During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked this profound spiritual question: Where Do We Go From Here: Community or Chaos? And, since that time America has steadily been marching toward national chaos rather than national unity. And, of course, the 2016 Presidential election brought the under-current of racial discord to an “apex”. Question: What is the “cultural-plan” of Black people, other than the instinct to survive to stay here another day? We know God’s spiritual plan, but what is the cultural plan of action for insisting that America live up to the spiritual meaning of its solemn creed: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Jesus has already died for our “sins”; therefore, we do not have to die again, but learn how to creatively live. But, a Christian must be willing to die for the sake of righteousness, because “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14: 34). Our plan of action as Christians is to build the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. There is nothing difficult about this, because there is nothing too hard for God. As Christians, in order to help individuals transcend the color line “spiritually-intellectually” we must be willing to die for the sake of “righteous principles” and “godly teaching” in order to live for a righteous cause.
Dr. King said it best in the letter from the Birmingham jail in which he writes about the higher morality and spirituality of self-purification. Injustice should not be tolerated in American society. And, those who are the victims of societal injustice should self-purify in order to not participate in their own “self-victimization”. Words without deeds are the epitome of immorality. Saying one thing and doing another is not self-purification, but self-denigration. Of course, saying Lord, Lord and running with the devil is a sin. The letter from the “Birmingham Jail” ought to be canonized in the Black Christian experience and showcase displayed in every Black church in America.
“In the shadow of deep disappointment regarding the race-based policies of discrimination in Birmingham, Alabama, at that time, Dr. King wrote about taking direct action in the struggle for basic Civil Rights: “We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: Are you able to accept blows without retaliating? Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” (Letter From the Birmingham jail-MLK Research and Education Institute).
The spirituality of the Civil Rights Movement is laid bare in MLK’s letter from the Birmingham jail. Remember now, there were many Black pastoral leaders that were highly critical of Dr. King. The Black church, especially in the South was the “hub” for the Civil Rights Movement. And, Black pastoral leaders were dedicated “spiritual” men providing guidance for business development, educational development and civic quality of life, and family relationships. Black power and Black pride were more than just mere emotional slogans, but these slogans were attitudes and social behaviors that were transformed into life styles.
If the Black community is to thrive spiritually, economically and educationally Black Pastors must rekindle this “developmental spirit” in the Black church community. Simply because, before Black people can hold the purveyors (Whites) of “socio-economic-injustices” accountable, they must first engage themselves in a process of self-examination, and if need be, self-purification. This is precisely why Associate Editor, Jeffrey L. Boney, asked the question: Where In The “Hell” Is The Black Church?
To be sure, the 2016 Presidential election has ushered in “spiritual-warfare” to the nth degree, and above all, absolute moral confusion. This is a statement of fact; “ultimately” every individual is accountable for his or her own actions. Therefore, sin is not a Civil Rights issue, but a God issue. The failure especially of Black religious leaders to “boldly” speak out against those who are violating Gospel Singer Kim Burrell’s Civil Rights is a sinful disgrace before God. Ms. Burrell simply made a godly statement of spiritual truth because she has studied this Biblical truth: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2: 15). God gave every individual free will. If we chose to sin against God, doubt God’s word, then it is between the individual and God. Because, “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” (Psalms 7:11). As Christians, we must remember to: “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:22). Unfortunately, we are not becoming better people but bitter people, because of America’s religious, political, and educational leadership. The model for leadership is Jesus Christ.
Again, as Dr. King asked: “Where Do We Go From Here?” Let’s pray that it is not to hell in a hand-basket. God does not need everybody, He just needs somebody: ask Gideon, ask King David, ask Joshua, ask Nathan, ask Abraham Lincoln, ask Lyndon Johnson, ask Dr. M. L. King, Jr., ask Mary McLeod Bethune, ask Madame C.J. Walker, ask Eleanor Roosevelt, ask Michelle Obama, and finally ask Barack Obama. But, most of all, let’s ask Jesus Christ the Righteous One: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever.” (2 Peter 3: 18).
As Christians, Pastors and laity, we must, at this time, pray for righteous judgment against evil-doers, and be prepared as was Dr. King to fight the “good-spiritual-fight” for justice for all as Gideon had to fight. Then, we all can boldly declare free at-last, free at-last, thank God almighty, we’re free at last. Selah!
Bobby E. Mills is an accomplished college professor and public sector administrator. He earned a B.D. degree in Theology from Colgate Rochester Divinity School in Rochester, New York and a Ph.D. degree in Sociology from Syracuse University, New York. He has written and published numerous professional articles concerning the pressing social ills confronting American society.