black classmates, and so they go to these charter schools, which is just, I mean, you know, for anybody that’s ever read the Gospels, is a mind boggling to do that. But that kind of puts behind a whole lot of those things

in, you know, enforcing that. There is tuition for those schools that they knew, you know, black parents would not be able to afford. So it again, it just kept them separate. And that was, that was the goal was to keep it separate. Yeah,

yeah. Yeah. So there’s not like just saying, hey, let the courts because even when the courts did rule in favor of civil rights, if you’re not going to go around, luckily, what are you gonna do? Yeah, still wasn’t implemented. I mean, that’s been the thing, too, was 1870 was the 15th Amendment, which gave black Americans the right to vote. But it wasn’t till 1968. black male, right. That is true. Yeah. That’s so true. Yeah, there’s a lot of layers happening there. But it still wasn’t till the 1968. Where it was really, it really came into fruition. There was, I mean, so many things put in place of black American males, and then during suffrage, from poll taxes, to literacy tests, to everything that kept the black community from being able to vote,

and the live events were hilarious. I mean, they just say, it’s like, if you’re white new show to the judges, like what state are we living in? And the guy says that after, you know, after three times, he gets it wrong, whatever, I’m just joking. But the the black guy comes up, and suddenly it’s like, you know, from, you know, what’s article, whatever the Constitution, Beetham, and you know, nobody could do that. And so right. There you go.

Right. So even when law was in place, and in favor of civil rights, the implement implementation of law was unjust, and, and that’s what Cain was speaking out against. And so it’s, it’s funny that the argument of well just rely on Law and Order and common sense from these white clergymen. King is saying, We’ve tried that, and that still isn’t working. So we still have to raise this conversation. We have to raise the tension level to a point where we can really begin to have this conversation and really allow change to start and and part of it is. And King notes this in the letter which I think this is for me this is kind of the crux of understanding the church’s stance on it is king King was desperately wanting the church to view racial injustice has a moral issue, not just a social issue. There’s so many moral issues even today that the church rallies behind and but are we viewing the racial injustice and racial inequality has a moral issue, not just a social issue? And he says he says this, he says, I’ve heard numerous Southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is law. So saying, hey, the Supreme Court did this in 1984. It’s law you should obey it. But I have long to hear white ministers declare, follow this decree because integration is morally right. And because of the Negro is your brother. In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious Arab irrelevancies and sack sanctimonious trivialities. And that that is for me another Mic drop moment, Megan, I do I think every time I read a paragraph, I’m like, well, he just dropped the mic again, like, but that one I think is particularly pointed and is something that that’s my fear, I do not want to be a passive white churchman on the sideline, speaking, kind of pious Vega, these that don’t actually speak to the issue, and don’t actually help lead and Shepherd the church to change.

So So, you know, when when students, you know, say that I have never experienced any race, or I hear this all the time, we’re from California, California is different, what looks like, um, you know, actually, there’s a lot of difference California has, actually and, you know, I lived in Richmond, Virginia for seven years, that’s where I got my PhD. And, you know, we, we went to what was considered one of the progressive, this is fascinating, white Baptist churches, because honestly, in Virginia, it was really interesting. In fact, that’s one reason we, well, one of many reasons we really wanted to get back out to California was because when we first went there, and talking about systemic, which is just, it’s it’s embedded, you know, it’s almost as like the system, the system is organic, almost you you just grow up with it. And yeah, it’s part of the air you breathe in the blood that goes through your veins, and you’re not even aware of it. We didn’t have any money. And our kids were really little when we moved there, there were three in one. And so we just were always, you know, looking for free stuff to do you know, and so, we would, and this is Richmond, Virginia, this is in the 90s. This is not the 1890s. This is the 1990s. Right? Yeah. And the crowds were almost all either exclusively BLACK, OR exclusively white for almost every public thing. And this is, you know, and we were wondering where the signs is, like, you know, I don’t know, well, it’s like, everybody has these signs in their hearts, I guess. And one reason why we want to move away, and I’m not saying this, you know, from any any, you know, moral high ground, because I have, you know, a lot to learn and a lot of my own issues and dealing with my own implicit racism and benefit. And the way I benefit from a system that, you know, doesn’t try and white privilege. Yeah, we didn’t want to stay there long enough for my kids to actually be able to read the signs that weren’t there. I didn’t want them to know that, like everybody else. Like time to get out time to get out. You know, not only to move back to California and find our other signs, you know, it just looks different with Asians and also write your signs all over the place in people’s hearts. And we have a we have a moral problem

