Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Soul Searching

This is more of a curiosity item than a follow-up to my last post, but it is nonetheless enlightening, I think. In Jason Sokol's There Goes My Everything, he quotes the reactions of some southern white Christians to the civil rights upheavals. The first one I'll share is bad, the second is good, but I can see myself in both writers.

A Methodist layperson said, 
Being a Christian is accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal savior…and just because I don’t want my granddaughter to go to school with a Negro boy, I don’t see what it has got to do with my being a Christian or not.
Meanwhile, a Georgian woman named Harriet Southwell had been a long-time supporter of Senator Richard Russell, the leader of the segregationists in the Senate. But in 1963 she wrote to him and said this:
I truly believe the time is here--(it is late) and that we as Christians--and as true citizens need to acknowledge our wrong and face up to and admit that we have not done to and for  the Negro what we, had our faces been black, would have wanted to be done for us…I have seen in these years of soul-searching many men and women who with great effort and almost heartbreak have changed their views from those of the days when the Negro was slave and servant. Understand that it took soul-rending change for some of these—some who had been bitter and resentful but who were fair minded and who examined their souls and had to change. 
The majority of white southern Christians were unwilling to make this simple calculus. As plain as it was, it could indeed be soul-rending to try to be a Christian first and a white southerner second. The challenge for us is to think about what we believe "has got nothing to do with being a Christian" when in fact we just don't really want to be Christians. It would be foolish to assume we will look better to history than these folks did.


  1. I’m not sure the calculus is so simple. Our Life Group has been studying the four Gospels. My attention has been drawn to the Pharisees and religious rulers who sincerely believed that they were “right” in their religious beliefs and practices especially in the keeping of the law as it pertained to the Sabbath. Is it any wonder that they were defensive, angry, and wanting to get rid of Jesus when he challenged and condemned their beliefs and practices?

    I’m going to jump off the cliff and ask if we today would substitute the words “gay guy” for “black boy” in the quote of the Methodist minister above. How does Jesus’ Father view our stigmatizing homosexuality and same-sex marriage to a much higher degree than the sins of adultery and fornication? They are all sins but in our thinking, homosexuality is the one to be shunned.

    It is not easy to even consider taking a second look at things we have been taught is “right” or “wrong.” It can be absolutely excruciating and heartrending. I’m thankful for God’s mercy and grace because I’m sure there are things we believe and act on that Jesus would challenge.

  2. I agree with you. I didn't mean to say that the ACT of doing this and thinking this way is easy, but the THOUGHT itself, as expressed by Ms. Southwell, is simple: how would I feel in their shoes? The act of really thinking through that can be arduous, but there's nothing intellectually difficult or confusing about it.