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We must pray in spiritual and racial unity to overcome our nation's chaos

Jessica Johnson on

As I watched the terrorizing breach of the U.S. Capitol by fringe supporters of President Donald Trump, two distinctive quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to mind. In a 1964 speech in St. Louis, King prophetically warned, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." Speaking at the 1957 National Council of Churches convention in St. Louis, King said: "All too many ministers are still silent while evil rages. It may well be that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition is the appalling silence of the so-called good people." Evil was definitely raging on Jan. 6, as rioters stormed the Capitol building chasing police, waving Trump flags and Confederate flags, and bullying their way into the lawmakers' offices after the president vowed to never concede. The viral photo of a Trump adherent sitting at the desk of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will surely be one of many to chronicle this dark day in future American history books. The photo that was particularly horrific and heartbreaking for me was a picture of a noose on a makeshift platform near the Capitol's West side. For African Americans, no caption is needed for this vile symbol of murder that savagely haunted the South between 1882 and 1968. To see this ghastly image recurring on the news was a distressing reminder that racism and extreme hatred remain firmly entrenched in our country's consciousness. The lone glimmer of hope of racial progress in the midst of this violent chaos was Georgia's historic election of Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the state's first black senator and first Jewish senator, respectively.

If King were still alive, he would be proud of Warnock since the Georgia senator-elect is the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, but I also think that King would strongly push Warnock and other ministers during this turbulent time to strive for more racial unity in churches. During his National Council of Churches speech, King urged preachers to do more in working toward desegregation of their congregations. He passionately stated that "the problem of race is indeed America's greatest moral dilemma" and that "if we are to remain true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, we cannot rest until segregation and discrimination are banished from every area of American life." Imagine where we would be in this country in 2021 if church leaders, black and white, had diligently labored toward the "beloved community" that King envisioned 64 years ago. The image of the noose on Capitol grounds, as well as photos of rioters draping nooses around mannequins, blatantly displays to us that we are not there yet. Ministers cannot be silent now, but neither can devoted members of their flocks. The church is at a critical moment in history where it will have to access its own racial division, as the country is violently fragmented. The ugly and menacing spectacle in Washington this week is proof that we cannot effectively minister the gospel, as King fervently implored, if our sanctuaries remain highly segregated.

In a June 2020 column addressing racial division in churches, I quoted a tweet from Dr. Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, who asserted that solving the root of our nation's racial dilemma must begin with believers in Christ. His Facebook post regarding the Capitol rioting also provides wisdom and admonition. He stated that the brutal uprising we witnessed was "a tragic illustration of what happens to a nation when it abandons God's person, principles and policies ... the result is chaos, conflict and lawlessness. Only a radical return to God by His people will change this." I would add 2 Chronicles 7:14, which says, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." Our land needs a deep, divine healing that only God can deliver. Although Trump has now promised an "orderly" transition of power to president-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, our nation has suffered a fierce attack on its democracy and well-being. The church must pray in spiritual and racial unity to overcome it.

 

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Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at Ohio State University's Lima campus. Email her at smojc.jj@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JjSmojc. To find out more about Jessica Johnson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
 

 

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