REPOST from January 12, 2012:
For many, yesterday was the start of a 3-day weekend to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr, the leader of the Civil Rights movement, and those who stood against racial segregation and inequality. History is replete with men and women of faith who, in the struggle to lay hold of the eternal, broke human tradition and brought about revolutionary change. Indeed, our own American history is testimony to that. We cannot speak of the founding of this great nation without acknowledging the relationship between independence from Great Britain and freedom of religion. The founding fathers understood that the very root of independence is respect for others. Yet, the actors on the stage of human history are imperfect men who, despite their greatness, sin and “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Had the founding fathers acted in accord with conscience when the issue of slavery presented itself, this evil and all its ugly repercussions would have been dealt the death-blow. Instead it spread like cancer. Unconfessed and unrepented sin doesn’t just go away. I believe that if the founding fathers could speak today, they would confess this as their greatest failure. Yet, the grace of God is greater and the eternal purposes of God, in the affairs of men and of nations, cannot be thwarted. God, at the frontline of every quest for freedom and justice, always has a people.
It is absolutely impossible to talk about the Civil Rights movement without acknowledging the church. Even the secularists agree. The church was the engine that powered the revolution. More than just a meeting place where strategy sessions were held, the community itself was a picture of the freedom being sought. There was unity among the members (Eph 4:3), direction from the pulpit (Tit 2:1), prayers for deliverance and protection (Phil 4:6), songs to rejoice in the God of their salvation (Eph 5:19), encouragement to persevere in the face of opposition (Heb 3:13), reminders to keep looking forward by faith to the city with foundations “whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:10). Men, women, and children received grace to be humble before God and bold in Christ. The church was the place where the principles of the Kingdom of God were up and running. Is it any wonder then that the church was the target of great white supremacist opposition? More important, should it be any surprise that it was Christians, motivated by faith and Scripture, who were not only among the most ardent supporters of this movement, but who made up most of the leadership?
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is more than just another Federal holiday. It is a time to thank God for the Civil Rights movement and the brave men, women, and children who understood that it was “for such a time as this” (Est 4:14) that they had been called. May we give glory to God for His providential hand in American history and for the members of the body who, by faith, stood for truth at great cost.
Without the guiding force of religion and more principles rooted in faith and Judeo-Christian ethics, the Civil Rights movement, and the broader freedom struggle, would not have become the cornerstone of social change in modern America. Indeed, for the better part of a century the faith-based struggle to eradicate racial discrimination and injustice in the United States has been a major source of spiritual and more regeneration, of hope and renewal, for oppressed people across the globe. Though much work is left to be done, both at home and abroad, doing God’s work in Alabama, Mississippi, and other parts of the South through such worldly pursuits as sit-ins, freedom rides, and voter registration drives has spread the power and the glory of faith and righteousness to the end of the earth, giving a measure of hope to us all. 1
1 Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Jr, The Role of Religion in the Civil Rights Movement. Presented at the Faith and Progressive Policy: Proud Past, Promising Future Conference, sponsored by the Center for American Progress, June 9, 2004.