The greatest enemy of freedom is not white Christian nationalists breaching the U.S. Capitol. It’s white moderate — now centrist — Christian males advocating for civility over justice.
On April 12, 1963, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and approximately 50 protesters and religious leaders in Birmingham, Alabama, were arrested.
Known as the Birmingham Campaign, King and local leaders organized boycotts of white-owned businesses to bring attention to the brutal, racist conditions under which Blacks were being treated.
After King was arrested and placed in jail, he was first denied access to legal counsel, then prevented from contacting his wife, Coretta. President John F. Kennedy intervened.
However, King’s supporters did not bail him out. Instead, they had agreed to let the civil rights icon remain in jail to draw attention to the plight of Blacks in Birmingham.
While there, King received a smuggled copy of the Birmingham newspaper published on April 12, the day of the protest and his arrest. Within its pages, there was a letter written by eight Christian and Jewish leaders criticizing the demonstrations and King. They considered King an outside agitator, bringing chaos and incivility to their beloved city.
King decided to respond. His challenging, brilliant, and inspiring words were published and became known as “The Letter from the Birmingham Jail.”
Here are some of King’s most pointed words for moderates and centrists relishing order over justice:
“History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and give up their unjust posture, but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.”
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
“For years now, I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never.’”
“I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, wait.”
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White citizens’ ‘Councilor’ or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action’ who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’”
With King’s condemning words reverberating in our ears, it’s time to confront the main reason why faith and freedom have been held back for so many years.
In America, white centrist Christian males have done more to thwart the progress of faith and freedom than any fascist or anarchist.
White centrist Christian males enjoy the position of power given to them by their privilege handed down through stolen lands, stolen resources, and stolen labor.
They sit perched upon their privilege, looking down at the landscape of injustices. From atop their lofty seats of power, they decry those demanding justice for the isolated, marginalized and oppressed.
White centrist Christian males want you to believe they are truly above the fray. They blather passionately and eloquently about their convictions, which often sound more like maintaining the status quo and/or keeping the conversation flowing until everyone tires of boredom (at which time the status quo remains, as does their power and privilege).
White centrist Christian males will brand people like me “extreme” because I advocate for inclusion, affirmation, and equality for all of God’s children — not just those who maintain the status quo.
White centrist Christian males will emphasize conversion over justice because justice might mean a loss of power and privilege.
They maintain a messiah complex, seeking the assimilation of others into their lukewarm theology. If they are successful with conversions, they can use assimilation to control their followers and maintain their privilege.
White centrist Christian males hold up their place of privilege as an opportunity to provide wisdom and balance within the culture. They see themselves as a conduit for peace and understanding, but their self-appointed position as peacemakers sounds like the “wait-wait” rhetoric echoing from Birmingham in 1963.
White centrist Christian males also worry about the shrinking center of the political and theological landscape. They are starting to feel very much alone … and possibly scared. Let’s have some sympathy for them, though, because it cannot be easy to realize the privilege, power and influence they benefited from for centuries is dwindling.
The emerging generations have seen where “moderate” and “centrists’ views have gotten us: an ecological disaster, increasing economic disparity, ongoing systemic racism, the dwindling of women’s rights, the dehumanization of LGBTQIA+ persons, and so many other failures.
The right and middle are shrinking because the theological and political idealisms of the right and center have failed. Granted, the left is not much better, but a growing number of individuals and communities are embracing the idea of progressivism.
Progressivism is the idea and practice of moving the world toward love, inclusion and justice. Moving forward, though, means embracing the world through the radical ideas and practices of Jesus from Nazareth.
Jesus loved the world through acts and advocacy for justice: healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and empowering the oppressed. He was not executed for saying, “Let’s all get along and figure things out.” Jesus was executed because he stood up to power for the sake of the powerless.
White centrist Christian males will criticize and villainize progressivism because it demands something from them— repentance and sacrifice.
The powerful and privileged must repent of the notion that they have not benefited from the past. They must repent of the belief that everything will be fine if the world just waits. They must repent of the false idea that the middle way is holier than any other.
Instead, they need to embrace sacrifice. No one is asking for their bank accounts, houses, cars, and golf clubs.
No one is asking them to set aside their history and memories. However, progressivism asks them to look at those histories with truthful and honest eyes.
Progressivism asks white centrist Christian males to relinquish – sacrifice – their power and privilege to let others lead. The emerging generations have creative and bold initiatives, but the only thing standing in their way has been white centrist Christian men refusing to step aside.
Finally, white centrist Christian males still try to play the victim. I’m sorry, but no one feels sorry for you. We sympathize with you because, as we acknowledge, this time must be difficult.
However, please stop trying to convince us you’ve been rejected. What you’re feeling is not rejection but guilt.
To conclude, people are finally calling out the failures of the middle way. The middle way has been a disaster because it always begins with the powerful manipulating the conversation and outcomes. It’s time to let people of color, women, and individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community lead.
White centrist Christian males still talk a good game, and their message appeals to many. However, please, don’t fall for it.
White centrist Christian males play a game equivalent to the shell game. They make many utopian promises, but once we turn over the shell, nothing is beneath it except for the status quo of white male dominance.
Instead of staying centered, let’s keep moving forward toward love, inclusion, equality and justice.
Only when every child of God feels valued and loved will the world be truly centered.
CEO of Good Faith Media.