Here I am reminded of a story about civil rights legend and Christian iconoclast Reverend Vernon Johns, Martin Luther King Jr.’s predecessor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1960, white Southern Baptists and black National Baptists gathered at the Seventh Baptist Church in Baltimore to discuss racial tension in the city. During the worship service, historian Taylor Branch recounts that Vernon Johns sat visibly annoyed as he listened to the white preacher preach on salvation and being “washed in the blood of the Lamb.” When it was Johns’ moment to address the assembly, to the consternation of white preachers and the humiliation of most black preachers in attendance, the ecclesial journeyman went right after the preacher who went before him. “The thing that disappoints me about the Southern white church,” Johns said, “is that it spends all of its time dealing with Jesus after the cross, instead of dealing with Jesus before the cross.”
He then turned directly to the preacher and said, “You didn’t do a thing but preach about the death of Jesus. If that were the heart of Christianity, all God had to do was to drop him down on Friday and let them kill him, and then yank him up again on Easter Sunday… You don’t hear so much about his three years of teaching that man’s religion is revealed in the love of his fellow man…That is what offended the leaders of Jesus’s own established church as well as the colonial authorities from Rome. That’s why they put him up there [on the cross]… I want to deal with Jesus before the cross. I don’t give a damn what happened to him after the cross!”
Fair. Balanced. American.
Thursday, April 01, 2010
Every congregation should hear it this Sunday: