For a variety of personal reasons, I find myself musing these questions lately:
1. Can we make any real progress against poverty, sickness, hatred, abuse?
The sin is in us, in our hearts from the beginning. Yet I believe the Gospel is bigger than our collective and individual sin, and God’s redemption of our hearts will affect human lives and systems.
2. Must all progress be made individually?
It seems like attempts to reform systems end in failure, mismanagement, or a return to a bad status quo. Is there no “economy of scale” to social work?
3. What is the biblical response to injustice?
If it were clear, wouldn’t everybody be responding?
Ran across this controversial and somewhat jumbled essay (memoir? call to action? position paper?) by Bob Zellner, a man who emerged from his Southern roots to become a Civil Rights activist. It’s not always easy to follow his point; many of his conclusions do not seem to follow from any stated premises or evidence. His support of unionized labor will anger some; his blunt criticism of Southern mores will offend many.
But I recommend the essay as a thought-provoking weekend read:
Thoughts on Port Huron (written in 2012)
From his introduction:
It’s important what a person believes, so tell me what you think, but more importantly, tell me what you do and have done. In Alabama I saw folks chanting affirmations of faith, knowing they did not mean it. My quest became why people’s actions and beliefs were so far apart. I was fascinated with why so few white Southerners risked life and limb or even ostracism and poverty in the struggle against segregation and racial oppression.
Searching for authenticity, commitment and risk, as well as harmony between belief and action, I sought people doing things challenging and exciting to me. The second of five boys with a schoolteacher mother and preacher father, it was unlikely I would meet Dr. Martin Luther King and Ms Rosa Parks as a college student in Montgomery and become part of America’s most exciting History — the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps it was providential that my Methodist College, Huntingdon, was located in Montgomery, the cradle of the modern civil rights struggle.
My odyssey from KKK to MLK was a stretch. Dad, James Abraham Zellner, a Methodist minister was once a Klan organizer, a Kleagle. He and Mom, Ruby Hardy Zellner, graduated from Bob Jones College now located in Greenville, SC Even though it is now called a “university,” it is not widely known as a hot bed of Southern Liberalism. What’s worse, I was named for Dr. Bob Jones after he performed the marriage of Mom and Dad. In 2012-speak, that means I come from a line of Fundamentalist Terrorist. I must have been a disappointment to Godfather Dr. Bob. Have you ever noticed how fundamentalism and terrorism go together?
The nexus is ubiquitous throughout history. A fundamentalist, Muslim, Christian, or any other can be peace loving and protect those inside his circle. As a fundamentalist, however, his ability and willingness to harm those outside his circle, i.e. infidels, is altered. Not only is the fundamentalist allowed to harm others, his creed may even require him to do so. Presently a fundamentalist, then, depending on circumstances, voila, a terrorist is born. My father, grandfather and uncles in Birmingham were Klan activists. A more ruthless gaggle of terrorist is hard to imagine. Was their Klavern responsible for killing four little girls guilty of nothing more than going to Sunday school at the 16th Avenue Church one September morning in1963?
The last paragraph rings true:
Once, when trapped in a Montgomery church, Ms. [Rosa] Parks helped five students escape arrest, but not before saying to me, “Bob, when you see something wrong you have to do something about it. You must take action — you can’t study injustice forever.”
You can read more about Bob and his continuing crusade to protect voting rights here: