To Mend the Broken – Rev. Dr. Karl Lutze

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CONTENTS

Foreword – 2015
Preface – 1966

  1. Finding the Pieces
  2. The Shattered
  3. The Crushed
  4. And After the Breaking?
  5. Who Will Pick Up the Pieces?
  6. Refusal to Look at the Broken
  7. The Assignment to Mend
  8. To Mend the Broken
  9. Enlistment in Mending 


FOREWORD, 2015 EDITION

This book was written in 1966 by my step-father Karl E. Lutze. Karl began his work as a young white pastor in a poor black Lutheran church in 1945. He challenged the Christian press the year I was born, asking why there had been no book written on the role of the Christian in the human rights issues of the day. He was told to write it himself and this book – To Mend the Broken – is the result. This version has been lightly edited to only change some outdated terminology but otherwise remains an honest record of Karl’s perspective of the time.

As a lesson to anyone looking at the human relations issues we face in the current day, this volume is a priceless and concise insight into the roots of today’s world. It is presented without blame or excuse, laying out the facts of the then-current situation. It forecasts many of the struggles we face today, both simply and with an understanding of the subtleties at play. I recommend anyone looking to act or even debate about human relations issues in Twenty First Century America take the time to read this record of our very recent past.

I encourage you to reproduce this work in whole or in part. Please attribute it to Rev. Dr. Karl E. Lutze.

Karl passed away this past week, on May 7, 2015 at the age of 95, at home in Valparaiso, Indiana, surrounded by family.

Chris Blask, May 15, 2015

To Esther

Karl E. Lutze, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, Missouri, 1966 – [Updated by Gail and Karl Lutze, 2014]


PREFACE

If there ever was a day when one could discuss race relations academically and dispassionately, that day has passed.

The reverberations from instances of racial tension and interracial clashes have been felt in millions of lives. People have become fearful, distrustful, and defensive.

Many have packed their belongings and left their homes to run from the pressure spots. Few have remained by choice to see the issue through and to endeavor to solve the problem: to bring harmony, understanding, and cooperation out of chaos, suspicion, and antagonism.

Meanwhile the church has hardly distinguished itself. The fear – so prevalent among people – that if one exposes the trouble, the trouble will grow worse, has also gripped the church. Thus while voices were raised from crowded cities and from cotton fields, from halls of law and from tiny welfare offices, from classrooms and from hot little church buildings in the rural South, decrying the sickness and injustice and prejudice, the church’s voice has at best been thin and for the most part silent.

While people in some corners whittled away at the problems, removing injustices little by little, others were bolding and daringly exposing the barriers of disparity, resentment, and hatred. Some worked tenaciously for new laws. Some spent their efforts gathering like-minded people into organizations that would effect solidarity. Others took to the streets and demonstrated. And through it all the church was often merely a spectator – and sometimes she even turned away and would not look at all.

It is hard to look at what is real and wretched, what tears at the emotions and causes us to be ashamed or bitter or angry. To face up to what is unpleasant and unpretty is not easy. To do so may mean pain, involvement, sacrifice, and all manner of risk. But not to do so is to shirk responsibility.

Does the church choose not to be responsible? In recent years there have been increasing evidences that she has indeed seen her responsibility and intends to take it seriously; crisp and cutting resolutions that censure lovelessness and apathy; clergy and nuns walking the sidewalks and carrying signs that denounce injustice. But the church is more than formal pronouncements and black-garbed representatives of institutions. The church is people – God’s people responding to the love given them by God in Jesus Christ – responsive and responsible people.

People of God who act responsibly are the church at her best. It is for them that these pages are written. They are not intended to echo what other civic and secular organizations have voiced, nor are they conceived merely to prod church leaders into action.

It is the author’s hope that the interest of the people in the pews will be enlisted here, that they will face up to the situation and become personally committed to assume the role assigned to them by their Lord, who said:

“As my Father hath sent Me, even so send I you:’’

TO MEND THE BROKEN!

Karl E. Lutze, 1966

—————–

Chapter 1

Chapter 1 – FINDING THE PIECES

When a radio or TV commentator begins his report with the words, “News from the South today”, listeners all over the world are likely to anticipate an account of some incidence relating to interracial tensions.

No More Magnolias

There was a day when the word “South” conjured up a panorama of magnolias, white goateed gentlemen sipping mint julep, women in full skirts with parasols in hand, sweeping down the long white stairs of the massive pillared mansion, helped into shining black coaches by faithful attendants with very white hair and very dark faces; and in the distance red bandannaed heads moving slowly along rows of white cotton in fields alive with singing workers.

This, however, never was a real, true, and full picture of the South. It is certainly not valid today. Today the South is a land of change – a place of changing industrial and commercial climate; a place of new business, of long economic strides and an inviting labor supply; of growing cities and increased production and vigorous trade.

Despite this new appearance of strength, the word “South” is still equated with tense and strained Black-White relations. Shortly after the Supreme Court School Decision of 1954, an Oklahoma newspaper carried an editorial entitled “Leave the South Alone.” Reference was made quite specifically to the matter of interracial conditions of the states in our geographic South, and the plea was plainly that the rest of the nation cease its criticism in this matter.

This editor was not the first Southerner, nor will he be the last, to plead that non-Southerners desist from interfering with the South’s way of dealing with the Black-White situation. This position is untenable. To begin with there is no reason to believe that Southern newspapers and citizens will reciprocate with considerable silence toward other sections of the country. Business, political, interracial, or other issues confronting the different sections of the country draw criticism and comment from all. This should not be avoided, deplored or suppressed in any area of the country. Criticism ought to be accepted as an opportunity for introspections, self-evaluation, inventory, and improved direction.

The Shrinking Nation

Furthermore, to divide the country into regions, particularly North and South, is to deny reality. Today no one area of our country is an island. The ease of transportation, the scope of communication, the increase of education, the requirements of military service, the development of new industries, all serve as parts of a complicated network drawing people closer together. With comparative ease and in increasing numbers families venture a good distance away from the confines of their immediate home neighborhoods. Education opportunities open new worlds to people. Compulsory military training whisks young people form their front porches to see new places, to meet new faces and to listen and look and learn. Charlotte, N.C. has been transplanted into Frankenmuth, Mich. Southerners have moved to the North, and Dixie’s cities and military installations have absorbed countless Yankees.

Among ourselves we Americans still indulge in good-humored sentimentality and loyalty to the soil of our sectional roots. People abroad do not classify Americans in such highly ordered groups. Georgian or Hoosier, Californian or New Englander, to citizens of others lands an American is an American – a citizen of the United States and not specifically a citizen of one section or another. This image should not surprise us. We have endeavored to maintain the image of unity and democracy, and not without success, in spite of the youngness of the nation and the mobility of her people. An interracial conflict then may occur in Detroit, San Francisco, or Birmingham, but in the minds of people overseas it happened in the United States. Thus the North does have a stake in whatever happens in the South.

Who Pays the Bills?

There are other ways in which the interracial tensions of the South become the “business” and concern of the North. The mass of litigation caused by the endless procession of plaintiffs parading from the lowest courts to the Supreme Court has been expensive to all Americans. In more cases than not, the black person’s complaint is judged righteous, but the cost is high in terms of expenditures and fees involved, of slower justice in case delayed and postponed because of the heavy legal traffic.

More than this, injustice is expensive in countless intangible ways. How can one assess the damage of a century and more in terms or morale, mental health, poverty, emotional tensions, frustrations, guilt? The South does not bear this cost alone.

The immigrant from the South quickly becomes the “business” of the North – of Northern African Americans as well as whites. Intolerable conditions that press beyond endurance cause the black person to seek a more reasonable neighborhood. All too often he comes to his new environs undereducated, undertrained and quite unequipped, with no financial, social, or commercial resources to help him be self-sufficient. The community feels the pressure of these deficiencies.

  • That he cannot afford his own house means he must move in with others.
  • That he overcrowds a home and ultimately, with others, a neighborhood may be a step toward home and neighborhood deterioration.
  • He may be contributing to the health and safety hazard of his area.
  • Social welfare assistance must increase.
  • Extended health and medical services must be provided.
  • Greater police protection must be afforded.
  • Fire insurance rates must be boosted.
  • Community assistance cost rise and taxes go up.

And the North should not be concerned?

If ever there was an hour that called for mutually sympathetic and constructive collaboration of all citizens everywhere in working out solutions to what area admittedly great and difficult problems in the North as well as the South, it is this 20th century moment of interracial tension.

What is South?

Perhaps we would first of all do well to disabuse ourselves of the idea that South means interracial tension, for if this is true, we will find “the South” exasperatingly elusive.

Atlanta, in the heart of Dixie, serves notice on a group of hooded Klansmen from a neighboring town that they are to leave at once and not return. Is not Atlanta the heart of the South? And is not the South where the Klan expects the greatest acceptance and support?

A group of citizens, black and white, sits about a conference table in Little Rock to find new Job opportunities for capable black people. Enter quietly a small church and see black and white members of the fellowship of worshippers receive on bended knee their Lord’s cup of blessing – in Tulsa, Oklahoma where long ago a bloody riot raged and not so long ago a cross burned on a black family’s lawn and another’s home was bombed.

A black scientist chose to live in a house in Oak Park, Ill., and his house was bombed. A Lutheran cemetery in Illinois denied burial to a little child who had died. The reason: he was black. A northern Indiana motel refused hospitality to an African church representative. Churches have closed doors to black people who live next door and would rather sell out, close down, and move to the suburbs than stay and serve and love.

Nor is all well below Mason and Dixon. White ministers are beaten because they are “nigger-lovers,” and rural-town black people are terrorized. Church people are still stammering and halting instead of decrying injustice, defending the trampled and witnessing fearlessly to a Christ who loves all.

Yet even in the awkward silence of a fearful Christianity are to be heard the exciting noises of the shackles falling from people who will not be slaves to fear and wrong. In the North the heartening instances, though pitifully few, are nonetheless observable. A Chicago pastor and his parish opened doors and hearts to almost a hundred refugees who fled a flaming hotel. Bereft, shocked, and alone, they were welcomed. But neighbors jeered, threatened, and hurled their abuses at the pastor and his people, resenting the kindnesses extended. Why? The fire victims were all black, and this was a “White community.” It was then that an entire district of church people in Illinois rallied in support of this clergyman and his congregation in their attempt to give the love of Christ to their brothers and sisters.

A Southern pastor was told by the members of his congregation that he was not to discuss race relations with the organizations of his parish. He called a special meeting of all members of the congregation. Quietly and simply he offered his resignation since he could not remain as pastor of a congregation which would not permit him to “preach the full counsel of God.” The congregation rose to vote unanimously that the pastor be urged to withdraw his resignation and preach clearly and bravely God’s will and Word to them in fullness and truth.

In a small Southern town mothers and leaders pleaded with a recalcitrant governor to take his troopers off their streets and stop his interference with their responsible efforts to desegregate their schools with dignity and order. In the South there are whites and blacks who have stood together to face the risk of brutal beating, loss of business, social ostracism, and utter loneliness. They cannot presuppose appeal to police protection and law enforcement which has often been put to the test and found wanting. Yet they speak with courage to denounce the sham and the shame, the carelessness and the callousness, the pathetic and apathetic patterns of behavior that have characterized the region of their birth, of which they so desperately desire to be proud. Who can name them all? But great names there are: Carter, Ashmore, McGill, Pitts, Dabbs, Mayes, Wright, Campbell, Boyle, and countless more.

It would be good if the term “South” and all the implications with which people burden the word could be shelved for a period until the real issues become clearly discernible and people everywhere begin the bend their wills and expend their efforts toward resolving the problem. Then perhaps the name could once again be taken up and carried with dignity and honor as never before.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2 – THE SHATTERED

In the face of all the abuse and hurt black people have generally stood tall and indefatigable, often serene, sometimes with a fantastic humor and joy, courageous and loyal and patient beyond what is normal and endurable. And with dignity.

A Person’s Dignity

“Dignity” is derived from a Latin word meaning “worth.” In a thousand lives, many of which ended on foreign battlefields in blood, the black American has proved his worth. Yet steadily and effectively the brutal expressions of racial discrimination scrape away at the black person to strip him of every vestige of dignity.

Who does it? To be sure, the loud, screaming, blustery haters with their whips and hoods and clenched fists and their stones, their bombs and their guns. But look more closely and see alongside these violent faces in the North and the South the proper, gentle people who by tacit support and aloof acquiescence tolerate and thus perpetuate this cruel devastation of human spirit.

With the Past in the Present

The black person in the poor backlands of the South lives in a world that is a strange mixture of the past and the present and the future. He may do his plowing with an old mule. At noon he may be listening to reports on a satellite placed in orbit from a site only a few hundred miles away. And his son may be attached to the branch of the military service involved in the launching. His gray-haired wife may have her closely braided hair tied in a bandanna, and his daughter may be coming home from high school with a hairdo resembling that of some current movie personality. He discusses the bills proposed to the Senate, yet he has never been registered to vote. He still raises a meager crop of cotton but knows the precise batting averages of a dozen major-league baseball players. He has seen every World Series for the past 12 years – through the window of the television and appliance store in town. His house is drab and unpainted. The sun plays on the tin-can patches on the roof. The white owner has never replaced the broken front steps; a large fieldstone serves the purpose now.

Often enough this farmer is totally dependent on a merchant in town who advances the seed for planting and the credit for clothing and staples until the next harvest. And the times when actual money is in the hands of the farmer are infrequent and the amount is rarely sizable. Of course the farmer would wish for the things he sees advertised in magazines and catalogs and in the windows of the stores. And his wife longs for the things she sees in the home of the lady for whom she cleans and launders. But these were not to be had by great-grandfather or grandfather or father, and they are hardly likely to be had in this generation. The fields do not yield any appreciably greater income; the prices on the necessities for living only increase.

Survival

The possibility of altering the situation may lie in the prospect of the government’s coming to the rescue. After all, the government sends money to help people overseas. In many instances the government helps people in dire straits. How does one proceed? Not very far without a vote. But the town merchant does not want his black customers to vote. There are more blacks in this particular area than whites and it hardly seems right to him that people less educated and with less economic and political understanding and experience should be in political control.

The farmer may harbor some resentment of indignities or even unfairness he has felt at this merchant’s hand, but he remembers other things. During the thin years of bad crops and low income this man extended credit for a long time and gave without charge bits of fuel for the cold nights.

He knows that even in the 1960s Klansmen wearing their hoods and carrying their torches still had their meetings. He knows that if he should consider doing something to improve his lot – register to vote – write a letter to the President or to a national newsmagazine – he and his family stand to the terrorized by the rabid racists. When he and his wife are asked, “You don’t want integration, do you?” “We treat you fine here, don’t we?” “You wouldn’t want to be up North with that NAACP and all, would you?” The black person knows how to answer. Then the white Southerner is assured that the communication lines are up and that he pretty well has his hand on the pulse of black attitudes in his community. He further assumes that his own attitudes are justified and that the Southern “way of life” is best for all concerned. But what is this “way of life?”

Southern Manners

In a small community in Florida the guest speaker was a woman who had just returned from the African mission field. At one point she stepped from the slide projector to the screen to point out one of the native church workers and identified him as Mister _____. That was more than one of the persons in the group could bear. He stood up and left the meeting, announcing his intentions never to let his family come back to this kind of “nigger-lovin’ church.” The speaker had offended the man by overstepping bounds of “proper talk.”

This is no subculture, backwoods-community idiosyncrasy. This has been simply a part of the normal public “manners,” an upholding of Southern “dignity.” The standard policy for “white” newspapers in the South has been to delete the tiles of Mr., Mrs. or Miss from any articles which name black people. Traditionally the white Southern knows that tiles are never to be used when addressing a black person. Even the Professional “Reverend” or “Doctor” more often become “Preacher” and “Doc.” Though the person of color be a school principal, merchant of attorney, in ordinary conversation he or she is a “nigger,” or the more refined may call him or her a “nigra”. He or she may be 87 years old; may possess a PhD or a Purple Heart; may be a skilled craftsperson and a mature community leader and even an exemplary parent of three college graduates, but the title is “Boy or Girl.”

In many instances even today, should a black person traveling out of the North into Alabama, Mississippi or South Carolina be accosted by a deputy or constable, the answer had better not be Yes or No. A black person must be sure to say and say explicitly, Yes, Sir or No, Sir. He must show that he “knows his place!”

The Place of the African American

Northerners and Southerners alike have endeavored to show the African-American person what his place should be by referring to the advice of Booker T. Washington, the outstanding black educator and leader who urged postponing the pursuit of social equality in favor of such immediate goals as education, job skills, and economic self-sufficiency. They interpret his remarks to mean that the black person need not seek benefits for himself other than the opportunity to be educated, and it will necessarily follows that he will quality for his place in the world.

The advice has been well taken. African-Americans have trained themselves for almost every working post. Automatic acceptance? Only in a relatively limited degree. The better positions traditionally open to blacks in the South were largely in the professions: ministers, teachers, nurses, and a sprinkling of people in medicine, law, and pharmacy.

These trained men and women were largely restricted to service in the black community. Office space was not available in the white community; white–owned and operated firms were not about to include blacks on their staff.

Dr. Lester Granger, former executive director of the National Urban League, pointed out in a 1963 interview in Chicago that there were at one time opening for black people in the skilled building trades. He added, however, that this situation ended with the arrival of Big Labor in the 1930’s, which organized also in the South and allowed the unions to exclude black craftsmen from “open” building opportunities. Thus the black person who was trained for some special vocation for which there was no employment in his own community was forced to take his “pursuit of happiness” elsewhere. Or he might “put it in mothballs” for another day, or discard it in the face of reality as a fantastic, impossible dream.

A Place to Do Something

It would appear that African Americans had at least the opportunity to be trained. The young people could study and learn. This is true, indeed, but study and learn what?

In one Southern city the black community high school, in addition to offering academic courses, taught barbering, cosmetology and shoe repair. Through the years this school must have graduated hundreds of shoe repairmen, barbers and hairdressers. All these for a black community of less than 12,000. That the supply of workers would exceed the demand for their services seemed obvious. If a person trained in one of these fields were to stay in that town, he could probably count only the loyalty of relatives to provide his with a clientele (and they would probably expect discounts!). More realistically, we would suppose that many of these people simply would not ply their trade or would have to migrate elsewhere to find a slot open to them. This same school also offered a course in automobile mechanics – in a city where garages would not hire black mechanics.

To say that this is cruel would be gross understatement. Can you envision those young men and women in caps and gowns, brimming with a sense of achievement, and with hopes and optimism, walking to the rostrum of their high school auditorium to get their diplomas? And can you imagine how months later (or perhaps only days!), when they discover that the words of their commencement speaker ring hollow and empty, they must be disillusioned? Their diploma proves no passport to opportunity but a symbol of frustration.

A Future for Nothing

Small wonder that as recently as 1962 a professional evaluator of a youth research survey conducted by a major church body felt obliged to comment on this finding in one particular parish (in a private document addressed to its pastor):

I am puzzled why these youth are almost masochistic in their attitudes towards themselves. The score on the Happiness Scale plunges to the bottom of the distribution of scores. Apparently they feel that many of the opportunities which young people dream about are ones which they cannot even hope to achieve. They want help relating to self-undemanding and self-realization as though they need assistance in accepting their lot.

He had no idea that this group was in a Southern African American community.

The youngsters find it difficult to envision a bright future for themselves when they see the inequity in vocation which their parents and grandparents have endured. One father was sufficiently qualified to serve on a Fulbright arrangement to help set up a school of agriculture in the Philippines. In his own Southern community he worked in a small market selling fish and fowl. Another, college trained in horticulture and business administration, packed ice in refrigerator cars for the railway for 15 years. In this time he accumulated no seniority benefits because his color excluded him from union participation. The frustration of these people and their families echo in thousands of black lives. The young people have reason to wonder what hope life holds for them.

Uncounted numbers of black teachers, especially in the South, have been reckoning the costs of this frustration in the new generation. They have found themselves stretched mercilessly between living for a principle and sheer survival. Ever since the mid-fifties they have worked and spoken and have given generously of time, talent, possessions, and person to support the cause of desegregation in the schools. They supported the NAACP in its costly court pursuits. Their all-black teacher organizations in many places have given overwhelmingly clear expression of concern against continued segregation patterns. They have done it for the sake of their children. They wanted these children of promise to have the highest quality education possible so that they might be able to take their place in a democracy and to share both in its responsibilities and its fruits. But all the while these teachers knew, and they have since been proved right, that when schools in black communities closed, many of these teachers, no matter how well qualified would not be readily absorbed into the previously all-white teaching force. The white person of the South will, with great reluctance, yield to desegregation rulings, but has not given evidence up to this time of any great zeal to take the initiative in seeking out blacks to stand next to him in vocational opportunities.

The South Loses

To find some measure of hope, to regain some part of his dignity, the African-American may leave his home. When he goes, the community is usually the loser. There is a loss of skills, responsible leadership potential, earning potential, sound character, and friends. The empty house stands as a symbol of hopelessness to the neighbors who stay behind and appear to be only a community of crushed spirits. Strong leadership often seems difficult to identify or even discover, but many of those who remain in their communities, taking on the magnitudinous task of raising standards and improving conditions are proving to be the real heroes in the struggle to bring America to full maturity.

No matter then that the white Southerner, gentle or volatile, is convinced that he feels the pulse of the black community, the communication lines are not up, and he is wrong if he thinks they are. No matter how well intentioned he may be, no matter how well he has rationalized his position to his family, his neighbors, black people, his God and himself – he is still wrong. The evidence is to be found in the overwhelming ballot cast by the black person against living in the rural South, expressed in the mass exodus to the urban centers of our country during the past few decades.

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – THE CRUSHED

People who find the Southern rural intolerable move north, or to cities in the South, only to find that their new “homeland” is inhospitable. It is not uncommon to read advertisements of cities inviting industry and people to move into their midst. It does not appear likely that national magazines will soon print ads extending a special welcome to blacks. We are still living in days when people have cruelly urged that the black people “be shipped back to Africa”; when groups from the South have underwritten the expenses of black people promising to move north; when real estate interests conspire and often pay black people not to move into certain areas or threaten reprisal if they do.

The Cold North

Wherever he lives, in the North or the South, the black person finds that the problems compound themselves in maddening and frustrating circles. Imagine for a moment the experiences of a black person moving to a Northern metropolis. The trip itself will probably exhaust his financial resources. When he arrives, the lodging available is either dirty or smelling or priced far beyond his reach – or both. Perhaps he has relatives who have preceded him to the big city. They may share their quarters. But often enough the hosts already have a houseful of people living with them, and it is likely that they newly arrived family may number 6 or 8 or 10!

The cost of rental is reduced considerably if two or three families can share quarters, quarters that may well have been originally planned to house a family of four. But even that relatively small payment for rent must be met, and the children must be fed and given heavier clothes.

In most cases African Americans have been moving into cities where unemployment already is great. In Chicago they have been arriving in numbers as high as 2,500 per week in recent years. A few have learned crafts and skills, but only a few. A vast majority arrives inexperienced, undertrained, poorly educated, poor credit risks, without recommendation from previous employers. Firms at which they apply for work already have long waiting lists of applicants, people with experience, known and recommended. It is hardly to be expected that these people will welcome the newcomers with open arms. The very thought of the recent arrival’s trying to go into business for himself is ridiculous. There is no place to set up shop; no capital for stock or equipment. He cannot qualify for or finance the licensing and permit processes; and he is often ill equipped to cope with the ways of big city life.

Feast and Famine

If he can land a temporary job at the market or store, sweeping or serving in some other custodial post, he is thrilled. The take-home pay for his first four days is over $40 – by standards of his experience a fantastic amount.

All the way home he exults. The ads and displays in a hundred store windows assume a dimension they had never held for him before. A television set can be had for $5 down and $1 a week. Well, of course he can afford it, and the salesman is so friendly. He buys a big bag of groceries with which to surprise the family, and he takes his wife back in the evening to buy her a coat. Back to work on Monday with good spirits and optimism. On Tuesday the man whom he had replaced has recovered from his illness and returns to work. The substitute is out of work.

He walks more blocks than he can count. Perhaps there is a small job here, a “come back tomorrow” there. But the prosperity was short-lived. Now the fears begin to engulf him. The payments are due on the clothes. The once friendly man comes to repossess the TV. It seems that every No is spoken by white people, increasing in frequency and volume.

Husband and Housewife

The prospects are more likely that his wife find employment. So now he stays with the children – hardly a situation that makes for pride. There is a constant smell of diapers in a crowded house with no laundering facilities – it costs too much to use the coin-operated machines every day. The other men of the neighborhood can joke with him about playing housewife and staying home to have “coffee with the other girls,” and though he may smile and have a retort, he is chafing and smarting underneath. He is glad to get out of the house once his wife returns. She is no longer the happy little girl he married; now weary, irritable, she faces the prospects of a full night’s work with the children before she leaves for her job again in the morning. The house almost defies straightening. Tempers grow short. The husband is humiliated at getting an “allowance” from his wife. The children are glad for opportunities to get out of the house, too. And the mother is glad to have them leave if it means a few hours of peace. The drinking, the dope, the fighting, the infidelity all start to swell like an aggravated, infected sore. One after another men succumb and surrender to despair and flight from reality. Not all become derelicts; some, desperately eager to make a significant contribution to their family’s survival leave home so that their children may be eligible for increased welfare support.

Frustration and Defeat

With such frequent instances of deterioration of family unity, strength, and morale, and with so little real promise offered in education, the school dropout rate is high. The children who hear how their father took advanced education and now see him underemployed or unemployed find little incentive in the racially discriminating employment patterns to justify their own pursuit of an education and to vindicate their hopes and dream. How do they find a way to challenge this life and become equipped with hope? Thus, all over again, the cycle of frustration is begun in a new generation.

