Something new is rising in the South.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina recently invited me to the Palmetto State to speak at various events. In a whirlwind tour, Missy and I ran from Columbia to Greenville to Clemson to Charleston talking to good faith Christians about Good Faith Media’s transforming work.
Rev. Elizabeth Nance-Coker, the CBF State Coordinator, made us feel welcomed and appreciated. We are eternally grateful to her and her staff for our time in their beautiful state.
The people were extraordinarily friendly, asking about our work and getting to know us. It was a reminder that there are great people engaged in life-transforming work throughout the country.
Our run through South Carolina inspired and filled our souls as we encountered some great people. The Baptist Christians we met in South Carolina are working to carve out a new future.
Before getting ready for my day, I started with a run through the streets of these quaint Southern towns. They were majestic, making me feel as though I would come upon Norman Rockwell sitting in a corner painting one of his iconic images of Americana.
The trees were big and green, and the cooler weather encouraged me to add some more time and distance on the neighborhood streets. Yet, as beautiful and majestic as these runs were each morning, I began to look closer, behind the trees and bushes decorating the sidewalks.
Looking intently, I noticed small and subtle monuments nestled along the streets. Stopping and taking notice, I began to realize they were white cement structures erected after the Civil War, memorializing a pervasive ideology that divided the country.
Words and phrases such as “honor,” valor” and “way of life” donned these statues. While not overtly stating their intended purposes, the meaning behind them was clear.
White supremacy still reigns in America.
Saying a prayer at each, I decided to run on, not letting these symbols of America’s original sins keep me from basking in the warmth of the rising sun.
I kept running through the streets of Columbia, Greenville, Clemson and Charleston. And I am so glad I did because at the end of each route, I encountered some of the finest people I have ever met.
I met with South Carolinians and discussed the pressing issues of the day. We were concerned about the rising tides of Christian nationalism and the other systemic problems causing so much turmoil.
They no longer want to celebrate a mythological and misguided past. Instead, they want to forge a new reality where peace, justice and love reign.
They are the new South, a way of life burying the Confederacy to rise in resurrection towards Dr. King’s dream. They are honest about the battles before them but remain committed to the new cause of ridding their towns of the Lost Cause ideology.
After running for a while, I finally came to a stop. Unable to cast my gaze upward, I quietly prayed at 110 Calhoun Street in Charleston, South Carolina.
On June 17, 2015, a white supremacist and Neo-Nazi walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (Mother Emanuel), killing nine African American parishioners, including their pastor. The young man, Dylann Roof, was trying to restart a race war, resurrecting the Lost Cause of “honor,” “valor” and a “way of life” still championed by some today.
As I paid my respects, asking God to forgive the sins of America while at the same time begging for reparative justice, I remember the people I encountered on my trip. The New South will rise–but not for the Lost Cause of their forefathers and foremothers. They will rise beside their fellow humans to declare a new day.
They stand beside their Black and Brown siblings, demanding that unjust systems be destroyed and advocating for new systems that will bring inclusion, equality and justice to all of God’s children.
Running through the new South last week broke my heart but inspired my soul. Missy and I were lucky to meet so many great people, churches and organizations being the hands and feet of Jesus in their communities.
Together, we are denouncing the ways of our racist and bigoted pasts while pursuing a path forward rooted in the teachings of the Brown Palestinian rabbi named Jesus.
While I recognize the problems that remain in the South and across the country, I also acknowledge the people I met this week.
They—the new South— are giving me hope.
CEO of Good Faith Media.