A Little Farther Down the Path: The Warmth of Other Suns

I might never have known about Isabel Wilkerson’s book, The Warmth of Other Suns, had it not been recommended by a Facebook friend who, upon reading one of my posts, thought I might appreciate this book. She was right. Thanks, Mary.

The book’s subhead summarizes its subject: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. At least two or three events in US American history have either claimed or been tagged with that designation. The one Wilkerson writes about is probably the least well known and by far the largest. Her book chronicles, after a fashion, the period between 1915 and 1970 when six million African Americans left the Deep South and resettled in the Northeast, the Upper Midwest, and the Far West in search of greater opportunity and freedom from discrimination, injustice, and even physical cruelty. Continue reading

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A Little Farther Down the Path: Between the World and Me

I first learned of Ta-Nehisi Coates through his writing in The Atlantic magazine. His article titled “The Case for Reparations” in the June 2014 issue is one of the finest examples of long-form journalism I have ever read. The article’s subhead effectively summarizes his point: Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, New York City, 2012

By the time I read that article, a similar thesis had been percolating in my brain forseveral years. My thinking did not address the question of reparations, and I don’t think Coates really believes that will ever really materialize. His larger point, I believe, was that, while some kind of monetary reparation would be fair and helpful, if a strong majority of white Americans would simply come to believe in the justice of the idea, that would go a long way toward healing the gaping wounds left by the historical realities summarized in his article’s subhead. Continue reading

The Dream Must Never Die

In his first address to the nation as president, following the resignation of Richard Nixon, who had been forced out of office by the Watergate scandal just ahead of likely impeachment, Gerald Ford opened with these words: “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”

I was a twenty-four-year-old fundamentalist pastor at the time, and like everybody I knew, I had voted for Nixon when he was elected to a second term in 1972. I had followed the Watergate hearings on TV, sort of, and I knew that all the “chattering class”—politicians and news analysts especially—regarded the matter as a constitutional crisis with the potential to destabilize our government, weaken our economy, and jeopardize our international influence. It would be years, however—after I managed to disentangle myself from that intellectually restrictive thought system—before I would understand just how serious the crisis really was and how much of a national nightmare it had really been. Continue reading

MLK: He Taught Me to Dream

I grew up with a deep respect for persons, especially Christians, who refused to compromise their convictions even when standing firm cost them dearly. I remember sitting on the living room floor with my brother and sister while my mother read to us from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliot’s moving account of the death of her husband, Jim, and four others at the hands of those to whom they were attempting to bring the message of the Gospel. On those occasions, as my parents led us in prayer for a variety of concerns, I silently prayed for courage to be faithful to my convictions, even, if need be, to the point of death.

Nobody from the modern era embodies the idea of the courage of convictions better than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929. He was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968. In recognition of his role in the effort to secureMartin Luther King civil rights and racial equality in this country, and to celebrate his life as an example of courageous leadership in the face of overwhelming opposition, the US Congress in 1983 designated the third Monday in January as Martin Luther King Day. That is today. Continue reading

Lest I Be Misunderstood

Two days ago (on August 18), I posted a status update to my Facebook page which I described as an observation, not a comment. Here is an edited (for clarity) version of what I said there:

When it appeared the Islamic State was targeting Christians in Iraq, my newsfeed was full of condemnatory posts. When it became clear that the major target was Yazidis, the indignant and accusatory posts all but ceased. And I have read virtually nothing (from my white, evangelical, FB friends) expressing dismay at the shooting of a young, unarmed black man by the police in Ferguson, MO. When that local community subsequently erupted in an emotional demonstration of anger and frustration, the response of the mainly-white police force looked more like a military invasion than the reasonable reaction of “peace officers” whose motto is supposed to be “to protect, and to serve.”

Continue reading