Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Martin Luther King Day

Not to detract from the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in the American Civil Rights Movement, but it is important to note, especially on this day, that behind every great leader are a host of others, named and unnamed, who give power to a movement of justice. One such leader in the Civil Rights Movement was Pastor Fred Shuttlesworth.

While I am no scholar of the American Civil Rights movement, I do believe there would be great unanimity in saying that Birmingham was the turning point of this great movement of equality. It was there Dr. King was jailed for eight days and wrote his masterful
"Letter from a Birmingham Jail". It was there that racist police commissioner Eugene "Bull" Conner unleashed his dogs and his thugs and his high pressure water hoses on peaceful marchers and children in Kelly Ingram Park. After the smoke from Birmingham cleared, the United States passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And at the heart of Birmingham was the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Dr. Fred Shuttlesworth. Georgia Representative John Lewis called Shuttlesworth "the soul and heart of the Birmingham movement."

Indeed, while King and others experienced only temporarily the horrible abuse of "Bull" Conner and Alabama’s extreme and violent racism, Pastor Shuttlesworth lived it. Black homes and churches were regularly bombed for nearly a decade before the famous march on Birmingham. In 1955, he led a delegation petitioning the city for black police officers. In 1957, he attempted to enroll his daughters in the all white high school. He was beaten with brass knuckles and bicycle chains. When the doctor wondered aloud that he wasn’t in worse condition, Shuttlesworth said, 'Well, doctor, the Lord knew I lived in a hard town, so he gave me a hard head." And it was Shuttlesworth who persuaded King to bring his movement to Birmingham, where history would be changed.

What Shuttlesworth had was a deep and abiding faith in God. And he trusted Him at every obstacle and act of injustice.

While Dr. King is the rightfully acknowledged leader of the Civil Rights Movement, he is not alone in making sacrifices that changed our nation.

Dr. Fred Shuttlesworth
March 18, 1922 -- October 5, 2011




Friday, January 03, 2014

Duck Dynasty, Free Speech, and Biblical Authority

Thanks to some alluring marketing by Yahoo pop up ads, I found my way over to a little internet screed on the Duck Dynasty flap, You know, the one that’s been going on for a couple of weeks about Phil Robertson sharing his views in a GQ interview that homosexuality is wrong behavior and condemned by the Bible.

Well, over at the Huffington Post blog today, some actor, writer, radio host guy equated Robertson’s views with hate speech, entitling his tirade "Duck Dynasty, the Bible and Justification of Hatred". It’s the same old mantra that’s been going around for awhile. If you say anything against homosexuality, you’re hateful. You can’t have a viewpoint different from the Huffington Post Blog guy and every other person who believes homosexuality is an ok behavior. If you do happen to have a different viewpoint, and dare to make it known (even if an interviewer asks you a question for a magazine article) you are "spouting hateful speech".

The Huffington Post blog writer-actor-radio host guy doesn’t hate the Bible, of course. He can share a viewpoint different from a majority of Americans and disparage a deeply held religious tenet of millions of Christians (the Bible is a source of moral authority) and not be hateful. Because, of course, "hate speech" only works one way. Besides, he gets his "moral direction" from a "higher power" – his gut. I’m not quite sure what he does on pizza night, when the somewhat digested pepperoni and cheese go to war with the Pepsi and cheese cake. Maybe his gut is more just reliable than mine.

Of course, we won’t talk about Joseph Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer, Timothy McVeigh and the hundreds of thousands of others down through the ages who have followed their own "guts" only to do dastardly deeds. I’m sure the Huffington Post blog writer-actor-radio host guy doesn’t really believe in everyone following their "gut". The Nazis did that in the 1930s and 40s and the results were horribly sinister. He just doesn’t like the idea of a Sacred Book and accountability to a Creator God.

Somehow, having a viewpoint different than his is "believing and saying hateful things about entire groups of people" although he never says what Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson said that was hateful.

I wonder what the Huffington Post blog writer-actor-radio host guy would say about Nazis, arsonists, drunk drivers, child molesters, the Taliban, and other such "entire groups of people". And I wonder if he would call expressing a viewpoint different from those within those groups "hateful"? If his fulmination against the Bible and its adherents is any example, I don’t think he’d be the least bit shy about haranguing any "entire groups of people" with whom he disagreed. He is after all, just following "his gut" --those good, ole trusty, reliable innards.

The problem with following your gut—your innermost visceral response, as any gastro-intestinalogist (or criminologist for that matter) will tell you, is that not all guts are created equal. There’s your gut, my gut, that Huffington Post blog writer-actor-radio host guy’s gut, and of course, there’s Phil Robertson’s gut. I reckon when he was talking to GQ about sin, he was just following his own gut. So, if that’s the higher power, what’s the problem?

Of course, our "gut" hardly trumps the Bible. It is an eternal, external, objective moral standard; not the transient, internal, subjective standard advocated by the Huffington Post blog writer-actor-radio host guy. It was not hateful for God to give us His Word, and it is not hateful for us to declare it to others, even if they recoil at its message.