Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta. Photo by John D. Pierce.

By John Pierce

On this weekend honoring the memory, courage and significant social and spiritual impact of Martin Luther King Jr., my mind goes again to a remarkable reality: He was a Christian (Baptist, even!) minister and this movement for justice and equality was birthed and nurtured in the church — yet some of the strongest opposition came from conservative Christians.

All kinds of rationalization, abuses of Holy Scripture and downright violence (either practiced, condoned or ignored) were common among many of the good church-growing crowds during the struggle for equal rights for African Americans.

Sadly, many strongly professing Christians — including a big chunk of Baptists — have a long track record of showing up late to struggles for basic human equality. Or worse, becoming obstacles to the unstoppable march toward justice by the larger society that somehow sees and embraces biblical truth before those who claim the Bible as their truth.

It was/is the case with racial, ethnic and gender equality — and regarding fairness for gay and lesbian persons.

Yet each unfolding issue gets a rehashing of “This is different” and a fresh run at snagging isolated verses of scripture to be weaved into “But God said” — while ignoring the larger biblical revelation.

Thank God for Martin L. King Jr. and all who put godly causes of justice ahead of fear and personal preferences. And may God help more of the Church to lead in the face of discrimination and injustice wherever and whenever they arise — rather than being last to rightful causes again and again.



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