I’ve always had a romantic view of the 60’s. The stories my father taught me about courageous men and women protesting for equal rights as citizens and others who voiced opposition against the Vietnam War always seemed heroic to me. Part of me has always wished I could have lived then. I, unfortunately, grew up in the pitiful pit of 80’s greed and the messy mire of the Clinton and Gingrich sex scandals of the 1990’s. It didn’t seem nearly as exciting as the 60’s did. Worse still, it was as if no one in public life in the 80’s and 90’s had a core or center that guided him or her in any way.
Perhaps that’s why I’m so interested in what will happen this summer. 40 years ago was the long, hot summer of 1968. It was the summer when Robert Kennedy – immediately after winning the Californian primary – was shot in a hotel kitchen. Yet before he was shot, Kennedy penned a Op-Ed noting that race relations in the United States were moving so quickly that he could envision a black man being president in, yup, you guessed it, 40 years.
At the same time that Bobby Kennedy was forecasting America’s future concerning race relations, brave men like Dwain Evans (a mentor and member of my congregation), Walter Burch, Roosevelt Wells, and others were mightily attempting to bring about racial change and harmony within my non-denominational denomination. Sadly, their heroic efforts remain less fulfilled than Kennedy’s.
This summer as Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination on the 45th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech”, I will still be one of three adults of African-American descent in my congregation. And I will be such with full knowledge that there are black churches and white churches across my non-denom-denom where there are NO people outside the majority race. What’s more, the majority race – whether white or black – will be sending overt and subtle messages that they want to keep it that way.
40 years later, the kingdom of God is better reflected racially and culturally at political rallies and sporting events than it is in the church!
40 years later people in churches are still saying that it is “Okay” because of “cultural” differences for there to be two (and perhaps three, four or five) different churches!
40 years later we are closer to “I Have A Dream” than John 17.
So, perhaps I’ve been wrong. I don’t have to fantasize about living in 1968. I’m living in 1968…but only when I look at the church.
P.S. Today is Loving Day, the day we celebrate the Supreme Court granting equal rights and protection for interracial couples. Click HERE for more information.