In vocation or on vacation, the black person must constantly strive to maintain his dignity in the face of humiliation. He may apply for a job by telephone, have necessary requirements, and be told to report for work. When he appears in person, he is awkwardly informed that “the position has been filled.” If he wishes to travel, he knows he must secure motel reservations in advance. But the journey is taken in the constant fear that these confirmed reservations may melt away when he approaches the desk clerk.

Burden Bearers

The human constitution can persevere and endure at great odds. But are there not times when a man might retreat to relaxation and literal re-creation? Must he carry the burden of what E. Saunders Redding calls his “Negroness” for 52 weeks of the year without 1 week of relief?

The bearing of the burden with dignity must somehow be explained by parents to their little ones.

A black Oklahoman tells of a trip he made back from the west coast though Arizona, where he stopped for gas. Having paid for his purchase he rolled out onto the highway only to find that his youngest child had dire need of a rest room. He returned to the service station and inquired about one. “We don’t have a rest room for colored.” Meanwhile the child’s urgent need could not be postponed and a little pool formed next to the child’s shoe. Men standing around began to roar in laughter. And the child wept. The father, feeling for his child, took him up in tenderness and left in bitter anger. In retrospect, he says, “I thank God I had no gun in my car or I’m afraid I would have gone right back inside and killed that man.”

How can segregation be explained to a child? How can parents keep the child from being hurt? How can they guard the child from developing a feeling of inferiority or a feeling of resentment and hatred toward all white people?

Vision and Perception

There are those who will claim, “The black should not be so sensitive.” Consider the man who is about to walk through a wooden swinging door, but before raising his hand is struck full in the face by the door because someone coming from the other side cares only where he is going, not for others. Is it not understandable that after such an experience the injured will be cautious when confronted by the next swinging door? And if this experience is his repeatedly, what is left for him? He might become calloused and broken and numb, a pathetic creature, and naively venture to the door again, and again, a comic-tragic figure. Or he may shy away to a corner and never venture out. Or he may choose to use some strange and unorthodox exit – perhaps a window. Or he may assume an aggressive offensive and charge at the door, caring only for himself, and either injure another who may be approaching, or fall and hurt himself. Perhaps, after all, it is the sensitive African American who can best call attention to this clashing confusion as it exists today and thus help install a new glass door which permits vision and perception, enabling the black person to understand the ways of the Caucasian and the Caucasian in turn to see and know both the heartaches and the aspirations of black people.

Soul Depreciation

It would be an awakening experience indeed, and a frightfully depressing one, to study the case histories of mental hospitals serving black patients and determine just how much the humiliating, shaming, and degrading processes of racial discrimination have eaten at the soul and heart and mind of the mentally ill. It might be profitable to know how many crimes committed by black people have been a desperate bid for survival or sheer rebellion in the face of white expressions of superiority and exclusiveness. Richard Bardolph, in his book, The Negro Vanguard, cites a study by Nathaniel O. Calloway of the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine. Mr. Calloway’s study drew attention to the physical toll of discrimination by demonstrating the high incidence of black mortality tables. He attributes this phenomenon to social stresses and particularly to what he calls the “Compulsive servility” required of colored workers.

TV’s caustic humorist Dick Gregory has said that when white people refuse to welcome the black family into an all-white neighborhood they claim, “They will depreciate the value of my property.” Gregory responds, “I can’t get excited about depreciating the value of your lawn, when for more than 300 years you have been depreciating the value of my soul.”

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 – AND AFTER THE BREAKING?

It is understandable that the black person who returns from a day of frustration – joblessness, loneliness, unwantedness, and poverty, assigned to his ghetto of dark-faced people because he had simply better not try to take his place in the white person’s world – it is understandable that he finds a tantalizing temptation in a movement of organized hate against the white enemy.

The Black Muslim

There are countless people who cherish and nourish such seeds of hate privately, and there are small groups that sing the theme of hate, “The white man’s day is done.” They counter the principle of white supremacy with black supremacy. It is almost as if they were issuing an ultimatum. Books like Epistle to White Christians, Listen, White Man, and Goddamn White Man in their very titles breathe such sentiment. One can hardly avoid taking note of a highly organized and vocal group called the Black Muslims. Disavowed by traditional Islam and scorned by responsible black leadership, this organization has charmed thousands with its outpourings of scorn for white people and integrationists. A leader explains to his responsive crowd that since the Supreme Court’s school desegregation ruling in 1954 there he has not been as much as 1 percent compliance per year, implying that his audience will all be dead before total compliance is attained. A record published by this group, called “A White Man’s Heaven; A Black Man’s Hell,” says in no uncertain terms that the white person’s attainments have been at the expense of the black. The call is to arise, resist, and overthrow the white person with the authority of Allah, under the guidance of his prophet Elijah Muhammed. It calls the white man “devil” and assigns him to hell.

In an evaluation of the movement, C. Eric Lincoln in his The Black Muslims in America has this to say:

True, the Movement in its present form may be crushed by an embarrassed and apprehensive citizenry, white or black. It can be stopped today – and it should be, if it seriously threatens the peace and security of the nation. But in shattering the Movement we shall not eliminate the tension and the need which created and catapulted it to its present momentum. Out of the ashes of the Black Muslims, another “black” specter will inevitably rise to challenge us, for we can destroy the Muslim organization but not the Negro’s will to freedom. The essence of the Black Muslim Movement will endure – an extreme expression of the American Negro’s rising dissatisfaction with the way things are and his deepening conviction that this is not the way things have to be. (P. 254)

On the other hand there are many who recognize that the extreme expressions of hate are also “not the way things have to be.” Across the country a variety of demonstrations have occurred protesting the patterns of racial discrimination which through the years have shorn the black person of his dignity. Young black people who have objected to being good enough to stand up to buy toothpaste at one counter but not good enough to sit down and drink a Coke at another decided to “sit in,” occupying the stools and booths of the store that will not serve them. Result? A standstill. Until something “gives.” And in dozens of cities in the South, well before the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the reluctant bars had been lowered and lunch counters had begun to serve all comers.

Seeing these demonstrations, many merchants and townsfolk have been resentful – if not angered – by such a display of rash and brazen people whom they have always wanted to “stay in their place.” Trespassing, breach of the peace, and a dozen other charges are called upon to curb the protest expressions. But the demonstrations have persisted.

Here the young black person will perhaps find a recovery if not a discovery – of his dignity. Perhaps one can be objective at this point and take note of the students in Hungary and other nations who took their stand against communism. Often the students of American colleges and universities are chided for inane activities on which they bestow much time and energy. A few decades ago the fad was swallowing live goldfish. More recently efforts and talents were directed towards determining how many students could be piled into a telephone booth. Other college youth can find little more to express their deep feelings than to tear down a goalpost after a football game in celebration of victory. Still others have sought out a uniform for their nonconformity, usually a casual, ungroomed appearance. Now a new generation has arisen to stand with their forebears who refused to be degraded and denied. They take exception to the strange inconsistencies they see and experience on every hand. Responsible youth, black and a few white, have joined hands and hearts and voices to protest against that which has spoiled a people’s integrity, made a mockery of democracy, assigned religion to a role of irrelevance.

Millions have been watching: some with bitter resentment and a few with even violent resistance; a large number with the detachment of people watching a golf tournament on television; still others with furrowed brow, doubting the wisdom of this because some might get hurt; and still others enthusiastically in support but quite unwilling to become too involved because “this could become dangerous.”

Dangerous Commitment

Some have called these young folk troublemakers. Such a judgment is wrong. These are young men and women who know that the trouble is already there and has been for a long time. They have been willing to go to the trouble and to take the trouble to see to it that millions of the next generation’s children will not be forced to see the promises made to past generations still unfulfilled. They are young people who for the most part have gone about their work with dignity.

Far from being impromptu, spontaneous, and reckless eruptions on the scene, the expressions of protest against the racially discriminatory status quo have in most cases been carefully planned and meticulously executed. The patterns employed first calls for a discussion with the management of the firm found to be practicing discrimination. Then quietly, orderly, and bravely youth take their places at a counter or around tables. The pattern also calls first for training of the demonstrators in the ways of passiveness, nonresistance, and nonviolence. They are taught how to cover their faces when struck, how to group about someone else attacked in order the share the blows, and they are drilled in the determination not to strike back. They are reminded – and taught to remind each other by conversation and song – that their goal is to bring about the freedom of opportunity that ought be accorded all people. They are told and they have shown that their course is a dangerous one. They may be struck with brass knuckles or whipped across the face with a bicycle chain, their bus may be burned, they may be kicked, stamped, and stoned. But they are to pursue their path with dignity.

Confronted by such composed and restrained conduct, some become bewildered, some lose their dignity and do things unworthy of mature and responsible people. They have smashed eggs on the heads of the demonstrators and poured sugar and catsup on them; they have held burning cigarettes against their backs; they have struck them and gashed them with knives.

Unlawful Law

Officers of the law and public officials endowed with responsibility to the total public good have suddenly become less than courteous and mature in the face of this request to be free. Officials sworn to uphold the principles of the Constitutions and of justice have menaced, harassed, and arrested those who seek justice. Citizens who are proud of their institutions dedicated to learning, to citizenship, to decency have answered the request of others for citizenship with mayhem and bloodshed. Mothers who have fond hopes and bright dream for their children have allowed them to watch and listen as they screamed epithets of hatred and spat at those who wished to obey the laws of desegregation.

The Suffering Children

In an address to the delegates of the 1958 National Urban League Conference in Omaha, Alfred Marrow, psychologist and businessman of New York City, caught his audience somewhat off guard as he expressed his pity for the children of the South, for whom he felt deeply. Then suddenly and sharply he broke the silence that followed: “Not the black child; the white!” He pointed out that the disparity in black education was obviously crippling. He conceded the frustrating effects of the proscribed life in Jim Crow communities. He acknowledged readily the flickering nature of the flame of hope burning within the black person who grows up in the South. But, the speaker pointed out, this child can forever point with pride to his forebears who with dignity and an indomitable spirit bore the burdens of an existence of abuse and rejection and yet emerged without bitterness, without violent rebellion and retaliation. It was the children of lighter skin who evoked this man’s pity. Theirs are the parents who with trembling voice could speak of democracy and justice and love, who saluted the flag and could not start a baseball game without rising and singing about the land of the free, the home of the brave; who recited their creeds and changed their hymns for love for job and His mankind and taught them the story of the Good Samaritan.

How could these children ever be proud of parents who so easily espouse righteousness by mouth but in their actions and in their inaction – in daily living disavow and repudiate such concern? How could there be respect and honor for parents who espouse by word the principles of love and justice but in living conform to and even support a legalized, systematized pattern of containment and repression for a fellow human – solely on the basis of racial background?

Unjustified Fears

There is something to be said at this point for the person who has real fears. Fears need not be justified to be read. The late Justice Holmes recognized this when he declared that the person who shouts “Fire” in a crowded auditorium when there is no fire violates freedom of speech. There is no fire; there is no real justification for fear. But it is obvious that fear – real fear and even panic – can be evoked by such irresponsible cries.

Through the years a momentum of tradition has developed from isolated experiences, distorted statistics, unsubstantiated reports, rumors as well as sheer gossip, fables, and falsehoods. Most fears stem for all this – fear that may not be justified but that are nonetheless real.

As an easily frightened child must by patience and persistence be helped to look in the dark closet and behind the huge tree to be shown that her fears are unwarranted, so the person who cannot face up to discussion and responsible action in the material of interracial discord simply because he has such deeply rooted fears needs the same kind of patient, persistent, and empathetic concern and attention.

Without understanding the “why” behind naked statistical reports involving black persons on crime rate, juvenile delinquency, disease frequency, and a host of other areas, casual readers and amateur interpreters often read far more into the statistics than is warranted. Generalities and stereotypes result in the minds of these victimized by such superficial insight. While the term “victimize” may seem a bit dramatic, it conveys well the inherent danger of such practice because here unjustified fears have birth and are nourished.

The printed page has often become a factor – sometimes unwittingly and sometimes intentionally – in helping people set fixed images in their minds about black people in far too generalized a way. Many newspapers have consistently through the years carried little or nothing about black people except when the African American’s role was criminal or in other ways reprehensible. In such instances the name of the person is given and he is identified by a racial modifier. Subtly the reader is led to assume that whenever black people do anything deserving of newsprint it is detrimental to society. It is a short step from such a premise to the conclusion that black people do little that is not detrimental to society.

Hence a host of fears. The superficial are convinced that the black people are oversexed and tend toward rape and have an avid desire for illegitimate offspring in order to profiteer from welfare departments. These same people are sure that most black people carry switchblade knives and concealed weapons and are prone to violence. People who think this way are haunted by fears. If a black man walks through the neighborhood, he is a threat to every woman and child in the mind of the frightened. There are people who help cultivate these fears. A mother in anger may threaten her child that if he is not good “a black man will come and get you.”

