50 Years After MLK Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' Speech, Black Pastor Looks to Church to Heal Racial Wounds

A black megachurch pastor said that despite great advances from the violence of the 1960s, America still has work to do in solving racial wounds. But he hopes that the Church will lead the way in reconciling the racial divide.

"The true reconciliation process has not really been achieved or accomplished in the nation," Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., told The Christian Post on Tuesday. Nevertheless, he expressed great hope for the future.

Jackson explained that many African Americans see themselves as "second class citizens" following the July 13th acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who shot black teen Trayvon Martin last year. While condemning "the way the media spun the original announcement," the pastor argued that the case did provide an avenue for addressing the civil rights issue today.

Following the Zimmerman acquittal, a Gallup Poll released Monday found that 61 percent of blacks say new civil rights laws are needed to reduce racial discrimination. This represents a marked increase from the 53 percent who argued for new laws in the June-July poll. While both blacks and whites say civil rights have improved in their lifetimes, blacks are less likely to say they have "greatly improved," and are more likely to argue for new laws.

To explain this belief, Jackson referred to Martin Luther King Jr.'s words during the March on Washington, which took place 50 years ago Wednesday. On the "promissory note" that all men "would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," King argued, the U.S. had fallen short. "Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'"

Jackson acknowledged that it would be "ridiculous" to say things haven't changed for the better, especially since Jackie Robinson was forced out of Sanford with death threats in the 1940s. But he also emphasized the lack of "a sense of safety and celebration" among the black community.

Most African Americans would say "yes, I can pull myself up by my bootstraps, but I don't feel as though I've gotten a fair shake," the pastor argued. Most do not remember the earlier violence, but "the pain hasn't stopped."

Jackson blamed both Republicans and Democrats for failing to address this issue. The Democratic Party, which used to be a bastion for racial justice, has "gotten tired of the black struggle and they've moved on to the gay rights issue and other things." Conservatives, on the other hand, "just feel so uncomfortable even talking about the issue," and want it to go away.

The pastor blamed voices on both sides for blowing up the issue in ways that obstruct healing. He lamented the prioritizing of political rhetoric over genuine racial reconciliation. Even the NAACP, he argued, proves "so impotent in terms of political clout that it has sold out its voice to promoting 'gay rights.'"

Nevertheless, Jackson said Christians should be encouraged. He referred to the Sanford Declaration, which lays the groundwork for churches to lead the way toward racial reconciliation. "I think we can solve this on our watch," he said.

When asked why most churches are segregated today, Jackson refrained from pointing fingers. He explained that blacks, whites, and other races usually go to church with people of the same color because it's more comfortable to do so. "There's less racism behind our segregation than there is a citadel and refuge mentality," he argued.

Nevertheless, the pastor announced that his church is opening a new location in Orlando, specifically designed to be multiracial. He insisted that "there's a reason to go through the pain of living together" because it will energize the nation with a new power from the Holy Spirit.

"There's hope for the next generation – and the church is the bridge," Jackson proclaimed. He pointed to the re-election of Barack Obama and the re-election of the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention, as signs of racial healing.

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