Sunday, March 16, 2014

For Dr. Houck, a believing Christian, the preponderance of these sermons got at what he considered a neglected aspect of civil rights history. As much as the movement fought for political rights, it also catalyzed a theological struggle about whether God wanted black people to be treated equally, as his children, or unequally in accordance with certain biblical passages condoning slavery.

“I saw the extent to which Christians used the Scripture to shield their own prejudices,” Dr. Houck said. “These white ministers with Ph.D.’s and enormous congregations were saying, ‘If you need a scriptural warrant to go on with your way of life, here it is.’ That was a hard one to look in the mirror on.”

So it struck him as both revelatory and redemptive to find a white minister in quite possibly the most volatile racial setting of its time — a place where townspeople routinely dismissed the reported murders as a hoax perpetrated by outside agitators to embarrass the South — willing “to stand up and call out the Klan.”

Read it all.

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