By Donna Jackson on July 19, 2016
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in this nation,” and yet here was an image of hundreds of white Alabamians and black Alabamians worshipping together. As it turns out, the majority white congregation from The Church at Brook Hills in suburban Birmingham and the majority black congregation from New Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Eastlake had responded to recent events by organizing a joint prayer service.
“From the very first moment, as Pastor Thomas welcomed us, there was a palpable eagerness and excitement in the room,” wrote Matt Mason, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills. “And then the singing began. I don’t know that I’ve experienced anything like it. There were a few moments that I had to let myself just turn around and take it all in – to watch us sing… To see the evening close with a room full of people hugging one another (no Christian side hugs – the real deal – old school hugs). It was truly a glimpse of heaven.”
It was at this moment that things became more clear to me.
This state has endured a lot of racial strife over the years. And maybe we’re tired — tired of the politics of division and the media that feeds off of it. Maybe we’re ready for reconciliation — real reconciliation. Not the kind that dismisses our differences, but acknowledges them and tries to understand. The kind that listens first. The kind that is slow to anger. The kind that recognizes the fact that all of us, regardless of race, sex or socioeconomic status, are unified by a few core concerns — faith, family, community and work.
All of this has brought me to the conclusion that Alabama is in a unique position to lead during this tumultuous time in our country’s history for two primary reasons:
Number one, because of what we’ve been through.
“The cradle of the Civil Rights movement” knows more about racial strife than perhaps any other place in America. The journey of reconciliation has been slow, and it’s not over, but we continue to endure, to push forward.
Number two, faith still matters here.
As the saying goes, “racism isn’t a skin problem, it’s a sin problem.” And while statistics show the rest of the country slowly moving away from religion, faith remains an integral part of life in Alabama.
As I continued to think through this, I remembered a video that was emailed out to Troy University’s entire student body by chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr.
The stirring 98-second video, which can be viewed below, shows Harvard Business School professor Clay Christensen explaining his belief that the American republic works in large part because most people not only believe they are accountable to society, but that they are ultimately accountable to God.
Here’s a text excerpt from the video:
Some time ago I had a conversation with a Marxist economist from China. He was coming to the end of a Full Bright fellowship here in Boston, and I asked him if he’d learned anything that was surprising or unexpected. And without any hesitation he said, “Yeah, I had no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy. The reason why democracy works,” he said, “it is not because the government was designed to oversee what everybody does, but rather democracy works because most people most of the time voluntarily choose to obey the law. And in your past most Americans attended a church or synagogue every week and they were taught there by people who they respected.”
My friend went on to say that Americans followed these rules because they had come to believe that they were not just accountable to society, they were accountable to God.
Alabama’s relative peace during this tumultuous time can be attributed to several factors, but perhaps at it’s core it comes down to the fact that most of the state’s residents still believe we’re accountable to God. Unfortunately, that may be the most radical idea in America today.
Click here for the video: https://youtu.be/YjntXYDPw44
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18, NIV)
Yes, we are all called to be ministers!! (If you’d like to listen to Chris Hodges’ message on this, just click here.)