here. Yeah. And we often, you know, hear about it as, like, we’re we’re not just dealing with and I think this piece of King’s speech, you know, talking about it being a moral issue, not a social issue, where we’re not just dealing with the the legislative piece of this, right, the law, the that that surrounds kind of how the system is built, but we’re dealing with a heart issue and it’s it’s it’s a It really is an issue of people’s hearts and where, where they are, but especially the church, right? You, we are called to love one another, it not just the people that look like us, not just the people that agree with everything that you know, we think or feel, but we are called to love one another. And for I think, and I will say I think I know for black Americans it’s love one another, but and then there’s this, there’s this dot dot, dot, dot dot, right? Yeah. And it’s so interesting that it comes from the church, where we are supposed to be all inclusive, right? You bring everybody into the sanctuary, no matter where they are, whatever space they are in life. But when you talk about race and and issues within the black community, there always tends to be this but at the end of it,

yeah, yeah. Yeah. And once again, you try to, like, personalize the problem is still of dealing with the system that ends up with the personal dysfunction. There’s a system behind that, that drives it, and it’s a systemic issue. And I’m, once again, I’m going to circle back to the fact that we, you know, I mean, I believe in personal sin, and I believe in confessing my personal sense. That’s, that’s, you know, Jesus came to say that too, but he also came, you know, to build the kingdom. And, and, and that’s a structural thing. It really is. Yeah. And then and as long as we can personalize it, then we just avoid doing what you know, well, then is 2020. And nothing changed. Yeah.

Yeah. And we can easily kind of deceive ourselves in in thinking, while I’m maybe not this way, therefore, the system isn’t set up wrong, the system is set up with equality and things. And it’s, and again, it’s that part of reconciliation. And that part of moving forward is that initial recognition, that wrong has been done. The recognition of the inequality, again, and Megan, I said at the beginning of the episode, it’s not about guilt. It’s not about over guilt. But it is about recognition of wrong that has been done. And, and it’s this desire and a willingness to listen and to move forward and to speak to change. And that change is speaking to individual change, because like you’re saying, Rex, there is still a heart issue. And magne said that they’re still heart issue that does need to change. And that is an individual level. But then there’s also a systemic level that needs to be spoken to, that, that we in the church need to be a voice of accountability against those systems. And we often haven’t had that voice in some ways, because a lot of the systems were built to then prop up our own power structure. So we have to be able to recognize that and it’s not always easy to recognize that. But But King makes this statement to about the church that I think he was saying this again, like I’m My mind is continually blown by this letter, that he’s saying this in the 60s. And he could have said it today. He could have. But he talks about, if the church doesn’t miss this, the damage that’s going to be done. And he says this, as if today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the 20th century. We say 21st century and then he says this line, which just was just a dagger, I think every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

And that’s happening now. Actually. It really is. And that’s deeply this as someone who you know, is committed to, you know, the church and is a Christian and believes that, you know, this is the truth that’s just really disturbing to me. And one of my fears that, you know, I mean, this is where the history professor comes down, I’m sorry, but so many so many times in issues like this. We actually haven’t emerged from those issues looking very good. Right. You know, I just, I mean, an issue is with with Spain, my wife grew up in Spain, and she actually went to high school during the last years of the Franco regime there, you know, and when Franco you know, In his brand of fascism sort of took over Spain, the, the Catholic Church was totally in his pocket, or he was in their pocket. It was a really, really close thing. Yeah. between them and and you know, is sort of, you know, it went hand in hand, the Spanish fascism and the Catholic Church. Right. Yeah. And it’s, you know, and so, you know, they had a monopoly on everything right. And, and then Franco dies. And then, you know, nobody goes to church anymore. I mean, church attendance in Catholic Spain now is about 5%. Yeah, because people end up just associating the church with, frankly, with repression. And yeah, and, and that’s not the only example of that, we need to be very, very careful, very, very careful, as someone who’s concerned for the churches message, which is a message that still needs to be heard desperately.

Yeah. And Ken King was concerned for the church, he says, In the letter, like, his tears for the church are tears of love, because he, he grew up in the church, he was the son of a preacher of a grandson of a preacher and the great grandson of a preacher, his his was a love for the church. And it was just that, that recognition that if the church doesn’t start speaking on this, and moving towards change, you’re going to lose a generation. And that was in 1963. And I think it’s just continued to see that in, in the 21st century, that, that, then the next generation is saying, why would I listen to a church that speaks so much about this, quote, unquote, moral issue, but doesn’t say anything about this issue.

And I think it also really kind of compounds the just the overall relationship that a lot of black Americans have with the, the institution of the church in general. I mean, you, you know, Christianity was never introduced to the slaves as a way of liberation, or, you know, having this relationship with Christ that we, that we know we talk about now, right? That that’s, that’s what we’re supposed to be, it was used to enslave, it was used to control the slaves at the time, you know, with, you know, the the slave Bibles and, you know, all of the things that that were done to really control at that point. So, it’s, you have these two kind of reckonings, I think, where you you, if you understand where it began to now, it’s still not speaking for you Christians, and, and, you know, they’re still not speaking for you. Especially as a young person, you know, you you really find art with that. And it’s hard to say, Well, I want to be a part of this, I want to, I want, you know, I want this relationship with Christ and to love others. And, you know, to do all of the things that we know Christ has called us to do, when doesn’t really seem like he’s been for us. Or the people who have presented Christianity to us are not for us. So how can I be for it? Right? Yeah.

