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Who Will Speak to the Nation?

Carolyn McKinstry

Carolyn McKinstry, survivor of the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by the Klu Klux Klan, reflects on love, the failure of community, and “making the world over again.”

Editor's Note: We are very excited to host Rev. Dr. Carolyn McKinstry for The Table Conference 2016 on Love and Humility in Politics. An iconic figure from the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement, McKinstry has devoted her life to reconcilation and racial justice following the September 15, 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, where she grew up and where she was serving on the morning of the bombing, just as the church service was about to begin.

I believe that in this season America is receiving a critical call to move to ‘higher ground.’ One might call this a “911 emergency call.” The call is a national call and a global call. And as in the call from God to each of us, I pray that we all hear this call. I pray that we become once again a nation of prayer and conscience. I pray that we become a nation reconciled to God. Speaking to the annual Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference in 2005 (‘Beautiful Are Their Feet’) Dr. Gardner Taylor stated that “America was at a perilous moment; … plagued by many sins, including the sin of pride. Who will speak to the nation?”

“We have churches on every corner, but 11:00 a.m. on Sunday is still America’s most segregated hour.”

The statue of liberty stands as a symbol of hope for all who enter our borders. Our founding documents speak of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, the “equality of all men”, and our citizens functioning as “one nation—under God.” “In God We Trust” is printed on our currency. The seasoned wordsmiths who fashioned our country’s founding documents did an excellent job. Their writings en masse also suggest that the founding fathers were very much aware of the presence of God in our country, and in the world.

These are the words of Thomas Jefferson during his time as president: “God who gave us life—gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” In a very real sense God was seen and revered as America’s architect. Psalm 127:1 tells us that if God is not the architect, we are laboring in vain. Who will speak to the nation?

Men have become experts at walking “in and out” of their humanity. In general we have failed at achieving the concept of community. Many of us have not learned to simply live next door to someone who is different from us. On June 1, 1858 President Abraham Lincoln wisely spoke these words: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The same words are also recorded in the gospels of Mark (3:15), Luke (11:17), and Matthew (12:25). Matthew records:

“But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.’

But with hope Thomas Paine told us in 1776: “We have it in our power to make the world over again.” I pray that the individual, collective, and pervasive sins of hatred and racism will not be our country’s demise. I pray that we begin to seek God for ways to make the world over again. The spirit and life of this America’s current social construct are alien to the spirit, the teachings and the life of Jesus Christ. We have churches on every corner, but 11:00 a.m. on Sunday is still America’s most segregated hour. The absence of the teachings of the Doctrine of the Kingdom of God looms large in our churches and even larger in our treatment of each other. Our failure at reconciliation is witnessed and substantiated daily in our various media forms, our declining educational systems, our increasing poverty and incarceration rates and other vital statistics.

Where are the members of the Kingdom of God? Where are God’s hands and His feet? Who will speak for God? Who will speak to the nation?