Yesterday, many players in the National Football League, and even a couple of owners and coaches, used the National Anthem to call attention to racial inequality in this country. The dramatic increase in these protests was a direct result of the resident of the White House classlessly calling protesters “sons of b*tches” and advocating that they be fired. He was speaking to an, essentially, all-white audience in Alabama.
They loved the speech there, but then Montgomery was once the capital of the Confederacy; Martin Luther King was repeatedly jailed in in the state; Congressman John Lewis was beaten near to death on the bridge into Selma; a seamstress named Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person there; and four elementary-aged little girls in their Sunday dresses were blown apart by a KKK bomb in Birmingham. Alabama is the state that gave us George Wallace, and now is considering giving us a senator who thinks lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people don’t deserve basic civil rights. They also gave us Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, an attorney general who is working overtime to undermine civil rights protections and voting rights.
I know some wonderful people in Alabama who are working for equality and civil rights. Still, as I listened to white people wildly cheering Trump’s obvious race-baiting, I wondered why so little has changed in the last 50 years. Sixty-three percent of people in Alabama claim church membership. The question that haunts me is the correlation between supporting racist attitudes and the high percentage of church membership. Why hasn’t the church made a difference in Alabama during the past 50 years?
Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to Alabama. After living in Texas for 22 years, I wonder how church members who dominate the political landscape can be so hateful. How could the deeply religious legislature of Georgia be so callused toward the working poor? How could the church folk of North Carolina work relentlessly against transgender people?
Ultimately, there is nothing good to be said about the correlation between church attendance and bigotry. What I can say is this: If your church is not vigorously and relentlessly challenging racism and prejudice then you need to change your church or, if necessary, change churches and find one that really is the Body of Christ.
Rev. Michael Piazza