“Every generation is in the midst of some change,” Rick Carson said. “The first step is the journey to one’s own self.”
Carson, associate professor of New Testament and Greek at McAfee School of Theology, believes civil rights will always be an issue. How it is handled in the 21st century will be up to us all.
“The civil rights movement has always been a collaboration,” he said. “Anyone who thinks King was it is mistaken.”
Carson said the difference today is that the battle is no longer against “the institution,” but against our own personal morality.
“Something very good happened during the civil rights movement—people were battling an unjust system,” Carson said. “Now, we must look at the injustice in our own personal interactions and daily decisions.”
Carson said that part of the problem is in how we conceptualize ourselves.
“People of African descent need to see themselves as players in society, not just as ex-slaves,” he said. “The machinery [society] is set up so that mediocrity is acceptable and sometimes we (African Americans) take on the perspective of the dominant culture even when we look at ourselves.”
Begin with a look at heritage, Carson said. Many of our problems with self-image and community building are deeply rooted in our own families.
“We are afraid to critique it,” Carson said. “Our families are often sacrosanct, taboo. If you have enough of these family ‘rules’ in your heart it changes your boundaries.”
Carson said the resurrection is a valuable example of hope and encouragement to overcome these traps of past and poor self-image. He pointed to Paul’s writings on resurrection in I Corinthians.
“I believe what Paul says in I Corinthians 15,” Carson said. “Paul is bringing together people with different moral centers. He is bringing them together to challenge them.”
This joining in the community is where one must die to self.
“Paul said ‘I die daily.’ So should we die and put away those things that hinder relationships,” Carson said. “We’ve lived too long. We’re not dying daily.”
Great Responsibility Is Given
Carson believes these messages are necessary tenets of what his seminarians should learn.
“[Seminary students] get it,” he said. “They understand justice, equality, community. They understand that people have to get along. What we have to do as faculty is help them integrate these ideas with the rest of their life.”
Many students travel. They see different parts of the world, he said. “They’ve seen that the world is full of different kinds of people, but when they get back home they get caught in the machinery.”
“These students are heading towards places where they will help shape people’s ideologies,” Carson said. “If that student is not whole and secure, the perspective they pass on will be skewed.”
Carson believes seminarians need exposure to various “communities.” They will understand their part better when they understand the whole, he said.
Of course, not all of us can travel the world over. Carson said we don’t have to travel the world; we just have to know what is out there.
Responding to the “Idea”
The civil rights movement taught some valuable lessons for handling change, Carson said. “It taught us how to test the structures we deal with today.”
It started with an idea: I should be treated fairly.
That idea led to a question: How will the system be impacted by this idea?
“The civil rights movement set forth the ideas,” Carson said. “The ideas went through the system and changed it. Now we are seeing the echoes of those ideas and how they changed the system.”
Carson said now that the system has changed, we can recognize the “idea” and respond to it immediately. This is where churches are especially relevant.
“Many local churches have invested in society as it is,” Carson said. “They are mainly interested in maintaining the status quo. We need to be careful not to be ‘maintainers.'”
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.