Racial intermarriage can become a real fear. Statistics demonstrating the small number of such marriages fail to convince the fearful. Politicians have played on this fear, promising with paternalistic benevolence to give protection to preserve the “Southern way of life” and segregation and thus guarantee their constituents safety from interracial marriage. To be sure there are those political aspirants who have played on this fear with less success. Shortly after the 1954 school desegregation decision it was reported that a candidate for governor visited a Southern campus and promised his continued stand against the inroads of desegregation. Attempting to defend his position, he warned that if things developed as the Northern liberals postponed, it wouldn’t be long before some huge dark-skinned man would ascend the front steps where some little honey-haired blue-eyed girl of Southern birth lived and ask for her hand in marriage. In the dramatic pause that followed some diminutive co-ed chirped, “She can always say No, can’t she?” And the senator’s point was lost in a volley of laughter. But even such backfiring neither dissuades the politicians nor renders their fear-planting and fear-nourishing efforts ineffective.

The fearful may concede that it is an individual’s prerogative to marry whom he wishes, but they insist that their real concern is for the children of an interracial marriage. They generally fail to see that where law has resisted marriages – even in the South – a great many children are nonetheless born of mixed parents (witness the shades and tones between very dark and near-Caucasian.)

The fearful often point out that the children of such marriages are accepted by neither group. This is usually little more than half true: witness the large number of lighter skinned black people well received and thoroughly integrated into black community life in both the North and the South. People who claim this plight for the children do not see that they may well be accusing themselves, for it is Christian people who are to go out of their way to “welcome” others – even those of other backgrounds – as Christ has welcomed all. (Romans 15)

Christians would do well not to let their main concern become a vocal stand against interracial marriage. Their contributions would be far more useful and constructive were they to endeavor to understand and support such marriages where they have taken place. Admittedly these marriages are often attended by sociological difficulties. But it is just such cases that call for prayer and love and understanding rather than censure. Christians ought to make every effort to assure that these people and their children will find acceptance and welcome at least in Christian hearts and churches in the hope that their burdens might be lessened and possibilities for a full life of happy service to God increased.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 – WHO WILL PICK UP THE PIECES?

The nation has increasingly been troubled because its citizens have not been able to live harmoniously as the united people they have claimed to be. It would seem essential to look for leadership to the church – an institution devoted to holiness, justice, compassion, and love. Here we should be able to find the way out of the labyrinth of confusions and prejudices and segregating customs.

The accolades from the opponents of the church of another day who “took note (of the disciples ) that they had been with Jesus,” and the words of a somewhat later generation, “Behold how they love one another,” have hardly seemed applicable to the general membership of the 20th-century Christian churches in America, especially in the matter of race relations.

Where is the Church?

Many have relegated the church to a role of virtual ineffectiveness and have regarded it as a din of hollow, pious voices speaking platitudes. It is sobering to meet people who might have been brought into the service of the Christian church but who reject that church. They refuse to be part of an institution that remains passive and silent in the face of screaming injustices and lovelessness in the very world where this church has been called to serve in the names of Jesus.

A young freedom-rider from southern Georgia was told by her well-education, prosperous, churchgoing, and family-minded parents not to return home unless she got rid of this foolish notion of championing the black person’s cause in the attempt to overthrow the deep-rooted Southern tradition. The daughter said, “I love my parents, but I cannot accept their phoniness. I have stopped going to church. The church has said, ‘Love your neighbor and don’t count the cost,’ but it hasn’t led or even permitted people to do what it says.”

Here and there the church may indeed have served to fortify individuals and to equip them to make courageous and responsible contributions. For the most part, however, the leadership of the church has been taken over by others.

Who Will Lead?

Humorist Dick Gregory has observed:

“Had the church taken the leadership in all this it would have been a feather in God’s cap, and everyone would have said “Thank God!’ But the Supreme Court had to move in and do the honest and necessary thing of declaring segregation and racial discrimination unjust. By now almost every American realizes what a great thing has been done – but people say ‘Thank the Supreme Court.’”

The most unlikely place for leadership to emerge was Brooklyn’s Flatbush, Ebbets Field! It was there that history was made in the celebrated story of the Branch Rickey-Jackie Robinson triumph of a shrewd combination of courage, patience, and perseverance over longstanding patterns of racial prejudice in organized baseball. Outside the stadiums things began to happen when athletic organizations signed up black athletes for their teams and then began to insist that hotels, restaurants, and other facilities provide accommodations that would no longer be degrading and humiliating to their players.

With World War II came a realization among military leaders that morale could no longer be served in a segregated system where people were to fight for freedom which they themselves did not have. Nor could efficiency be served by an ironclad system of keeping capable men from manning important posts simply because of their color.

Racial discrimination in employment policies of war-related industries disappeared. Industry and commerce were not gifted overnight with a sense of moral responsibility. They did not in a moment of patriotic impulse simply wish to see fairness and democracy exercised. The plain face was that the demand for production was so unprecedentedly overwhelming and the labor force so hopelessly depleted by the drafting of men for military service that a complete revision of old procedures was in order. Women “manned: riveting guns and donned welders’ helmets. The black person was welcomed as long as he had two arms and a strong mind, and if he had more there was a job commensurate with his capacity.

Wartime leadership helped demonstrate the fact that the African American in the military and in war industry had made a vital contribution. If given the chance at the job for which he was equipped, he could produce.

The Insignificant Leader

The time was ripe for dedicated leadership in breaking down the walls of separation, distrust, fear, and lovelessness. Help was needed for the victims of racial discrimination to give them an opportunity to assume a responsible role of community participation. But the church did no significant prodding of consciences. By default this work was left to agencies that were organized to fill the vacuum. The Urban League, the NAACP, The Southern Regional Council, and a long list of others attempted to answer the need.

Some church people have frowned upon these groups and condemned them for their actions and methods. The organizations might well ask, “Where has the church been through the years when we needed guidance and help?”

These groups have moved ahead to provide leadership and hope to people frustrated by the subtle as well as the crass bars of racial discrimination and exclusion in the North and the South. They have done much good. Some groups like the NAACP sought to “win cases.” Others like the Urban League aimed at “winning friends.” Both approaches worked within the framework of American laws and community conference to see not merely the good of the black person but of the whole community by ridding it of policies and practices inconsistent with justice, wisdom, fairness, and morality.

The Helping Church

To say that the church has totally bungled an opportunity and has consistently failed in making valid and worthwhile contributions to the cause of helping the black person to find his responsible place on the American scene is far from correct. As a matter of record it must be noted that the church, possibly in many cases unwittingly, put into the hands of the black person a tremendous dynamic to assist him in the ultimate achievement of human identity. Much of what the Scriptures say was certainly not being put into practice by the white people, but it was being said. Already in the earlier days of the church’s history in American many white Christians could not and would not exclude the black person in matters of faith.

It was largely in the church that much black leadership developed, not entirely because of the message of the Gospel but also because the church took an early responsible view toward supplying education. While the public schools had made their presence felt on the American scene, a good many of the secondary schools were church related. From the standpoint of contributing to the black person’s education alone, the record of some church bodies deserves high commendation. Northern church schools gave some of the first blacks their education. The churches began much of the establishment of schools for blacks, at all levels, in the South.

Much that was done was by well-motivated Christian folk. Some of the white church workers among the black people were by their very lives excellent witnesses for the Gospel. Their capacity to identify with the black person in many cases was a demonstration of Christianity at its finest. There were those who gave up more lucrative vocational opportunities because they were so deeply committed to serving in this long-untended concern. Many a black leader has remembered some saintly person of the white group who was real, genuine, loving, self-sacrificing; who made direct contributions to his emergence into a fruitful and meaningful life.

Double Talk

Yet for all its historic position of valiance, for all its pertinacity and unbudging refusal through the ages to compromise its conviction, the record of the modern-day institutional church often appears ludicrous in the matter of race relations. The famous cries of the martyrs: “Though I should die,” “We cannot but speak,” “We ought to obey God rather than men,” “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise” – all these have been muffled by the laments of the 20th-century churchperson’s feeble responses to the challenges: “But our property values might decrease!” “We might lose financial support!” “Some members may leave us” “Gradually” “Eventually.” “Not in this generation.”

Unable to come to grips with the issues in race relations, the institutional church claimed preoccupation with “Matters of greater urgency.” Consequently little was done to equip people for thinking and talking about the problems confronting them. In the interest of a distorted concept of peace, discussion of the matter was avoided. Worst of all, there was evident a near obsession to defend the past and to resist any implication of past guilt.

Faith of the Fathers

Every denomination has its share of unquestioning, loyal defenders who will not for one moment concede that their church could be anything but good, noble, beautiful, and right. This group of church folk, both clergy and laity, becomes defensive at any suggestion that the church’s record in human relations leaves something to be desired.

Dr. Robert Schultz, speaking before an institute on human relations, made an interesting analysis of this position. He drew a comparison between church people’s regard for church fathers and the regard of loyal sons for their blood fathers. His illustration suggested that a man might be offended and angered because another man speaks commendingly of a Native American. Because the disturbed man’s father has always insisted that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian,’ the son regards any comment favorable to Indians as an attack upon his father, branding him a liar. Facts and logical argument will be of no avail because this man will not listen.

You may think you are talking about Indians, but so far as this man is concerned you are talking about his father. . . . Some racial prejudice is, therefore, based on filial piety. The father has taken the place of God the Father. . . . This sort of racial prejudice is hard to get at. It is particularly hard for the church to get at, for the church often rests its case on parental authority. (Children) accept the faith of their fathers for much the same reason that they accept the prejudices of their fathers – because their faith rests finally upon the authority of their fathers. . . . The church must recognize that it cannot expose racial prejudices based on filial piety unless it is willing at the same time to expose the inadequacy of religious faith based on conformity to the fathers. . . .The Christian’s firm faith does not rest on one’s relationship to his human father but rather on his relationship to the heavenly Father.

Strange Love

Some of the resistance to change in patterns of administration of the church program as it affected racial concern was motivated by a kind of love for the fathers. To make drastic changes might imply that the faithful workers of the past, were less than faithful, wise, or consecrated.

But this is a distorted version of love. To contribute by active support to passive toleration to a system that does not allow for the fullest expression of love to those being served cannot be regarded as God-fearing. To imply that church workers of an earlier day would desire to be honored for their attitudes and performance rather than for the grace and forgiveness of God that attends one’s life and ministry is truly to dishonor them. It is neither courageous nor God-pleasing to fail to correct someone who honestly endeavors to serve his God but does so with shortsighted or mistaken attitudes or actions.

In one case a church body passed a resolution which spelled out a policy of integration in entrance requirements and employment practices of church “institutions, agencies, and offices”: a welcome sign that the church was acting. However, the words of this resolution included the phrase “continue to make no distinction based upon race or color.” In the past black people had not been welcomed into the institutions of this church except in a few exceptional, well-publicized instances. With the word “continue” this resolution whitewashed the past and gave assurance that there was no need to revise current procedure.

Uncertain Sounds

To recount, as often has been done, the gains in church membership in black communities after a hundred years of service is one thing. It is unfortunate, however, that no statistics will be available revealing the instances of helping a black person simply to have him gain the status of a person, to be a fully accepted brother in the family of God.

It is difficult to count the cost of the poor performance by the institutional church in its relationship with the black community. In most cases where a program has been conducted in a segregated pattern, the standards were set for mediocrity rather than excellence and therefore such questions as the following were asked:

  • Would a greater financial investment for excellence and quality in these endeavors have yielded a more productive result?
  • Would there be more than just a few outstanding black leaders emerging in the traditional Christian churches of America?

The answers begin with more questions.

  • Didn’t they believe that the black person really could move into the stream of American life?
  • Did they feel that although the black person could make the grade, they did not want him that close?
  • Was it that they did not want to do too much but had to do something for decency’s and conscience’ sake?

And finally, who are “they”? “They” represents in this case thousands of individuals, leaders and followers, active and inactive, informed and uninformed, intelligent and less-than-intelligent, deeply spiritual and shallow, the brave and the fearful, the idealist and the coldly practical. The institutional church is composed of this variety of individuals and groupings, and probably for this reason her movements are often cumbersome, the answer to a cry for help comes tardily and awkwardly. Loyal members seem to rally to her defense and say, “That’s the way it is with the church of our Lord — the movement is slow, but mighty and sure.” Corrections: sometimes the movement is feeble, sometimes backwards, and sometimes there is none at all.

There are those who may feel that it is near blasphemy to charge the church with failure. The hesitating, halting institutional church has paid dearly when the people of God have blown an uncertain sound on the trumpet of proclamation and have hidden His light under a bushel. The people have often failed their God, and God has continually had to call the people in repentance.

Chapter 6

Chapter 6 – REFUSAL TO LOOK AT THE BROKEN

Late in 1963 a congregation in the South asked its pastor to leave because the members resented a statement he had read from the pulpit asking them to repent of “having supported forced segregation by words or silence and thus giving encouragement to lawlessness and violence.” Some thought the pastor should have approached the matter in a different way at a different time rather than by reading a statement of position in a Sunday morning service, if indeed the pastor should have done it at all. The response of one church leader pointed out that this had been a call to repentance, not a statement of position, and a call to repentance is always in order.

Repentance is indeed in order, repentance not only for the lack of leadership in bringing Christ’s love to all people but also for the apparent incapacity or unwillingness of the church and its members to be consistent with its convictions and its mission,

Thou Shalt Not Kill

The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” has a meaning deeper than the obvious. The great reformer Martin Luther puts it this way: “We should not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need.”

There are more instances than will ever be known where churches and church people, through institutions and in person-to-person situations, have served and saved the black person in his bodily needs. It may have been a simple case of a sandwich to a hungry traveler; a doctor’s visit to a poor little shack, a bottle of pills and no bill; or a contribution to provide housing for a family routed from a flaming house on a cold night. These instances of genuine and compassionate concern on the part of Christians can be multiplied a million and more times in the past hundreds of years, but this does not begin to excuse the church and its members for failure to be concerned with the earlier age of death among African Americans and the higher frequency of mortality among black children and black mothers in maternity cases. Isolated instances of individual kindness can hardly compensate for the lack of charity and concern resulting from the Christian toleration of segregation. Few have understood the inferior nature of hospital and clinical care for black people, present in the North but far more pronounced in the South. More often than can be counted the black doctor has taken a case and worked hard with the patient and possibly restored him by careful diagnosis and medication and care to the point where the patient is ready to submit to surgery. At this point he will be obliged to turn his case over to some white surgeon because black people on hospital staffs in the South are still the exception.

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Another Christian insight is that the command “Thou shalt not steal” forbids more than bank robbery. Appealing to Martin Luther for definition once more: “We should not take our neighbor’s money or good by false ware (inferior products) or dealing (a lower wage standard for minority group employee), but help him to improve and protect his property and business.”

This has lucid implications for the white Christian’s relations with the African American who wishes to make good stewardship use of the gifts God has given him. Not to permit the black craftsman or the man with capabilities of cultivating craftsmanship into union membership where he would be eligible for a wage or a job commensurate with his white counterpart takes from him what God has made him capable of offering for his family and his community.

When the black person has the wherewithal to buy a house or a piece of property next to a white “fellow Christian” the cry goes up, but my property value will go down” – never for one moment concerned that the black neighbor’s property and investment might improve. Some of the most thorough studies made on the subject of real estate values rising and falling when black people move into a previously white neighborhood reveal that more is involved in the matter than simply the racial backgrounds of the residents.

To begin with, there is never a “Black invasion” of a neighborhood. If many black people suddenly do move into an area, it is always preceded by a “White retreat.” Black people do not camp on front porches or pour through front doors forcing white occupants to leave by the rear. The sudden mass exodus of Caucasians that comes from panic and fear at the first rumor or evidence that a black family is moving into the neighborhood is the true and real issue precipitating devaluation of property.

As a matter of fact the paint does not crack from the sides of a house simply because black neighbors move in; nor does the roof begin to leak; nor does the grass wither; nor do the trees begin to die; nor is the distance to school, work, or shopping area any greater; nor have the pretty birds flown away; nor are the windows broken. Home means more than the house. It may be that the value of a home – that is, a family unit – will deteriorate when fears, suspicion, lovelessness, and inhospitable attitudes enter. It is doubtful, however, that the true values in the home will be recaptured by change of residence.

If the newcomers are not Christian – at least good practicing Christians – then they become our opportunity – to help them improve themselves in every way. “But shouldn’t they be expected to be considerate of us?”

The bounties of prosperity in America have been far more the experience of the Caucasian than the members of the minority group. Education and opportunity both in breadth and in depth have been more liberally available to the whites. To whom much is given, of him shall much be required.

Thou Shalt Not Lie

Christians have traditionally stood firm in the assertion that God’s command not to “bear false witness against thy neighbor” reaches beyond the confines of a courtroom witness stand. Again appealing to Luther’s definition, it means: “Do not betray, slander, nor defame your neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.”

Has not the adult world – and there are white Christians in that number – betrayed many a young African American, persuasively enrolling him in educational pursuits or enlisting him in military service, only to deny him later that for which he was trained, or that for which he fought and risked his life?

More than this, the church and its members have often unwittingly contributed to the stereotyped image of the black person carried by so many Caucasians, and have often helped stamp these impressions on the minds of little children. It is often church people who have convinced many (who respected and trusted these benevolent spokesmen with childlike simplicity), of their innate inferiority. Specific instances of inferiority in performance, conduct, and achievement ought always be viewed against the full background of black history, which exposes the awesome limitations and proscriptions imposed on this people. To do this is to “put the best construction on everything.” However, this is not to be distorted into a pattern of condescending paternalism which regards the black person as actually inferior, not as a person and brother but a thing.

The general reason for exclusion and segregation advanced even by church people claims that the black person is undercultured, crude, unclean, overemotional, boisterous, exhibitionistic – and for the most part incapable of matching up to the white person.

We should take note of journalist Carl Rowan, singer Marian Anderson, chemist Percy Julian, educator Rufus Perry, social worker Whitney Young, social psychologist Kenneth Clarke, consultant Marguerite Cartwright, historian John Hope Franklin, judge James B Parsons, and hosts of other black people, known and little known, who have distinguished themselves in their communities with vitality, selflessness, dignity, intelligence, decency, and responsible leadership. They make a lie of the persistent efforts to assign the African American – for this generation if not forever – to a status of unacceptableness.

Responsibility and Irresponsibility

The various Christian denominations in America have been quoted from time to time as being on record almost unanimously against every kind of racial discrimination and as declaring Christian people and their churches responsible for bringing an end to racial injustice and for extending the hand of welcome to all people in the name of Jesus. Almost all of these church bodies are embarrassed from time to time as individuals and groups in their midst speak and act in ways inconsistent with the pronouncements.

Tougaloo (Mississippi) College Chaplain Ed King reported in 1963 that ministers of his denomination “had been forced to leave Mississippi in the past 7 years for preaching ‘Love thy neighbor,’ including at least 16 of them in the current year”

It is embarrassing too that editors of church periodicals are subjected to insolent and loveless protests from angry church members. They threaten subscription cancellation or promise to boycott the publication when an article not to their liking appears on race relations – even though the position of the article is Scripturally sound. It is distressing if not blasphemous for people to uphold a system of injustice and lovelessness, appealing to distortions of Scripture to justify their position.

There are those who “lament” the shame attending racial discrimination but excuse their own aloofness from the problem for reasons which they insist are Scriptural. Claiming to be moderates and gradualists, they assert that the problem will eventually work itself out and thus would excuse their inaction “for the time being.” They point to the great strides noticeable in the past two decades as ample proof that their personal inactivity and failure to participate in the change were justified. These “good church people” are frequently the very ones who are deeply shocked and hurt when they meet the stubborn and outspoken segregationist whom they have never challenged and who resolutely resists every attempt to change the status quo. They find it impossible to understand that there has been no change in him whatsoever, gradual or otherwise.

Noah’s Curse

Historically many people have simply resigned themselves to a position which holds that the black person has been assigned to a status and role of servitude because of an ancient curse, sometimes called the curse of Noah, sometimes the curse of Canaan, and sometimes the curse of Ham. (Even some black individuals have believed this.) Reference is to an occasion when Noah was angered at his son who laughed at him when he had lain naked in his drunken sleep, “When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son [Ham] had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan [Ham’s son]; a slaves of slaves shall he be. . . “ (Gen 9:24,25)

The defense of racial discrimination on the basis of this text is not tenable because the Old Testament scholarship shows that there is no ground for classifying the dark-skinned people of Africa as the progeny of Canaan, for these Canaanites went to the Palestinian region rather than to Africa.

What is really important is that the very thrust of the Christian message is that God sent His Son into the world to undo the curse of sin. In the words of a loved carol, He came “to make His Blessings known far as the curse is found.”

Noah’s curse has often been given a position of exaggerated importance while Scripture’s sharp focus and relentless emphasis is upon a greater curse. Consistently the Scriptures designate sin’s essence as out-and-out rebellion of people against God. To break one’s relationship with the God from whom all blessings flow is to call down on oneself the curse of God. Since all people share this rebellious nature, a mass rescue was the crying need. So when the apostle Paul talked of God sending His Son he put it this way; “Christ hath redeemed us. . . being made a curse for us.” Gal. 3:13. By taking the curse upon Himself He broke its power and lifted it from mankind. It is the privilege of Christians not to uphold some ancient curse but to busy themselves with letting the blessing of God get through to all wherever possible.

Get the Word Out

Anyone who understands the Christian principle of sharing the Gospel of Christ knows that the role of the church is to witness, proclaim, share and tell. The challenge of the church for years has been: “How can you get someone to hold still long enough to get the message across?” Through the years every legitimate technique and device (and a few illegitimate ones) have been employed “that we might by all means win some.”

Yet somehow the pressures of excluding the minority group have been overpowering enough to dilute the strength of the commission: “Preach the Gospel to every creature.” “Compel them to come in.” “Till earth’s remotest nation has learned Messiah’s name.”

That is why in these last years, possibly for the first time in recorded history, churches and their leaders have been quoted as saying they would resist the visits of blacks and whites to their churches, if they came to attend services together. Nor were they merely making idle threats. In Jackson, Miss., and Birmingham, Ala., police were asked to arrest as “trespassers” these unwelcome visitors.

Obviously these people who so vigorously protested the presence of the “Kneel-inners” were not illiterate and irresponsible people. They operated on the basis of what they felt was sound and defensible judgment. Their rationales probably were something like this:

“These people have not come with a proper motive and thus have not come in good faith. Had they come for worship, it would have been a different situation. These people came to force integration upon us or to test our genuineness, and we do not believe their intentions are pure. They have churches of their own – churches that are closer.”

Such reasoning has been sufficiently impressive to win the acceptance of more church groups and leaders than can be counted. But it is ludicrously – pathetically – inconsistent. It would be amusing to observe if it did not expose the sham and coldness of the spokesperson and dishonor the Lord of the church. For these are the same churches that smilingly tolerate poor motives of other worshipers: the young men with their churchgoing girl friends, the art students looking at the stained glass windows, the musicians listening to the organ and the choir.

Admittedly many “kneel-inners” came to test these churches to see if their “Everyone welcome” signs were genuine and true. And there were a good many churches that failed the test.

The people who protest, “There would have been trouble,” should realize that there already is trouble because they have tolerated a spirit in their midst which fears to offer the love of Christ to all people.

It ought to be said here, however, that many passed the test admirably. After a period of waiting and trembling – and sometimes careful planning – there were congregations who saw demonstrated before their very eyes that their people were capable of meeting the moment. Some thanked God and acknowledged their weakness and small faith, also sensing the overriding providence, love and power of an abiding Lord. But once the tide of kneel-ins subsided, there were few churches who pursued the advantage. They could have been encouraged by the knowledge that their people were up to welcoming the stranger and impressed by the dignified conduct of visitors. This should have been reassurance enough to take the second step and confidently embark on a program of invitation and welcome to people of minority groups. Even though the groundwork for such reception had been laid and was manifest to all, with a sigh of relief the experience was chalked up to history and worn as a “good conduct pin.”

Is It Too Late?

Some churches and church leaders have complained of their frustrations at finding themselves in such inbred and ingrained patterns and customs of racial discrimination in their communities. They have believed that to oppose them would be disastrous – to the members, the pastor, the buildings, the future of the church, and the reputation of the denomination.

In the early 1950’s an elderly pastor whose entire parish ministry had been in the South could no longer satisfy the insistent, challenging questions of a young group of seminary students who were censuring the church’s relative ineffectiveness in the South. Exasperated and worn, the senior churchman, on the verge of tears, said to the young men,

There is no doubt that the ultimate goal of our work must be men of all races kneeling next to one another at the Lord’s altar receiving the Sacrament together. But we are so far from this goal that it does not seem in sight. What are we to do? Where are we to begin? We came following Paul’s example, becoming “all things to all men.” We adapted our program and approach to the customs of the community – we excluded the black person from our midst. From the very beginning we should have said, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” But we let the world tell us the terms on which we could serve. And now it is too late.

With such one can weep.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 – THE ASSIGNMENT TO MEND

The great goal of the church must be that of God Himself as expressed in the purpose of the life and work of His Son, Jesus Christ – to restore people to their original purpose and value.

The word “redeem” is often defined in its literal sense from the Latin word from which it is derived, “to buy back.” The idea is likely to suggest a pawnshop situation where something previously forfeited for temporary financial gain is bought back at a later date. The Scriptural concept of this word says much more.