Yeah. And, and it’s so true. And I think that’s the, for me that that is the call that I’m hearing to the church today. Is, is a call to say. Can you first of all, put down your defenses? Put down? Your fragility? Actually, yeah. Yeah, put down your fragility and, and recognize the injustice that has happened here, hear the cries. Stand with our neighbors. And, and really take this seriously as a moral issue as seriously as we take every other moral issue and begin to speak to this and begin to speak to to true reconciliation and unity, not just call for it, because we want to ease the tension and we don’t want unrest. But and knowing that to get to true unity, it is going to be a rough road, it’s gonna be uncomfortable, it’s gonna be uncomfortable. Yeah. And we have to be willing to have those uncomfortable conversations and, and and live in and King in the letter kind of talks about that. That idea of that there’s kind of two types of peace and one type of peace is is kind of like a parent peace, but he really knows peace. The negative peace because it’s, it’s, it’s only peace because one side is being silent and submissive and just living with injustice. And anything true peace is going to be recognizing the injustice and move and working towards actual peace which he would then call actual law and order. Right. And, and so we just need to you know, I just really obviously oh these these last couple weeks have been emotional for everyone and and I just was was looking at how the church was responding and man I just am so afraid that we can so easily and and subconsciously make the similar mistakes that were made 60 years ago. And we need to constantly remind ourselves and move to for the for the white church specifically moved to a place of humility and and move to a place that that is seeking true unity that is seeking the true gospel. Like you’re saying, Megan, the this idea of unity for everyone. And that can only exist it’s not just unity on on one person’s terms. But but that true unity and and that is what we’re caught in this is this is the the first step or the first part of a conversation of a much longer conversation. But I think we can at least first look at our posture right now. Say how is our posture? How can we hear and stand with the black community and and with our black students at Jessup and sand width. And, and and say we hear the cries of injustice, and we repent. And we lament, and we want to move towards change, want to move towards actual change and what what I’ve been blown away is when you see the amount of young faces in the protest and really interesting, yeah, that there is a desire to say this has got to change.

And it’s very multicultural. I mean, those those rainbow faces, they really are they really Absolutely.

And I think one of the you know, as as you’re talking mark, one of the things that is so true then and Dr. Kane talked about it in his letter, where a lot of his disappointment came from the the leadership, right, and the same thing that we see, now, it’s, you have the the lay people right there, they’re out there, they’re on the front lines, they’re, you know, doing what they can in this fight to to get the black boys heard. But really the disappointment is in the leadership, and the same in 1960, as it is in 2020. And and I think for for our churches, where this has to be something that comes from our leaders, right, this is a very top down, down, side to side sort of, of issue, but it really has to come from our leaders because they they are the ones that are going to, I think truly guide a lot of these conversations, if people see that leadership is on board, you know, for lack of a better word, right? Then it really eases I think the ability for people to have these conversations, right? It doesn’t make the conversations any easier. But they also know that I’m not I’m not in this by myself. I’m not the lone voice out here talking about it. My leaders are kind of in the thick of things with me.

Yeah, yeah, it really does. And it is interesting. Right now, I think that’s so insightful. Megan, that the the lady is in many ways leading right now. And, and they need to hear that voice from the leadership within the church and within the white Church of saying we hear this call for injustice, and we and, and frankly, the, the the church leadership needs the courage to be able to speak up and and to, to lead and that’s when I was reading King’s letter. I just, I just felt that void of leadership that I think we’re feeling in 2020. That and now knowing that even with King’s voice and his leadership, it still wasn’t an easy road. Right and And it still ended in tragedy. But that Yeah, those voices of leaders who can be calling us to change. And, and this is a time, and I think we’re, you know, we’re there, obviously, tons of mistakes and bad things have been have happened in our past. But it’s a time for the church to say we can we can change, we can change this, we can change the tone of the conversation, we can change directions. And, and and it’s about moving forward, it’s about just listening and understanding more. And, and, and moving forward towards change, knowing that this is what the gospel has called us to. And that this is a moral issue. And I know, sadly, we’re not going to be able to solve every problem on this episodes. Thank you so much, Megan, for joining us. great having you with us. Yeah, yeah, it was a pleasure being here for sure. And I know that this is going to be the first of many conversations as as as we move

forward. And hopefully, you’ll be involved with us in this continuing conversation in some future episodes.

Absolutely. I would love to be it’s great to be a part of the conversation. It’s I think sometimes it’s easy to kind of talk about issues in silos. And Ron actually have all of the voices at the table to discuss issues like this. So it’s really great to be a part of a part of this conversation.

Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection and deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessup.

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