Monday, September 15, 2014

Is the Church "adjusted to the status quo"?

Dr. Martin Luther King never accepted the complacency that marred the lives of so many of his fellow Christians in the 1960s. They offered him the objections that have been served up by casual enablers of oppression in every age:

You're moving too fast.

Your cure is worse than the disease.

Things are better than they used to be.

You're causing disorder

Let time do its work.

Focus on the gospel.

King's letter from Birmingham City Jail is probably famous precisely to the extent that people don't actually know its contents. Because its contents are still too heavy for us 50 years later. In an era of mass incarceration, drastically inequitable schools, intense segregation, hostility to immigrants, and limited social mobility, Christians still find the same excuses useful.

In his letter to White Christian pastors, King did not hold back. We still need to hear it:
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direction action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advised the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection...
I guess I should have realized that few members of a race that has oppressed another race can understand or appreciate the deep groans and passionate yearnings of those that have been oppressed and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistence and determined action...
I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say that as one of the negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say it as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen...
In the midst of blatant injustice inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, "Those are social issues with which the gospel has no real concern," and I have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely otherwordly religion which made a strange distinction between body and soul, the sacred and the secular.

So here we are moving toward the exit of the twentieth century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a taillight behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice.
Can we honestly say this has changed? Is the church leading the way, or is it following timidly behind? During the recent events in Ferguson, did it seem as though the White church understood or appreciated "the deep groans and passionate yearnings of those that have been oppressed"?

No comments:

Post a Comment