A Historical Reflection
During the Civil Rights movement of the 1950-60s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the loudest voice in a chorus of voices demanding, through nonviolent demonstrations, that racism, classism, and the militarization of law enforcement against African-American citizens be dismantled and discontinued in no uncertain terms.
Dr. King leveled a challenge and expressed a disappointment, both of which we, as God's people, can make good on in our current day. First the challenge, Dr. King challenged us no longer settle for the status quo of being thermometers, but that moment called for us to be thermostats. Thermometers are passive and powerless to change their environments. Thermostats are active and powerful in changing their environments. The Church must rise to the occasion and resolve to be agents of change in the movement towards being antiracists, ensuring economic equality and justice for all, all of which finds it roots in the Bible.
Dr. King also shared an often overlooked disappointment about the American Church. On December 18, 1963, four months after delivering the "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. King gave a speech at Western Michigan University. During the Q & A time following his speech, the moderator and school president Dr. James Miller asked Dr. King the following question and please hear Dr. King's nuclear charged indictment of the church:
- Miller: Don't you feel that integration can only be started and realized in the Christian church, not in schools or by other means? This would be a means of seeing just who are true Christians.
- King: As a preacher, I would certainly have to agree with this. I must admit that I have gone through those moments when I was greatly disappointed with the church and what it has done in this period of social change. We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic. Nobody of honesty can overlook this. Now, I'm sure that if the church had taken a stronger stand all along, we wouldn't have many of the problems that we have. The first way that the church can repent, the first way that it can move out into the arena of social reform is to remove the yoke of segregation from its own body. Now, I'm not saying that society must sit down and wait on a spiritual and moribund church as we've so often seen. I think it should have started in the church, but since it didn't start in the church, our society needed to move on. The church, itself, will stand under the judgment of God. Now that the mistake of the past has been made, I think that the opportunity of the future is to really go out and to transform American society, and where else is there a better place than in the institution that should serve as the moral guardian of the community. The institution that should preach brotherhood and make it a reality within its own body.
Dr. King's disappoinment in the collective Protestant and Evangelical Church is like an albatross around the Church's proverbial neck. The collective Church failed to stand with the Black Church during the Civil Rights movement.
- What will we do in this moment?
- Will we make the same mistake again?
- Will we disappoint Dr. King again?
- Will we disobey Jesus again?
- Will we diminish God's glory again?
- Will we dishonor the Kingdom's reputation in the world again?
- Will we discredit the Church's witness again?
- Will we be thermostats or thermometers?
We're inviting you to "Take Your Seat At The Table" this fall season. Here are the details:
- Days: 1st & 3rd Thursdays - beginning September 3rd through December 17th
- August 27th is a brief Meet-N-Greet session
- Time: 7pm
- Virtual format
- Study Guides: Multiethnic Conversations (Mark DeYmaz & Oneya Fennell Okuwobi) & Gospel in Life (Tim Keller)
- You can order the Study Guides from your favorite book retailers
- Email us to reserve your seat at the table: info@ReconcileLA.church