I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s death and resurrection…with them, the black men and white men, with all life, in him whose Name is above all names that the races and nations shout…we are indelibly and unspeakably one.
The commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama was quite moving. In the land of amnesia both here and in the USA, it was fitting to remind people of the ongoing struggle for justice. This is a struggle which has to be won over and over again.
President Obama was there to salute one of his heroes John Lewis whom I will write about in a later post.
Let me say upfront this was a time of testing for the Christian church and it was the black church which would hear and live the gospel call.
Between February and August of 1964, four civil rights activists were killed in Alabama: Jimmie Lee Jackson, Viola Liuzzo, Rev. James Reeb and Jonathan Daniels.
Interesting that James Reeb and Jonathan Daniels were both Christian ministers who heard the call for racial justice and responded..At the same time rabbi Heschel who was there told the synagogue to put the Torah down and start praying with their feet.
it was a bracing time for authentic religion.
Both stories, Reeb’s and Daniel’s are powerful testaments to faith.
Jonathan Daniels was a 26 year old white Episcopalian minister from Keane, New Hampshire who lived with black families in Alabama. He had gone to Lowndes County trying to register blacks to vote. First he was jailed. They let him out of jail with 3 others, Father Richard Morrisroe a Catholic priest from Chicago, Joyce Bailey and Ruby Sales. They went to Varner’s Cash Store in Hayneville, one of the few stores that would serve blacks.There they were met by a man Thomas Coleman with a shotgun who said that he was not going to serve any blacks or Nigger lovers in his store. Daniels was killed and Fr.Morrisroe was critically wounded and the shooter Coleman was naturally acquitted and later bragged,”I just shot two preachers”—meaning white preachers, apparently traitors to their race. Southern justice.
Daniels was designated a church martyr and added to the episcopal calendar of lesser saints.
The notorious cracker sheriff Jim Clark said of Daniels “You are here to cause trouble; that’s what you’re doing. You don’t live here. You are an agitator, and that’s the lowest form of humanity” .
That’s what Christians do—cause holy trouble in the cause of greater justice.
Nice to see that 50 years later Jonathan Daniels was not forgotten.
What seems to be forgotten by the last generation of seminarians was the summons to the cross. Few ever seemed to have in Pope Francis’ words “the smell of the sheep on them.” Nor did many of their leaders.
Joanthan Daniels, presente