As we remember the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. during this season, I have a few questions for reflection for the American church. For you to properly interpret my intent, please understand that I ask these questions humbly as a Christian brother and as a fully invested (although critical) lover of the American church who views the leading, shaping and nurturing of the American church as a significant portion of my calling from God.
What does it say about the American church that too many of us by and large missed the most impactful move of God upon American society in the 20th century by either directly opposing the Civil Rights Movement or by staying comfortably neutral and silent on civil rights issues?
What does it say about the American church that, while we all now claim solidarity with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s, we tend to denigrate current leaders of the contemporary Civil Rights Movement with language that is surprisingly similar to the language that was used to denigrate King when he was alive?
What does it say about the American church that we tend to “Disney-fy” the work and legacy of King by limiting his impact to one part of one speech that we take out of context, instead of being honest about the full scope of his agenda and the seditious nature of his revolutionary ministry?
What does it say about the American church that, while we look forward to commemorating the 53rd anniversary of our government’s assassination of King in a few months, too many Christians find no tears at all for the hundreds of Black men, women and children (individually or collectively) who get executed by the government via the police each year with very little institutional accountability?
What does it say about the American church that all too many of our white evangelical brothers and sisters compromised what they said they believed in just a few years ago in order to support a thrice-wed proven liar whose words, actions and character are the antithesis of what Jesus teaches us in the Beatitudes?
What does it say about the American church that so many of our white conservative brothers and sisters are evidently so self-absorbed in their championing of Trumpery with their pursuit of financial gain through questionable tax cuts and power through judicial appointments that they can’t even notice, or don’t care, about the sense of betrayal and offense that is commonly experienced and expressed among their ethnic brothers and sisters?
What does it say about the American church that, while 11:00 on Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour of the week, the polling place is becoming increasingly the most segregated civic office in America — most pointedly among Christians?
What does it say about the American church that non-Christians increasingly point to the apparent divisiveness and hypocrisy of believers to justify their disbelief?
Sid Smith III is a music ministry consultant and serves at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco.