In late July, I wrote here about an anti-critical race theory conference slated for September 24 in my hometown of Grove City, PA. After the CRT controversy at my college (Grove City College), this announcement wasn’t good news. What made it worse was the scheduled participation of Lost Cause advocate Jon Harris. As it turns out, Harris will not be able to speak at the conference due to a memorial service for a family member scheduled on the same weekend.
Another change in the good news category is that the conference is now homeless. Last Friday, I was informed by Andy Frey, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grove City, that their church will not host the conference. Early last week, I reached out to Pastor Frey and informed him of the issues raised in the July post as well as some new ones which have come up. He was unaware of that information and took the matter to his deacons. At their regular deacons meeting last Thursday evening, they voted unanimously to pull out of participation.
As of today, the conference organizers have not removed First Baptist from the conference website. Also, oddly, the organizers added Jon Harris’ pic back to the website with a caption explaining why he is not presenting.
Above, I mentioned new issues relating to Harris. Not only does Harris think highly of the Confederate South, he also has high regard for another white supremacist regime — Ian Smith’s white rule in Rhodesia. In a Gab posting, Harris waxed nostalgic about whites sticking up for their past against “the barbarian hordes.”In any case, the CRT conference is homeless for now. Lord willing, it will stay that way.
Christians often say they are persecuted for their beliefs in modern America. I say, no, for the most part, I don’t believe that’s true. Christianity is privileged in many ways in the U.S. However, listing those ways isn’t the main point of this brief post.
I mainly want to point out actual persecution and hold up the bravery of a Russian citizen who simply held up a blank sign.
Police in Nizhny Novgorod arrested a demonstrator today for protesting with a blank sign. Welcome to Russia in 2022. pic.twitter.com/YprwDqex8V
This woman was taken away simply for holding up a sign with nothing on it. I suppose it was understood that she was protesting the war in Ukraine. However, in a country where the dictator has a history of killing dissidents, this was an act of bravery.
Dated April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King wrote a letter from jail in Birmingham during the non-violent campaign there. In the letter, he defended the strategy of non-violence used in the Birmingham campaign.
One of the striking elements of the letter is King’s disappointment with the white clergy in the South. Here is a key passage:
Currently, white and black evangelicals are divided in obvious ways as we observe another MLK, Jr Day. For instance, African American Baptist churches are leaving the Southern Baptist Convention as white leaders there take aim at Critical Race Theory while yawning at Christian nationalism. White evangelicals as a group find themselves in much the same place as when King, Jr. wrote in 1963. I long for a change. I long for an end to concern for ideological purity and a striving for relational purity.
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I link to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
For a transcript of the speech, you can consult the National Archives at this link. It is fascinating to examine the draft of the speech. In particular, the phrase “I have a dream today” isn’t in the draft. He improvised the phrase. He had used it before but it wasn’t in the prepared remarks. In the moment, inspiration came to him and he took the speech to another level. See this interview with Clarence Jones for more on that story.
April 15 marks the day in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball. The executive who signed him with the express purpose of combating racism was Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
I share a hometown with Branch Rickey — Portsmouth, Ohio — and was always reminded of his legacy because I played high school baseball in Branch Rickey Park (pictured below).
To me, Branch Rickey’s role in this story is sweet irony. White supremacy was strong in my hometown. For most of my life there, African-Americans were segregated into neighborhoods surrounding a large public housing project. There was strong prejudice and discrimination, even among Christians. And yet, Branch Rickey left that small town to make history in the big city in a way that changed attitudes about race forever.
When a well-known journalist of the era told the Dodgers general manager that he thought “all hell would break loose” the next day with Robinson due to take the field for the first time as a Brooklyn Dodger, Rickey disagreed. “My grandfather immediately responded to him, ‘I believe tomorrow all heaven will rejoice,’” the younger Rickey said.