At Great Cost

Were a person to take an old family heirloom, a handsomely hand-carved clock, to a pawnshop, one might buy it back a few years later only to find its glass cracked, its hand bent, its dial scratched, its pendulum broken off, the glue in its joints crumbled and its original finish covered by an ugly coat of cream-colored enamel. He simply has not accomplished much by his “buying back.” But suppose the person were to buy this clock and with much care, industry, inconvenience, and long hours rework bent pieces and himself fashion other parts no longer available elsewhere, refinish the cabinet, and upon completion have the ancient timepiece operating with precise accuracy, telling each quarter hour in beautiful resonant tones, with pendulum shining bright, graceful hands pointing clearly to the time, the wood cabinet a shiny gloss of seasoned sharp-grained walnut. Now one has truly “redeemed” that clock. And such is the redemptive word of God in Jesus Christ. “To restore to the originally intended purpose and value – at great cost.” Jesus came to mend what was broken, the brokenness with which all people are afflicted: the brokenness of people from God, the brokenness of people themselves, the brokenness of person from person.

Old Age Zacchaeus

In Jericho, Jesus sought such a broken man. Zacchaeus had broken his relationship with his God. Essentially his sin was distrusting God to provide for his needs and counting only on his own genius and ingenuity. He accepted a post with the occupation government of Rome to have a part in squeezing excessive tribute and tax from his own people, the Israelites, God’s people, for the benefit of Rome’s treasury and his own purse. He was the essence of confusion and brokenness himself as he sat perched in his tree. In his vocation he denounced God, in his parade-watching vantage point he awaited the arrival of the Messiah. His very presence in a tree expressed his brokenness from others who despised him and would not give the short man a place from which he might watch Jesus’ entry.

Jesus the Redeemer mends the broken. He took the initiative and aggressively offered to bridge the gap between Zacchaeus and God: “I am coming to your house today, Zacchaeus.” Once this uniting took place as Christ visibly demonstrated the reunion of God with, the publican’s own brokenness could be given attention. People-cheater and God-love in one person? Absurd inconsistency! And so followed the fantastic birth of a philanthropist as he righted the wrong, repaying fourfold what he had dishonestly taken. Forgiven by the life-giving Messiah, he now has a consistent life, his integrity is restored. With this turning point in his life his brokenness from other people ends. And now he reaches out in the spirit of Christ to others, giving half of his possessions to the poor and compensating so generously to the victims of his misdeeds that the ties with his fellow people are restored.

New Age Zacchaeus

The case is no different for the Christian who knows her natural inclination to determine her own course, trusting no one but herself for her survival, her well-being and happiness. The Christian is well aware that she often pushes God from His throne and takes over in His place, playing God. This is the rebellion – a deliberate break from God. This brokenness of the Christian has been mended – the apartness has been remedied by an “at-one-ment,” the atonement of Jesus. His perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant victory make the person joined to Him by faith “at one” with God again.

There is no more need for divided loyalties, for pretending to be decent, for defensiveness, for double talk and phoniness, for playing two roles. The one who had lost his integrity, who had been two-faced and double-tongued, has been mended and made whole. The Greeks had a word for it – this “being made whole” the word they used was saved. God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be “saved” – restored to its original purpose and value – at great cost.

Imperfect Perfection

In spite of this great rescue the Christian, the saved and mended one, the one made whole, is still an undependable reflection of the saving, mending God. Because he is human he finds himself constantly reverting to brokenness, constantly in need of the forgiving, mending work of God. The great people of God whose lives are described on the pages of Scripture are consistently exposed in their humanness, their brokenness. But God is not reduced by the weakness of people. Rather, God is magnified as the source of people’s greatness. Paul said in effect that he was a mud vessel carrying a priceless treasure. A great honor had been bestowed on him indeed, but they were not to confuse him with the treasure he bore. Paul found himself harassed constantly by the old breakaway nature which still nagged at him, sometimes successfully, to resent and resist God, to be untrue to his new self, and to be harmful toward a fellowman. Where would he ever find victory in such a struggle? He claimed he already had it in the redeeming Christ. Assured of forgiveness, he regarded himself as being more than merely an emptied-of-sins sort of vessel. He was filled with the life of God. This empowered him to share God’s mending with others.

God’s people then, at best, do a relatively poor job of reflecting God and His purpose to one another and to those who are not in the Christian family. This dare never become reason for resignation from the challenge and the commission. The Christian calling is one of optimism and hope. It is one of growth and victory.

Jesus of Nazareth did not believe that His followers would catch the full significance of His redeeming ministry and never again desire to sin. So well did he know the undependable and stubbornly selfish nature of man that he anticipated daily need for forgiveness and news strength for His followers when he taught them His great prayer: “ Our Father, who art in heaven”; and one of the petitions reads, “Forgive us our trespasses.”

God’s Trumpet

It is late. The institutional church has a faltering and fumbling record in bringing leadership to a problem that has brought so much anguish, bitterness, shame, tyranny, and violence to so many people. The call she still needs to hear is the call to repentance.

But the call to repentance must be articulate. It was the bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese in Texas who said that we will have difficulty dealing with racial discrimination until we call it what it really is – sin. To those who are willing to call their neglect, hesitancy, fearfulness, selfishness, sentimentalism, procrastination, pride and prejudice what they are – sins – God has a word to say: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is just to forgive,” because “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” And so “to those who believe on His name He giveth power to become the sons of God.” “Son of God” – that name is normally reserved for Jesus Christ. But God chooses to apply it to His people. John seems almost to be beside himself as he exults in one of his letter: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God!” When people have thought this through they are ready to understand a little of what Jesus meant when He said that as the Father sent Him into the world, so He sends us.

The Mind of Christ

Jesus had the mind to do His Father’s will. And He knew what God wanted. He did not glibly say, “Thy will be done.” His whole life expressed this surrender of Himself to His Father’s purpose – redeeming, mending broken people.

As time runs out on the world and on the church, those who do not have the mind of Christ must put themselves at God’s disposal in determined effort to mend broken lives; not only those broken by oppression and frustration but also those self-broken by rebellion and refusal to serve God by caring for the fellow man.

Jesus thought more of those He had come to help than of Himself. Sometimes it is hard to look long at and draw close to the man covered with sores or the marks of oppression. And sometimes it is difficult to love the person at whose hand the victim has suffered, or the person who stood by neither interfering nor wincing as the blows were delivered. Yet these too need love and help. So Jesus spoke with mercy and love to the trampled and abuse, and He offered forgiveness in the hour of his own death to the fellow-crucified and crucifier alike.

The Christian does not align with the black person in such a way as to fight the oppressors. The Christian brings relief to the oppressed and to the champion of white superiority, rescue from shackling sin. Though Jesus was the Son of God, He did not make such claims on His status of being God as would excuse Him from being involved at the level of blood and dirt and sweat and death. The Christian with the mind of Christ, though made a child of God, does not ask exemption from the grimy aspects of the work of rescue. This Christian can take the brunt of abuse, face taunts, and meet unpleasantness head on.

Paul tells us: “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus, who though in the form of God . . . became a servant.” And the well-meaning Christian may respond: “That is great for Paul, but how about the rest of us who can’t quite make the grade?”

The mind of Christ is not an achievement. It is a gift. The lives of the children of God pulsate with a new existence, permeated and filled with the fullness of God. Because God has chosen to make his abode in people, they are empowered to think and act Christ-mindedly.

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 – TO MEND THE BROKEN

In the early days of the church many people were disturbed because the Christians were so unnatural, so “out of step.” They were characterized by some critics as “turning the world upside down.” They really were doing nothing of the sort. They themselves had been turned around and no longer were participants in the life of an upside-down world whose heels were kicked up against God. At great cost God through Christ had returned them to what He originally had intended and purposed them to be. And to this day the conscientious disciple is not conformed to those around him. He is different. He dares to be conspicuously busy helping turn a badly upset world of people right side up once more.

The Big Difference

What is “natural” then for most people may indeed be in conformity with the broken condition of people, but quite glaringly different from the life of the person in Christ.

Once the Christian becomes involved in the concerns about this upside-down world, a host of subtle and devilish temptations will confront him or her. Reasons will be found to delay and withdraw wholehearted commitment to God and mankind.

Temptation to withdraw from the commitment comes from the strangest places. Even earnest pastors and well-meaning church leaders are among them. A woman in a Southern community once complained that she felt bad that she had never had occasion to know members of the only other church of her denomination in that city – which happened to be in the black community. She felt the only thing she and members of her congregation had really been giving to these other members in Christ was old hymn books. And so she asked her pastor if it would be possible to invite members to her church sometime and at a later date return the visit.

The pastor commended the woman for her attitude and for the suggestion, but he discouraged her from pursuing the matter any further because other members would not be ready for it. The plea of the pastor was undoubtedly one of genuine concern for people who had not even begun to grow in this matter, people who had grown accustomed to patterns of racial discrimination and conventions of inherent white racial superiority. These patterns and convictions cannot be altered overnight.

But the woman in almost desperate pleading asks: “Where do I go? What do I do? Am I to stagnate until such a time when everyone has grown to the point where he understands?” This pastor owes this new member every possible support in cultivating further growth in faith and life. It is the pastor’s privilege to help this person find ways to develop and express this new gift, to benefit others, and to give glory to God.

The statement that “the problem is too deeply entrenched” must not deter anyone in his or her conviction to be concerned and do something about it.

What about Communism?

Another tempting thought has been increasingly effective in recent time: “If you get involved with working in antisegregation and pro-black efforts you are either in danger of being regarded as communist or you will be playing into the hands of the communists.”

Atheistic communism is evil and dangerous. But the fear of this threatening menace is equally dangerous. It has been hung as a cloud over the heads of men and kept many from seeing the God who is greater than communism and who has given promises to His people that no power, not even communism or anything else shall separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Christ tells His disciples, “Fear not!” Above all, do not be afraid to love, genuinely and generously. Scriptures speak clearly: “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” And again: “Let us not love in word and speech but in deed and in truth.” Occasions to help the “brother or sister in need” are opportunities to give service to Christ Himself (Matt. 24:45, 46). When we turn from bringing relief to the person in need it is Christ we are refusing to serve.

Perhaps the most frequently vilified and slandered group has been the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The late J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s famous director publicly stated that the organization had been thoroughly scrutinized and the charges of communistic affiliation made against it were untrue and unwarranted. As a matter of record this organization has distinguished itself for its obvious regard for the American judiciary process, pursuing its course patiently through courtroom after courtroom in state after state, ultimately in case after case. To help vindicate victims of injustice (a concern commended by the Scriptures.)

A much maligned leader in this concern is Martin Luther King, a clergyman who is not a communist. By trying to show him up as one who associates with people purported to be communists, certain groups repeatedly attempt to discredit him, his leadership, and everything he says. What could be the purpose of those who refused to see and acknowledge the good he had done, disarming would-be violent dissenters among the black people of Birmingham, risking his life as he tries to organize frustrated and angry people in peaceful and nonviolent expressions of dissatisfaction, appealing to reason and conference techniques to work through the maze of misunderstanding and tension? Here were people who had turned from speaking well of a neighbor and putting the best construction on his words and actions.

Repeated charges of subversion and attempts to discredits leaders in the civil rights movement were hurled by otherwise responsible citizens and even church people. In December 1964 Mr. Hoover stated:

Let me emphasize that the American civil right movement is not and never has been dominated by the communists – because the overwhelming majority of civil rights leaders in the country, both Negro and White, have recognized and rejected communism as a menace to the freedoms of all.

The Blessed Difference

Failure to move constructively into opportunities to remove the tension and injustices involved in human relations solely because people may regard one as a communist or un-American or anything uncomplimentary or evil is to step out of line with the proud procession of great people of God described by Jesus in His famous Beatitudes:

Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad . . . for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Those who wish to follow in the footsteps of Jesus must know that He was often censured because of the company in which he was found: the Samaritans, with Romans, with prostitutes, with extortioners – but He had His Father’s work to do, and He would not turn from it simply because of the cutting words of His critics.

Always on Tiptoe

Closely akin to this fear of being called names is the thought, “What will my friends think?” A mother of college boys was remarking in rather sophisticated tones, “I really don’t mind that my boys have friends among the black students when they are at school. From what my letters say they seem to be fine young men. I just hope that my boys won’t want to bring any of them home. I don’t want my neighbors to be talking about it for the next couple of years.”

Some who have known black people in their town have told them matter-of-factly that they would invite them over sometime, but their neighbors are so prejudiced and narrow-minded that they simply would not understand were they to visit in the neighborhood. Then lamely they add a thought that they wished they were walled off or had better neighbors or that all their neighbors would be gone on a trip. These people apparently do not understand that to the black person their words really mean, “We would like to have you over, but your skin is dark. Frankly, we think more of the white people around us, who, we admit, are very ugly people when it comes to racial attitudes, than we think of you. We hope you understand; we know they won’t.”

Occasionally a black person might have preferred not to have a white person speak to him in public, for some white people might think he is out of line and does not “know his place” or other black people might think he is an “Uncle Tom,” one who accepts and believes his supposedly inferior status.

