The New Civil Rights Movement

It was the Friday before Farrakhan’s Million More March. After wrestling through the hectic D.C. traffic, I arrived at CNN’s D.C. studios. Making my way through security, I caught my breath in their green room. In a few minutes I would speak concerning the Black Muslims, race relations in the U.S., and the future of the Civil Rights Movement. These questions were the refrain of a song that I heard repeatedly as I was interviewed on national television and radio programs during the next few weeks.

After these interviews, I concluded that the United States is ripe for a second, more effective Civil Rights Movement. In fact, the death of Rosa Parks, mother of the Civil Rights Movement, marked the end of the primary era of civil rights. After her body was laid in State, there could have been no greater acknowledgement of the significance of the first phase of the non-violent movement. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and an army of others won hard-fought battles for the dignity of African-American citizens. Violent racial hostility has lessened all over the country and many blacks have access to the highest echelons of American society.

Unfortunately black poverty, as measured by comparative salary levels, home ownership, business equity and unemployment figures, has increased during the last ten years. In addition, The Great Society programs of the 1960s indirectly encouraged an alarming rate of out-of-wedlock births (approximately 70%) and the destruction of the black man’s leadership in low income homes.

Watching Oprah on weekdays or football on Sundays gives us a false sense that blacks have attained comparable prominence and prosperity with the white community. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A biblically-based New Civil Rights Movement is definitely needed to bring healing and salvation to a wounded, fractured community. George Barna and I conducted ground-breaking research on black spirituality that is recorded in the book High Impact African-American Churches. We learned that while 47% of black adults are born again, non-churched adults in the black community are poised to be reached with the Gospel. The entire Christian community should realize that its “harvest time.” The blacks of all ages should be targeted with prayer and evangelistic efforts.

What should the non-black church contribute to this New Civil Rights Movement? The greater church in America could seize this season as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to touch a “nation” within our nation. Three steps should be taken by forward-thinking churches. These are easy to accomplish but may lead to a major national revival:

1. preach racial reconciliation and the unity of the body of Christ
• like Promise Keepers has been doing for years
2. create partnerships with urban churches
• these partnerships could include
- after school tutorial programs
- crisis pregnancy centers
- prison after-care programs
- big brother, big sister programs
3. allow social justice to be included the national, moral debate
• social justice includes public policies addressing poverty and its impact on all Americans

The racial divide in America can and will be healed. The healing will come from a discerning Church which seizes its moment within the culture and commits to pay the price for change.

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