Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in one of his early sermons as an associate pastor at his father’s church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, said the following: “I am [ashamed] and appalled that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in Christian America.”
I’ve heard Dr. King quoted on this subject many times, but not until I prepared to write about a recent church experience was I aware of the “[ashamed] and appalled” part. According to Advocate of the Social Gospel, September 1948 – March 1963 of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. King also wrote that the Christian church was “the greatest preserver of the status quo” and, thereby, “one of the chief exponents of racial bigotry.” He concluded that “the church, in its present state, is not the hope of the world. I believe that nothing has so persistently and effectively blocked the way of salvation as the church.”
As a Christian and as an admirer of Dr. King’s efforts and leadership, I didn’t read these words lightly, especially because the churches of my youth reflected precisely the segregation that Dr. King lamented. Now, I know enough history to know that Sunday morning segregation certainly didn’t originate with black folks; we have slavery and Jim Crow to thank for that. I also believe that black churchgoers weren’t the agents of the bigotry to which Dr. King referred. But here we are, many decades after he made that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning observation, and yet the pews in many American churches still look like 1953. Read more...
As someone struggling to find a church home that meets my needs and that of my family, this piece really resonated. (I also struggle with whether I need a church home at all and whether a mainstream church can fully meet my spiritual needs, but that's another conversation indeed.)
You can find more from Deesha at one of my favorite blogs, Mamalicious.