We believe that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others. (Belhar Confession)
I never thought much about slavery. It was not part of my world and didn’t affect me much. Even when I moved to Alabama in my teens, it meant little to me. I believed what they taught me in High School, that it was a benign institution. That slave owners cared for their slaves and made certain that they had the best medical care. After all, who would treat their workforce any differently. And, I believed this, because no one told me differently, not the school system, not the church, no one.
This subtle racist message resided in me. So, much so, that I didn’t even think that the Civil War was about slavery until much later in my life. I had been taught that it was about states rights, and that made sense to me, because I couldn’t believe people would stand for slavery.
My mind changed slowly over the years, but not because the church taught me differently. I knew that slavery was wrong, because people wrote about it and movies and TV shows depicted the evil. The church remained silent. But, I really didn’t understand the depths of the tragedy until I walked through the Legacy Museum in the heart of the slave trading district in Montgomery, AL (museumandmemorial.eji.org).
Slavery as a legal institution does not exist in the United States, today. But, the legacy of slavery remains. And, the church must stand against this legacy of injustice in all its forms. And, so, I stand with the wronged. I’m not certain I know how that will look, but I know it will be costly. And, I am willing to pay the price as a witness against injustice in all its forms.
I encourage us all to join as the church and stand where the Lord stands—with the marginalized, the oppressed, the wronged. And, we must work together to weed out the hatred that has started to sprout so strong in our nation.