Attack on Churches is an Attack on the Soul of the Community, July 1996

A New Visions Commentary published July 1996 by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 20 F Street NW, Suite 700 , Washington, D.C. 20001, (202) 507-6398, Fax (301) 498-1301, E-Mail [email protected].

As a pastor of a church, I have watched with awe as Godly communities have transformed the lives of people without government intervention. I have watched again and again the failure of bureaucratic attempts at rehabilitation and the success of spiritual regeneration. With all respect to the well-intentioned and often laudable accomplishments of the NAACP, the Urban League, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other such groups, the most powerful institution for transforming and improving the lives of black people in America has been, is and always will be the church.

When that church is under attack, the very soul of the community is under attack. When it is happening in Mississippi, it is felt in Massachusetts. When it is happening in Louisiana, it is felt in Long Island. And when it is happening in Detroit, Michigan, it is felt in Demopolis, Alabama. An attack on black churches is an attack on the very nerve center of the black community, the ultimate place of its help and hope.

As National Liaison for Urban Development for the Christian Coalition, I have not come here today to criticize any other organization, but to say the Christian Coalition joins with any organization which will rise up and say these attacks on the black church, and on Christianity cannot and will not stand.

Some have asked why the Christian Coalition is so concerned. Let me state it clearly and unequivocally. To paraphrase Dr. King, an attack on Christianity anywhere is an attack on Christianity everywhere. We are the Christian Coalition, and it is a large part of our mission to be sure that Christian values, ideals and institutions crucial to our history remain the building blocks of our present and future. We are not the white Christian Coalition or the black Christian Coalition; we are not the Protestant or Catholic coalition. We are the Christian Coalition and our brothers and sisters are of all colors and of all denominations. We are a rainbow that is painted not by politics ultimately, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

The Executive Director of the Christian Coalition, Dr. Ralph Reed, has left no room for misunderstanding. I suppose to those who have lied about him and called him and the Christian Coalition a bunch of Nazis, he should be dismissed as a “white man.” However, for those of us who want to see the kind of America Dr. King envisioned, Ralph Reed is a brother leading the Christian Coalition to reach out a hand of love to everyone, but particularly those who know that obedience to God brings blessings on our nation. Dr. Reed said:

“It is a shame in the past the white evangelical church simply looked the other way when [black churches were] confronted by racist attacks. The Christian Coalition will not look the other way. The terrorists who committed these crimes to our African-American brothers and sisters will be dealt with. We will hunt them down, and we will bring them to justice.”

Let me end on what is a wonderfully inspiring development which is emerging from this series of evil acts. The immense good will of the American people, white and black, has poured forth in a magnificent way. In spite of those whose goal it is to keep us racially divided, this country continues to move in the direction of fulfilling Dr. King’s vision of not being judged by the color of our skin, but the content of our character. White Christians and others all over the country have put their shoulder to the plow, and their money where their mouths are to say, we stand with our brothers and sisters and the color of their skin is irrelevant.

Once again, faith, as it did for our Founding Fathers, confronts a curse and transforms it into a blessing.

by Rev. Earl Jackson, the National Liason for Urban Development for the Christian Coalition. Reverend Jackson has served as Senior Pastor of New Cornerstone Exodus Church in Boston since 1982. This Project 21 commentary is excerpted from testimony given on May 20 to the House Judiciary Committee.

(New Visions Commentaries are the opinion of their authors, and not necessarily those of Project 21.)

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