When the church looks irrelevant

From John Perkins’ autobiography Let Justice Roll Down:

You see, in all my years growing up in Mississippi, I had never heard the simple truth of the gospel: the fact that Jesus Christ could set me free and love His life in me.  I grew up knowing nothing about Jesus Christ.

In fact, I had always looked at black Christians as sort of inferior people whose religion had made them gullible and submissive.  Religion had made so many of my people humble down to the white-dominated system with all its injustices.  Religion had made them cowards and Uncle Toms.

But I was a Perkins and I wasn’t like that at all.  No way was I like that.  So I did not see the black church as relevant to me and my needs.

And I did not see white Christianity as meaningful either.  To me it was part of that whole system that helped dehumanize and destroy black people; that system which identified me as a nigger.  So how could the white church really be concerned about me?

I had lived in the South.  I had drunk at separate drinking fountains.  I had ridden in the back of buses.  And never in the South had I heard one white Christian speak out against the way whites treated blacks as second-class citizens.

I had never accepted the falsehood that I was a second-class citizen.  Nor had I ever accepted the myth that I was a nigger.  So I did not see the white church as relevant to me and my needs. (Ch. 7, 57-58, 1976 edition)

Perkins eventually found forgiveness for his sin and meaning for his life in Christ, as well as a passion for justice that he found so lacking in his boyhood home.


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