Perhaps the apostle Paul was setting the right standard for people who are concerned because others are watching. He saw himself as one entrusted with the “mysteries of God” – the remarkable love that reaches out to save all people through the cross of His Son. He insisted that his faithful administration of this ministry called for detachment from human opinion. Declaring his disdain for the criticism of outsiders and his total indifference to the judging attitudes in his congregation he stated: “I do not even judge myself . . . it is the Lord who judges me.”

What Comes Naturally

Some feel excused from participation in a demonstrated concern for solution of racial problems because the problems do not seem to be immediately upon them. Pastors sometimes say they have no blacks in their congregations or the closest black person may live more than two miles away from the church and to invite him would not be “natural.” In much the same way people who have not had any close acquaintances with black people may say that they would like to have a black couple drop in at their home some evening for coffee and a visit, but it is not “natural” to invite total stranger or casual acquaintances into one’s home.

Some of the greatest things done in life are not “natural.” It is not “natural” to slit a person’s abdomen with a knife. But because of this unnatural bit of conduct, appendices and cancers have been removed, defective organs repaired, and pain relieved, health regained, and death averted. How many men and women have not quite “unnaturally” connived and arranged for some elaborate bit of strategy and maneuvering to meet a partner who ultimately became the most natural life-mate!

Especially in the activities of the Christian life unnatural actions are bound to occur, and unnatural procedures are followed. What is so natural about ringing a bell loudly on Sunday morning when a good many people want to sleep? Nor is there anything natural about going from door to door, knocking at each one to ask such personal questions as: “Do you belong to a church?” “Does your husband?” “Do you attend regularly?” And yet many churches do not begin to reject the church canvass or religious census on grounds of its being unnatural.

One does not normally approach a guest and call him a sinner. It is not good manners. It is not “Natural,” but in many church services the pastor’s first words to the worshipers – members and guests as well – are “Beloved in the Lord, let us confess our sins.” He obviously is implying that every visitor present is a sinful person. The churches have accepted this somewhat jarring episode in the worship service, as boldly insulting as the words may be, because it readies the hearer to receive the message of forgiveness.

Artistic Christians

Many things which we do are “unnatural” or “artistic. Literally “artificial” means “work of art.” There is reason to protest against such activity if it is superficial, insincere, and indulged in from unworthy motives. But loving is a work of art. To visit children in a hospital, to read to aged blind people, to sing carols in prison at Christmas, all take on new beauty when regarded as works of art – the art of loving, genuinely and selflessly.

However, this active concern for others is often reward with discouragement and frustration. Many times this love is ignored, rejected, or resented. A black Wichita attorney, in private conversation, lamented that for all practical purposes several restaurants in his city had taken on the characteristics of being exclusively for whites. He added that these restaurants had been open to all and yet the black people had not made use of the opportunity to eat there and by default had forfeited the opportunity to be with white citizens.

In a Southern city a theater complained that he had opened his theater to the black community despite the knowledge that he would lose some white patrons, but the blacks had not started to attend in any considerable number. A store owner pointed out that he had been severely criticized for hiring a black clerk, but he had not noticed any increase in the number of black customers for all his efforts.

In another Southern city, after a young white couple had helped a black family purchase a home in a previously white community they were accused of being communists. This was bad enough, but their most painful and disillusioned moment came when the man whom they had helped also turned away from them because he believed the accusation.

It has been painful for some young white students who went to the South to demonstrate their concern for the blacks’ plight, facing brutality and even death, only to hear some black people, purporting to be authorized spokespeople, summarily dismiss them as immature and irresponsible publicity seekers.

What we need to remember, however, is that someone who has been hurt before, or has had little or no experience in or expectations of being treated with care, concern, respect and love at the hands of certain people, might well be suspicious of new overtures of goodness, no matter how genuine.

It must be realized that many black people have never had the experience of a white person approaching them for anything except when it was the white person’s advantage: to sell a commodity he couldn’t dispose of in a white community at as high or price; to hire the black person to do a job at a lower wage than would be paid to a white person; to get a black person to do a job no white person could or would do. With a lifetime of such experiences is it not reasonable that one should be suspicious?

Sideline Sentiments

Questions like, “Will it do any good?” and “Is anyone else doing anything?” will often make the Christian think twice about getting involved.

In a community that has tolerated black exclusion for most of its history, among neighbors who stubbornly and angrily insist that to change things will only bring trouble, discouragement comes easily. There is a certain futility in even the suggestion of talking about the matter. If no one else is concerned about race relations, then how can one person accomplish anything? On the other hand, one may think that if there is much activity and progress, then it may be that one person more or less will not matter. It seems safer to stay on the outside and talk about how organized groups seem to be doing things so well or, more often, to criticize them for doing things so badly. Such thoughts tempt many to withdraw from the struggle.

In reality these groups working with problems in human relations have all, in varying degrees, made significant contributions. Seldom do they claim that their own particular methods and techniques are the only, the best, or the final way of action. Their need for volunteers is continuous and urgent. It is hardly gracious then to berate the efforts of people who are earnestly endeavoring to correct ills while raising no finger to bring any solution to the problems. The college student, participating in a civil rights demonstration, may not have been eloquent, but he was articulate when he said, “It may not be the best thing there is to do, but if you can’t come up with something better, don’t knock it!”

When Jesus enlisted disciples and asked a man to “take up your cross and follow Me,” he did not expect him to look around to see who else, if anybody, was coming along. So when the individual Christian sees his new responsibility and opportunity he must get to work on it at once. Scripture’s great imperatives are normally accompanied by such words as “now,” “today,” “before the night comes.”

The Christian is never asked to employ the Christian life only where it appears profitable, where it promises desirable results. The Christian is merely asked to be Christian at all time and in all places. Merely? Yes! The directive is simple, yet compliance is often difficult.

Perspective

Twentieth century disciples, who wish to emulate their Lord as they follow Him, ought to observe how often He went unthanked, rebuffed, insulted, criticized, and rejected. In the present day there are thousands who claim to be His adherents but treat Him shabbily, abuse His gifts, and dishonor His name. Yet He refuses to permit the consideration, “I might not be appreciated” to swerve Him from His purpose, nor must His followers.

False Spirituality

There are many who like to think, “The work of the church is spiritual,” implying that the things of God do not pertain to the physical. If Scriptures say: “Deal thy bread to the hungry,” why should this be interpreted to mean, “Give him a Bible passage?” A New Testament paragraph rejects the idea that the spiritual life consists only in talking about faith and love and blessing. James insists that faith expresses itself in giving a coat to the cold one and a sandwich to the hungry one. Then summarily he declares: “Faith without works is dead.” Churches have traditionally been dispensers of mercy – sponsors of hospitals, homes for orphans and the aged, distributors of Christmas baskets, and have served in numerous other concerns to mitigate discomforts of people. Not to be engaged in such activities for fear of losing our focus on the centrality of the Gospel is inconsistent with our calling as Christians.

The Role of Government and Laws

It is often said that integration cannot be forced by legislation. What is rarely realized is that segregation and injustice have been effectively forced and enforced by legislation. For the most part, pursuing the case of desegregation through the courts may have been a matter of declaring unjust laws – originally conceived and enacted to assign black people to a status of inferiority – immoral and illegal. These laws were enacted and enforced while Christian citizens for the most part voiced no criticism or dissenting stand.

The Christian’s Civic Role

When people say that this matter is not in the realm of Christian concern, they are forgetting that the Christian is to render the government support and honor and everything else due it. But someone will say, “This implies obedience, because the officers of government are described by Scripture as ‘ministers of God’ “ The 13th chapter of Romans does indeed award this title to officers of government. It further defines their assignment: to reward good and punish evil. In church and government, when the ministers faithfully perform their God-given assignments, they deserve honor and respect. When they fail, their unfaithfulness must be exposed, in love for them and in love for those they are serving. Each responsible individual in a democracy must realize that what he owes most to his government is to help it by active participation to be what it should be – a defender of the innocent and the righteous and a curb against evil.

Among the first words Lyndon Johnson spoke upon assuming the office of President of the United States were words to the effect that there is no need for the black person who has waited a hundred years for what is rightfully his to have to wait another hundred years or even a hundred more days. If this is true in terms of government and democracy it holds true even more in matters related to the gifts of God. Responsible parents will try to keep their children mindful of the many gifts with which God has endowed people in the form on natural resources. It is incumbent upon them to point out the worth of water and air, of fields and forests, of soil and coal and oil. The child ought to have indelibly impressed on his memory the evil of waste and contamination and dangers of erosion, corrosion, and rot. The child must learn of the wealth and benefit to be found in conservation and development of the natural resources and conversely the costly expense of neglecting to care for them and failing to develop them. Many adults have taught this lesson exceptionally well.

What is not often made clear, however is that there is an equal need to utilize and develop to one’s fullest capacity the natural resource called humanity. To do so becomes beneficial to an increasing number of people – not to do so becomes excessively expensive and tragically wasteful in terms of human life. It is to be feared that we have urged people to develop themselves for their own personal advantage, and so a sense of human value to be found in others has been largely forfeited. Nowhere in the human condition is the failure to regard people as a great gift of natural resource from God more to be observed than in the life of a black person.

Speaking of “Rights”

But does the Christian speak of “rights” in the presence of God? Who is the person who could demand rights of God? Dare a person shake a fist at the heavens and say, “I want what’s coming to me”? What a horrible thought! What if God gave people what they deserved? It is in the realization of this that Jesus means so much to the Christian, for He in His crucifixion too what was rightfully coming to all people. And those who accept Him and His work of love as the gift He intends it to be have the right to call God “Father” because of Christ. We have the right to insist on forgiveness because of Christ. We have the right to see all of God’s promises fulfilled in our lives because of Christ. We have the right to develop all our talents and put them at the disposal of our God. And these rights Jesus has earned for all people, and they are ours to share them at once.

Many black lives have flowered into full bloom and have made rich contributions to the life of Americans: Chas. R. Drew, who developed the “blood bank,” the storage of blood plasma for medical purposes; Ralph Bunche, who made such great contributions to world peace; Booker T. Washington, who made outstanding contributions to the educational world. But it is only when one subtracts the names of such people and their contributions from the records of history that one can see their worth, wondering how we might have fared without them. At this point one pauses in awe to ponder what other great contributions would have been made to the American scene had some other forgotten people been given the right to live and to develop all their talents.

Chapter 9

Chapter 9 – ENLISTMENT IN MENDING

Jesus once said that a person would not think of beginning construction of a tower without first sitting down to figure what the project will cost. Otherwise one might get the building halfway up and run out of funds and have to bring the work to a halt. The worker would stand to be ridiculed and shamed by passersby looking at the abandoned frame and its scaffolding and laughing and making comments about the person with his big plans and little more. He gave the illustration to point out that the same sort of “estimating the cost” was in place for the one who considered following Him. He said that becoming His disciples meant “taking up one’s cross” and following Him.

The Cost of Discipleship

The cross is not beautiful, though replicas of it be wrought from costly metals in delicate detail by skilled jewelers. It is an instrument of execution and death. It is to reflect to people God’s great judgment against people’s sins. It is to express the fantastically great love of Christ enduring punishment of sin in humanity’s place that people might be given life instead of death. Its beauty is its ugliness, and we hold to it because it is the focal point of God’s mercy for us. We bear it proudly and high to give glory to Him who bore it all for us and we hold it for others to see that they might know its meaning and receive its benefits. But that cross is heavy, and it is rough and full of splinters.

Whoever tries to evade the cross is in jeopardy. One who tries to salvage and get the most out of life forfeits it, Jesus adds. But one who is willing to surrender life to the God who saves by making people whole and mending them will discover it in new and full and exciting dimensions.

The committed Christian then knows what the person’s relationship with God has cost Jesus Christ. One knows too that this relationship is the very life which Christ gave for each of us and gives to each of us. The life one lives now is the life of Christ. The old life has been surrendered and it has been exchanged at the cross for the new. Without selfishness, with eyes wide open to the love and power and life of god, one moves into the world. With eyes wide open to see the brokenness there, one brings to it God’s mending powers. With eyes wide open to the dangers, one faces then courageously. With eyes wide open to the faithfulness of god, the Christian says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

Called to Suffer

The Christian can begin to understand now what Paul talked about to his parishioners in Philippi; “It has been granted {an undeserved gift of grace} to you . . . not only {to} believe in Christ but also {to} suffer for His sake.” The Christian knows he has been invited – effectually called – to be a believer in Jesus Christ. In his first letter Peter points out that when a person suffers for doing what is right in God’s sight this is good, and this is part of one’s calling, one’s Christian vocation.

A caution must be observed in facing up to the prospects of suffering for the cause of righteousness. A distorted mentality can (it has happened often) misuse the suffering aspect of Christian life and make it an end in itself. This is a sort of masochism, a delight in being abused or tortured, that regards the painful consequences of speaking up for what is right in God’s sight as more important than the speaking up itself. It is almost as if to say, “Please punish me for my conduct, it hurts so good!”

