Today a copy of John Perkins’ 1976 autobiography, Let Justice Roll Down, arrived in my mail box as a gift from a friend. I looked for this book as a part of my research into John MacArthur’s claim that he and Perkins traveled to Memphis on the night Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I reported the results of my research and my interview with John Perkins’ daughter in a prior post.
In this book, Perkins mentions the support he received from John MacArthur’s father but doesn’t mention anything about going with John MacArthur to Memphis on the night of MLK’s death. I think that would be a story I would include if it had happened to me.
What is striking about this book is Perkins’ commitment to social justice. I say it is striking because Perkins has declined to speak on the record about the MacArthur story, choosing instead to allow his daughter to speak for him. Deborah Perkins has supported the story of Charles Evers who said he didn’t go to Memphis with MacArthur and Perkins that night.
Why is it striking to me? John MacArthur has gone on record as criticizing the social justice movement in the evangelical church. He promotes a critical statement on social justice which seems to cast doubt on much of what John Perkins has worked for.
As I read Perkins book, I came across these words:
The contribution of the civil rights movement to the black man’s struggle for justice and equality is one that is undeniably great. And this is so, because those who led the movement were committed men and women. They were committed to the cause. And to the struggle.
But how sad that so few individuals equally committed to Jesus Christ ever became part of that movement. For what all that political activity needed — and lacked — was spiritual input. Even now, I do not understand why so many evangelicals find a sense of commitment to civil rights and to Jesus Christ an “either-or” proposition. (p. 99).
Perhaps, Rev. Perkins should ask his friend John MacArthur why so many evangelicals can’t walk the gospel and chew social justice gum at the same time. Or maybe John Perkins could help MacArthur understand his point of view.
Later in the book, Perkins wrote about the ostracism his children experienced in the all white schools of Mendenhall, MS. No Christian leaders, parents, or students spoke up to support them. He wrote:
I had to just watch. It hurt. The question kept popping up inside me: Does the gospel — that is, the gospel as we presently preach it — have within itself the power to deal with racial attitudes? The thing that hit me was that the supposed presence of the gospel was simply not effective in terms of human relations. If evangelism is truly on the side of God and His love, then it should never allow itself to look like it’s on the side of a bigot-producing system. (p. 108).
I know which side I want to be on. To be fair, I believe most people want to be on the right side. However, I invite anti-social justice warriors to ask themselves why Perkins’ question is just as relevant in 2019 as it was in 1976.