Six years before I was born was the crucial year of 1968. I’ve always been captivated by the 60’s — the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, Martin Luther King, Medgar Evars, the Kennedys, Vietnam, the moon missions, Motown, etc… — so much was happening. I’ve probably thought of it in more romantic terms than the experience of it could have lived up to. Nevertheless, a lot happened in those crucial years, so I tuned in last night to Tom Brokaw’s special about 1968.
One of the most important things that happened in 1968 that Brokaw did not cover were the Nashville and Atlanta Racial Reconciliation meetings involving ministers and leaders in Churches of Christ. I’ve recently done some research on the topic and had conversations with some of the men who participated in those gatherings.
In truth, not much came from Atlanta and Nashville in terms of institutional change. Churches of Christ (my tribe) aren’t a heck of a lot more integrated than they were then. But two things became crystal clear to me as I was researching and writing.
First, very few things are as exciting as men and women who live and sacrifice for their convictions. Some of the preachers urging the church to move toward integration and lose its racist tendencies paid for their convictions with their careers and/or reputations.
Second, our churches — and other groups as well, I suspect — seem woefully lacking prophetic voices calling the church to a deeper embrace of its identity as the body of Jesus.
In world where according to Dave Kinnaman in his book un-Christian, non-Christians see Christians as judgmental, antihomosexual, hypocritical, too political and sheltered, what could be better for the mission of Jesus than prophetic people who can speak to our communal values — equality, graciousness, generosity, care for the poor and disenfranchised, etc…?
May the Lord grant the church people who are, as friend Jim Spivey says, not “addicted to appropriateness.”