HUGH’S NEWS & VIEWS
THE CIVIL RIGHTS “INDUSTRY”
On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act, outlawing all forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national, and religious minorities, as well as women. The law ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, in the workplace, and by facilities that serve the general public, otherwise known as “public accommodations” (hotels, motels, restaurants, restroom facilities, drinking fountains, etc.) Christians should rejoice over this legislation and (with or without such laws) they should treat all people with agape/love, respect, and dignity.
In the forty-nine years since the passing of this piece of legislation every phase of life in America has become integrated. Throughout the nation citizens of all colors, ethnic origins, religious persuasions, gender, and sexual orientation have equal legal rights. Blacks, browns, yellows, reds, and whites, male and female, “straights” and gays (without doubt, the greatest oxymoron ever) have heldand hold (or have the right to hold)political offices from the lowest local level to the highest office in the land, the Presidency of the United States. Equal employment opportunities exist for all Americans regardless of race, color, ethnic origin, gender, etc. In addition to government, complete racial integration has taken place in housing, the public schools, professional sports, the entertainment media, the communications media, churches, the institution of marriage, etc., etc., etc.
In spite of this legislation and the equal rights that it guarantees to all, there are those who continue to be dissatisfied with race relations in America and who have made a veritable “industry” of the Civil Rights Movement. The leaders of this “industry” (and we all know who the prominent players are in it) never miss an opportunity to play the role of a race merchant. The recent George Zimmerman trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin is but one example of the ever-present effort to see injustices in American race relations. The fact that a fair trial was conducted and that Zimmerman was found innocent of all charges by a jury of his peers does not alter the “facts” with those who are determined to play the race card every time they think they can.
There are those in the churches of Christ, I am sorry to say, who have this same mind-set. In spite of the best efforts of blacks and whites to work together in kindness, good will, and mutual love and respectstanding (and sitting!) side by side as early as the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s to reach black people with the gospel of Christthere are those among us who still charge either racial prejudice or paternalism. As I said recently on another forum, there apparently is no pleasing some folks! If we don’t reach out to those of other races, we are prejudice; if we do reach out and are successful, we are guilty of paternalism!
In 1968 (please note the year), when I served as minister of a large (500 + members) church in Tennessee, we successfully integrated that previously all-white congregation by bringing a small black congregation (30-40 members) into the congregation. This was done after many meetings, much prayer, and by the mutual consent of all involved in the merger of the two congregations. The merger worked well. Only in recent years have some black Christians in that city seen the advisability of starting a new all-black congregation to more effectively reach the black community. There are many, many predominantly black churches of Christ (large and small) throughout the United States. They are such by their own choice. No one, to my knowledge, has charged them with racism because they insist on being predominantly black!
I visit and speak in several churches of Christ every year. I do not know of a one that is not integrated, or where blacks or people of any color are not welcome. The leadership (elders and deacons) of many congregations is integrated. Over 35 years ago I preached in a gospel meeting in an integrated congregation in a southern state where a large portion of the members was white but the preacher was black. They all worked and worshiped together beautifully. But the Civil Rights “industry” (both in the church and out) is never satisfied, and is always on the lookout for something to criticize, over which to take offense, and about which to create turmoil. Issues concerning race remain a topic at scholarly conferences and Christian university Bible lectureshipsin spite of the fact that at all such venues they have an integrated roster of speakers and people of all colors attend and are welcomed. But “race” is one of the chic topics of those dedicated to the promotion of a Progressive/Liberal political, social, and religious agenda, and there are those among us who will do whatever is necessary to make sure that they are NOT perceived as being non-supportive of that agenda! For them, “race” is a tool (one of several) to be used to achieve a larger objective!
In my judgment, it is timepast timeto stop seeing racism in every situation, playing the race card at the drop of the hat, and being professional race merchants who try to keep the pot boilingeither in society as a whole or in the church. Segregation is a thing of the past. Everybody has equal rights and equal opportunity. It is time for the race merchants to close their doors and for the Civil Rights “industry” to shut down.
August 6, 2013