Speaking outPublished 11:53am Thursday, July 11, 2013
To the Editor:
Congratulations to the Rev. Kevin Johnson for speaking out on the poor conduct of our state Legislature as it moves to undo much that has made us proud to call North Carolina home. Two weeks ago, our nation’s leading newspaper had an editorial criticizing our move away from correcting racial injustices of the past, a subject I lobbied our Sen. Bill Cook regarding and was told by him, “I believe in an eye for an eye.” I reminded him that those of us who bear the name Christian gave up that attitude over 2,000 years ago. And that same legislator from our county also drew derisive coverage from another national publication that told of his sponsoring Senate Bill 668 to prevent the “mentally incompetent” from voting, a measure that his own party’s leaders have tried to run and hide from. Given such attitudes as these held by many of our current legislators, it’s no wonder clergy and other moral leaders are practicing their rights as Americans to respectfully practice civil disobedience and be willing to go to jail if necessary for so doing.
Christians should always remember that much of our New Testament was composed in jail by the Apostle Paul, and just a shade over 50 years ago Baptist preacher Martin Luther King Jr. kicked the civil-rights movement into high gear by writing his now famous “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.”
Interestingly, as I wore my clergy shirt fresh from having buried my wife’s favorite aunt two Mondays ago, one of the first persons I ran into outside the state House was former UNC-CH Chancellor Paul Hardin and his wife, long-time friends of ours and United Methodists. We were all there with the backing of eight denominational leaders who issued a pastoral letter the previous weekend supporting Moral Mondays. I smiled at the irony of it all as I remembered that Chancellor Hardin’s father, Bishop Paul Hardin, was one of the recipients of Dr. King’s letter, and also one of the bishops who laid hands on me when I was ordained. As Dr. King often said, “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” It still does.
The Rev. Charles M. Smith