by Michael E. Haynes
This article is an address Rev. Michael E. Haynes gave at the Park Street Church Missionary Conference in Boston on Apr. 28, 1968.
NOTE: Rev. Michael E. Haynes is minister, Twelth Baptist Church, Boston, and is serving his second two-year term as representative— from the seventh Suffolk District to the legislature of Massachusetts. This article is an address he gave at the Park Street Church Missionary Conference in Boston on Apr. 28, 1968. While the thrust is not directly toward missions, the Editorial Committee feels the substance is of such vital concern to the cause of Christ everywhere that it merits wide readership. It is significant that Park Street Church, long a staunch supporter of evangelical missions, should give a portion of its program as well as its missionary funds to help stem the tide of racism.—Eds.
Possibly my coming and my brief presentation this afternoon is a departure from the usual expectation in this, one of the greatest and most heralded evangelical mission conferences. However, I do feel as if 1, a fellow-believer in Jesus Christ, come with a pertinent message. In these few moments I must speak to you out of the accumulation of almost forty years of being black in a white Boston.
To use the words of my late friend, Martin Luther King, Jr., whose father I hope to join in a few moments, in his 1964 address to the Massachusetts legislature, I come not to condemn but to encourage." I pray that the Holy Spirit may use me as an instrument in this critical hour in American race relations to unstop closed ears, open prejudging minds, unveil hearts, and hopefully awaken the vital centers of orthodox Christianity to the urgency of the hour and the urgent need on the part of evangelicals for a new dimension, a new sacrifice, a new challenge, and a new, broad, massive commitment to the grave social crisis.
It is a dangerous, frightening three minutes before midnight in America. If America is to arrest and heal the rapidly spreading consequences of generations of racism, it has little time in which to act.
I submit to you this afternoon that the evangelical church has been grossly guilty of the sin of omission. In reality, save for scattered tokenistic acts here and there, the so-called American Negro, now more acceptably classified as the black man or the Afro-American, has been too much a case of "out of sight, out of mind."
As in American society, so it has been in evangelical society. Black men have been left out of the mainstream, out of our colleges and seminaries, out of our Christian high schools, off our faculties, out of our pulpits, out of our summer conferences, out of our business considerations. Yes, beyond token gestures, we evangelicals have left the black man out.
I have wondered over and over again, what type of message would a Rap Brown or a Stokely Carmichael have to bring to the world today if they had been born into a society where black men were treated with justice and equality, and in a comfortable home where they had been influenced by a positive Christian religion, or if they had received a subsidized education at a so-called Christian college.
I submit to you today that while we have expended millions of dollars in mission programs in every corner of this earth in the past, millions of black Americans have been crying unheard , We are your tired and your poor. We are your huddled masses yearning to breathe free!" Right under your noses, immediately Within the shadow of our steeples, from Bangor, Maine, to Southern California.
My entire lifetime was spent just a few yards from a great evangelical church. I had lived two-thirds of my life before I ever received an invitation to come in. As a child whose family had just moved into a fast-changing white neighborhood on the edge of a Negro ghetto, I sat on the stairs of this church and played. I looked into the downstairs window as white face upon white face sat around tables at church suppers. I can vividly recall one day that 1, a poor black child whose family was on welfare, yelled into the windowofthischurch,"We’re hungry. Give us something to eat!" only to have a beautiful white lady come out and tell my brother and me how rude we were.
Nevertheless, thank God, His love found me. And I must say to you today, it was not through the church that I was lifted from the sinking sands of misdirection and degredation. It was through a Unitarian, Episcopalian- supported settlement house that I was lifted up high enough to be able to catch a breath of air in this society. Yet, in comfortable walking distance from my own door were two well-endowed white evangelical Baptist churches, receiving monies earmarked, "To help the working masses." They had gymnasiums, social organizations, etc., but blacks were never made to feel wanted or welcome.
I attended three so-called Christian colleges. The first was the most wonderful, redeeming thing that had ever happened to me. I had been a terrible victim of malguidance in the Boston school system, but that little school, now located in the Berkshire hills of Lenox, Mass., gave me a big chance. They made me feel like a man. They gave me a sense of human dignity and worth. In almost every instance, especially from the top levels of the administration, they made me to know that I was not black nor white, not poor nor rich, but a beloved brother in Jesus Christ. They led me to become a useful American citizen. They equipped me to be of some value in Christian service. Today, almost twenty years later, this little school of just barely more than 100 students has five young, poor, black, marginal Christians from Roxbury in their student body, while three other larger Christian colleges, much closer to the metropolitan area, stick their heads in the sand and attempt to satisfy themselves with small acts of pure tokenism. Could it be that the evangelical colleges and Christian high schools practice a racism of their own?
My second Christian college deliberately refused me admission because I was black. It was located in one of the largest cities of the world, with the largest northern black concentration. Only after intervention and force did they allow me admission, and thereafter I spent eight of the most humiliating, traumatic, disillusioning months in my life and in my Christian pilgrimmage. Yes, they had the truth; they carried the Word in their minds filled with racial prejudice.
My third experience was not as bad. This school offered a chance. However, they did not really know black people and didn’t really want to be bothered. They too played tokenism. Because of lack of help, understanding, and a sense of encouragement, I became a graduate level dropout, in a leading Christian school where I never really felt wanted or at home.
Although all my life I have sat under the shadow of evangelical Christian institutions, I came close to becoming a school dropout, a drug addict, an alcoholic, a criminal, an angry young American, a theological liberal, a Rap Brown, or a Stokely Carmichael.
Yes, friends in Christ, I well understand the desperation, frustration, anger, mistrust, and hopelessness that will cause a young black man in this day and age to strike out, riot, burn, curse the church, and reject the so-called white man’s Christianity.
Three weeks ago I went to Atlanta to attend the funeral of an old colleague of mine, who once worked with me at Twelfth Baptist Church. (Martin Luther King, Jr., served as supply minister at this church while working on his doctoral program at Boston University.–Eds.) As I walked the streets of Atlanta in the funeral march amidst the 84 degree heat, and passed the capitol building, and saw the guards, I felt a deep sense of shame and sadness as I said to myself, "That gentleman who presides therein, and some of the biggest proponents of segregation and racism in America, were not card-carrying Communists, but Bible-carrying evangelicals and fundamentalists."
Can you see the picture I would paint for you this afternoon as three minutes before twelve?
For many years I worked as a social worker in the Roxbury section of Boston, while serving as assistant minister at Twelfth Baptist Church., I understand why black people in particular think that the church is irrelevant in this age, and the big curse of the black man in America. I see how we have allowed the Black Muslims to be able to point the justifiable finger of criticism at us. I know why some of my own college people have had such a hard time reconciling the message of the church with the application (or lack) of this message. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr., said yesterday upon arrival at Logan Airport, "We need more sermons that men can see, not just sermons that they can hear."
May I submit these challenges to you in Christian love:
We need a coalition of Christian businessmen to help rescue our nation from the consequences of racism.
White evangelical clergy need to hear the message of a Mr. Douglas Hall for a united effort to attack the urban and racial problems on all levels. They need to ban together as a united force and immediately cry the prayer of Saul on the Damascus road, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" And then do it whatever the cost.
The evangelical, so-called Christian colleges -Gordon, Eastern Nazarene, Barrington, Berkshire, and all of the rest, including Wheaton, Bob Jones, Kings College, Moody-need to get some black faces on their faculties and staffs, and get more black students in their schools. They need to provide full and partial scholarships for needy black young marginal Christian-, men and women. With what type of minds will the leadership ranks be filled in the black communities-Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, Detroit? Could not these colleges help shape these minds, if it is not too late?
The white evangelical church needs to help strengthen the Christian education program of black churches through outright grants, convenient training programs, visual aids, building improvements, etc. Most black churches in Boston lack adequate facilities. One white evangelical church gym has been torn down and another is on its way. The white evangelical church needs to cease fleeing the urban area. Some of them should have taken on black assistant ministers a long time ago. Their work would possibly still be growing.
Black evangelicals who choose to go into business should be especially helped by evangelical resources.
White evangelicals ought to take a new look at government. They should ‘support and encourage black Christian leadership in every conceivable way, on all levels of life. I happen to be in the House of Representatives, and have received very little significant help or encouragement from my white Christian brothers.
The Christian colleges ought to provide a special remedial program to help prepare maleducated blacks for admission.
Christian camps need to recruit, bring in, and subsidize black children from the ghetto. Our Bible conferences need some black faces.
At present I know two poor young black people from Roxbury who are discouraged but are struggling through Barrington College. There are five more struggling through Berkshire.
Maybe there should and could be a "fellowship bookstore" in Roxbury. Maybe there should and could be a seminar program sponsored by the Boston Evening School of the Bible in Roxbury. Maybe a new, massive, evangelically-oriented, wellequipped youth center ought to be provided for the North Dorchester area, which is so barren of churches.
Maybe evangelicals ought to seek out some of the basically well-trained black men of the Bible, and have them preach more often in their pulpits as summer supplies, etc.
I submit that evangelicals had better hurry up, stand up and be counted, speak out against the curse of racism in our America, and see if we can quiet the tensions long enough, to the end that we can distinctly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to both black and white, before Jesus comes and finds us evangelicals with our heads still stuck in the sand, while souls are hungry, thirsty, naked, and imprisoned.
"Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."
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