The Christian does not go out of the way to be abused, but does go out of the way to proclaim to people what God has done for them in Christ and what God has for them in Christ. The message has no ring of genuineness, however, unless it is presented in love – not just loving words, but in love that flows out from the Christian. This is a love that has come to the Christian but is not bottled up and sealed inside. This is God’s love that has come and now comes though that person to others. This love asks nothing in return; it needs nothing because it has already bestowed so much on the Christian from the God who sent it in the first place. It is a love sponsored in suffering. The person who gives it to others, though it pains, does not suffer in order to earn the good will of God. On the contrary one suffers so that God’s good will can be passed on to others who need it. And Christian shore up one another in their selfless sharing of love with one another and all people, that those they love might be prepared to ask the question, “Why” “How come?” It is at this point that Christ can be explained as the answer to people’s deepest needs.

Suffering with a Purpose

In other words, the Christian is willing to suffer purposefully, for the ultimate good that comes to others. There are indeed dangers connected with being a Christian, and what is tragic is that not more people were briefed and readied for this aspect of the Christian life. Real struggles come upon a person when it is discovered that the consistent Christian life may bring physical pain, social ostracism, economic ruin, domestic anguish, and mental agony. “If a man does not take up his cross and follow me, he cannot be my disciple.” But Jesus continues: ”Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Loving Much

Loving is indeed an art, and it takes study and practice. With the mind of Christ the Christian observes how Jesus identified with those whom He loved.

Accordingly, the Christian learns to know personally the black person, the Puerto Rican, the Latin American, the Native American, the person from Appalachia. The Christian looks at the life they live, the dwelling place they inhabit, the jobs they can get, the security they possess, the background they have inherited, the problems that burden them. The Christian learns to know their needs, their fear, their liabilities, their lonesomeness, their frustration, and their hopes. It is then and only then that one can begin to love. Where opportunity for personal contact and intergroup experiences are lacking for such studying and understanding of need, the learner must certainly draw on books, newspapers and periodicals to observe the problems of the victims of discrimination and view them from their standpoint. Studying is essential.

A little lad is faced with grave problems when selecting a Christmas gift for his mother. He finally determines what the gift shall be, and he can hardly contain himself or retain the secret as he hides the carefully wrapped present until Christmas. When it is finally time to open gifts, he carries it to her, his eyes brimming with love. With great expectancy and tender understanding the mother exults as she sees the new gift, “Oh, how very, very nice!” But what is she going to do with a little red dump truck?

The child grows, and as he grows he learns that one does not give gifts of love on terms of what would please the giver. More mature love requires that the giver imagine himself in the place of the receiver to determine what would most please the recipient. So this time the boy gives perfume, a necklace and powder, none of which he would ever consider desirable gifts for him. But these, he realizes, will please his mother.

Loving One at a Time

The mature Christians do not administer love on their own terms, but because they have studies and come to know the intended recipient of their love they give what the recipients need and inasmuch as it is helpful to them, what they desire. In loving the oppressed one must realize that every person’s hurt is a little different from the next one’s: the person who has lived most of his or her life in a shack with a dripping roof has a different set of expectations from those of the person who has lived squeezed into a vermin-infested tenement with three other families; and both of these are different from the person who has finished college and lives in a neat, well-constructed home that he has had built, but who nonetheless cannot get a job commensurate with his training and ability because of his race. Each has tasted the evils of racial discrimination, each may harbor deep resentment, yet each is different, and each needs to be understood in their particular difficulty.

By the same token the people who have supported the cause of racial discrimination are different one from another. Each must be understood with his or her own particular problem. One person may have had only one close encounter with a black person in his lifetime, but that experience was so negative that it affected his attitude toward all black people almost indelibly. Another person, on the other hand, may never have had any concourse whatsoever with people of a minority group. Still another may have been so filled with vile stories and poisoned concepts that he has no willingness to hear anything that might be favorable to the black person. Another person has known black people only of the most underprivileged and underdeveloped kind. There may be others who would be quite willing to assume a new stance of acceptance towards people of minorities, but they are overwhelmed by fears. The Christian must try to envision the anguish of a child threatened by a father who has warned that child not to play with children of a different race; the fear of a wife whose husband becomes stormily angry when anyone challenges the patterns of segregation; the fright of the person awakened in the dark of night by phone calls when no one speaks on the other end of the line; the nervousness of the father who receives a threatening note about his little daughter; the alarm which strikes when people who has been told that their businesses will feel it is they go through with plans to hire black people; the terror of the child threatened with a beating on his way home from school for “saying something nice about niggers”: the confusion of the woman who hears her neighbors say, “She’ll find out how we treat people that bring colored folks around here!” Each case is a little different. But each one is plagued with fear of one sort or another. Into these situations the Christian has been sent to speak the word of our Lord: “FEAR NOT!” And he comes with deep and genuine love for both parties, to love who have not been loved well – or at all – and to those who have not yet learned how to love well and freely.

The Urgent Work

The Christian who is committed to “do something about human relations is also one who knows something about what his Lord meant when He urged His followers to action “while it is day.” The person of God who counts all the gifts God has given, and who prizes these gifts highly, places a high value also on the gift of time. One knows that there is a responsibility and a privilege to use well the time God gives, and for His purposes, therefore it is not something to be wasted. So Postponement and dilatory procedures are to be avoided and shunned as likely ruses for unfaithfulness. Meanwhile, the opportunities await.

This is not the time to bemoan that our early American ancestors permitted the black person to be brought to these shores on slave ships like so many cattle, and brought and sold in the same way. This is no time to say this thing could have all been avoided years ago had this been attended to at more opportune moments of history. The simple fact is that much was left undone. It remains a task with which to challenge the Christian, and one cannot leave it for a “more convenient time.”

The Christian knows something about the shortness of days, about the limitation imposed on people’s lives opportunities, and capabilities. Times runs out on people.

Mercy compels the Christian to speed – mercy towards those long abused and who cannot hold out much longer, who have been pressed beyond the capacity and limits of human endurance.

A Poor Peace

When a man is on his back because another stands with his foot on the helpless man’s face, it is obvious that money in the bank, a chocolate sundae, a mink stole or a Bible passage is not what this suffering man needs. He needs relief. And fast.

But the one on top needs help, too. He is living in fear lest the man below get up and retaliate. He cannot feel good about what he is doing to a fellow human. His conscience is burdened and he must convince himself that he is doing what is right. He will have a difficult time explaining his conduct to his loved ones and to his God. He too needs help.

Now as never before the black person has made it clear that he does not want to stay down. One who wants to approach the situation with honesty ought to know that the greater the need is that of the victim – though both need help. It is far easier to stand and try to reason with the oppressor. It seems logical that if he makes the effort to change the situation, no one else will have to expend any effort. But this has been demonstrated at best to be pitifully slow and hence very ineffective.

It is not necessary to hit the man standing with a sledgehammer. It is not necessary even to break his leg. But he must be shouted away or pushed away from his oppressive stance in order that he may be helped from persisting in his wrongdoing and that his victim may have relief.

The trampled man may get up and start swinging his fists and the one who tried to solve the matter will have to protect the former oppressor, who may himself be swinging. Such intervention is known to some as folly. Others call it suicide. But the Christian knows it is his calling to suffer for righteousness sake in order to effect a real and genuine peace, a meaningful reconciliation.

Listen to the Prophets

The black people have demonstrated repeatedly in recent years that they do not want retaliation; they want to stand up and be what God has man them; people – tall, erect, human.

People who hold to the Scriptures would do well to note that the books of the Old Testament have not lost their validity simply because Jesus appeared on the scene, nor because New Testament books have now been written. The New Testament presupposes the Old. It is therefore important that people understand how God feels about all this as His messages comes through His Prophets. And this is what He says: “You who oppress the poor, who crush the needy and abhor him who speak the truth, who trample upon the poor and turn aside the needy in the gate, thus says the Lord: I take no delight in your solemn assemblies; though you offer Me burnt offerings and peace offerings, I will not look upon them. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, to the melody of your harps I will not listen; but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream.”

Courageous Words

In a Southern city a congregation was faced with a situation in which a fellow member of that denomination was being transferred to their city and wished to be received by transfer into the membership of their congregation. It was the only congregation of that denomination in the city. The matter came up for discussion in a congregational meeting, and when it was learned that the applicant was a black person, a fretful spirit hovered over the meeting. One man alone spoke against admitting her, saying that although he had nothing against black people, maybe a black mission should be started in town because she would make a nucleus. When it was patiently explained that this would be an expensive venture and one with a somewhat unlikely future inasmuch as there were so few blacks living in town, the same man urged that the matter be postponed for a while. No one refuted his position. The group for the most part was either uncommitted or agreed, so it seemed.

Then one lifelong Southerner arose and said slowly and deliberately, “Friend, you said we ought not rush into this because first thing you know the black people would come flocking into our church, and half the church would be full of black people. Well, I’ve been coming to this church for over eight years now, and every Sunday I see this church half empty. I think if we could fill the rest of every Sunday with people who could hear the wonderful words of God our pastor brings us, God would be right glad. And one more thing, you said that if a black person came into this church and joined now there might be people leaving our church. Now, can you give me the names of any?” There was a moment of silence. Then he asked the rest of those present, “None of you would leave, would you?” None raised a hand, and pointedly he addressed the original speaker and asked “Friend, would you leave the church?”

The man answered “No, I wouldn’t but I think there are some who might.”

The questioner resumed, “You think there might be some, but you don’t really know. I want it known that if this church ever turns away anyone who comes here looking for the forgiveness and love of the Lord who died for them, then I certainly will leave this church because I’m not sure that people want the real Christ here anymore.”

One Lord, One Faith

For the Christian the entire matter of right thinking and right acting in the matter of human relations is the consistent extension of one of the greatest treasures of Christendom, the doctrine of the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the body of Christ. Once a person understands that one has been rescued from the awful aloneness of sin and selfishness and has been received into Jesus Christ to become beneficiary of His death on the cross, one is on the way. Being joined to the body of Christ means sharing also in His life. The person in Christ lives out Christ’s life together with all the members of the body of Christ, for they are one with Him. There is no such thing as separation without amputation.

Thus even to consider the question, “shall we include other people who are not ‘of our kind’ in the church?” is out of order. If they have accepted Jesus Christ and life in Him, they are “of our kind”—His kind—and it is not for us to decide something that has already been accomplished. Christ died for all that all might have His life.

Freedom for Service

It is this that the Christian intends to share with others – the new life that sees the shackles of fear removed by Christ so that freedom can be the theme of the person’s new existence.

  • One can be free from the guilt of past selfishness, indifference, and lovelessness because Jesus Christ has been made our Savior who has taken the punishment for all sins upon Himself.
  • One can be free from every fear because one is living the life of God.
  • One can be free to serve God and love neighbor, not caring what others think, not fretting about inconvenience and pain involved.

To be sure the Christian who has this free life and would like to share it with others will find people resenting and resisting. Others will accept the benefits of such love but do not care to take that life for their very own: they would like to accept Jesus’ love without accepting Him. But Jesus did not offer conditional love. It was not necessary to enlist as His disciple before He would heal or offer love in some other way. There will be those who resent and those who take advantage of the Christian who lives the life of Christ. But this is the way it must be. “We love Him because He first loved us. . . If a man does not love his brother, whom he has seen, how can he love God, whom he has not seen?”

When the members of the church courageously and articulately let it be known that there is a welcome for all, forgiveness for thoughtlessness and lovelessness, and power for people to love one another and to live with each other in His peace, then the weak and disillusioned will find healing and strength, then God’s mending will come to the broken.

 

  3 comments for “To Mend the Broken – Rev. Dr. Karl Lutze

  1. princesspat
    May 16, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Thank you for sharing your step-father’s book. It will take me a while to read it, but I will.

    My condolences to you and your family.

  2. Portlaw
    May 16, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    I echo princesspat’s comments. Thank you for this. I look forward to reading it and am sending sympathy to you and your family.

    • Chris Blask
      May 17, 2015 at 11:58 am

      Thanks. It has been quite an education to edit this (*still* finding typoes!) and think about it all again. There is so much wisdom in so few words.

      As much as it is a view from a time almost fifty years ago it is still as true today as it would have been a thousand years ago. As much as it is a definitively accurate statement of how any Christian must view and act on inequalities, it is as true of any moral human.

      Chapter 3 – The Crushed, is something I want to bring to the attention of thoughtful Libertarian friends who point to Welfare as the cause of problems such as seen in Baltimore and Ferguson and elsewhere. Karl does such an elegant job of describing and forecasting these problems not as the result of dependency or the ill-will of others, but simply as the inevitable result of conditions.

      Chapter 5 – Who Will Pick up the Pieces, under the section “Faith of the Fathers” is such a succinct understanding of how we so often fail by assuming ill-will where there are other, less nefarious, factors at play.

      Chapter 6 – Refusal to Look at the Broken, under the sections “Thou Shalt Not Kill/Thou Shalt Not Steal/Thou Shalt Not Lie” does a better job than I have ever seen in explaining how a Christian cannot take comfort in simple inaction. The same applies for all of us, because the moral logic is not arguable.

      I really wish I could make this required reading.

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