These children assumed they were safe as they learned to love and follow the Prince of Peace. They assumed that a house of worship was sacred ground. They assumed Christ's ministry of love would yield a world unified by His grace. They were mistaken.
The bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church took place the Sunday after the first racial integration of classrooms had occurred in Birmingham. In addition to the four girls killed, dozens of others were badly injured. In the aftermath, two other young black boys were killed, one of whom was shot by a white teenager--an eagle scout. Both before and after the bombing, Birmingham was a racially divided town. On which side did white Christians stand?
|The shattered face of white Jesus in |
the bombed stain glass window
But as with so many recent incidents, the perpetrators were written off as lunatics, rather than as the products of a racialized society for which we are all responsible. The Christians that Jesus had charged with caring for the 'least of these' had failed to protect and defend these Sunday school children from hatred and violence. They had not taken seriously the cries for justice from their black sisters and brothers.
|The scripture scheduled |
for that Sunday: Luke 23:34
Black children continue to be "viewed by myriad institutions in society -- school, courts, police -- as potential predators and prisoners rather than future leaders." White Christians continue to look the other way when it comes to issues like the school-to-prison pipeline, the war on drugs, and stop-and-frisk. They continue to be perplexed by black folks' reactions to incidents like the murders of Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant.
Does your church remember 4 little girls? Are their names and stories mentioned from the pulpit? Chances are, the answer depends on the race of your church (and of your pastor).
Was the recent shooting at Oak Creek Temple addressed in your church? Did your community actively speak out or take action against it? How do we continue to downplay the laments of the oppressed today?