Progressive Christian Reflections by Chris Glaser: Glimpses of Glory

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This week in our neighborhood, a ceremony on Martin Luther King Day officially celebrated the renaming of Confederate Avenue as United Avenue. 

My photo of that ceremony follows this post.

In
August of 1973 I drove my ’63 Volkswagen via Washington, D.C. on my way to
seminary in New Haven, Connecticut. I walked the capitol mall, and as I
summitted a rise close to the Washington monument, I caught a glimpse of the
Lincoln memorial at the other finish of the mall just as the sun was setting, and
my imagination glimpsed the glory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on its
methods intoning “I have a dream…”
Later
I would study that he had begun a pretty distinctive speech, but the poet Maya
Angelou shouted to him, “Tell them about the dream, Martin,” and he wisely
switched gears and gave a speech he had utilized to inspire and uplift other individuals on an
earlier occasion.
That
summer time day in 1973, I realized it was the tenth anniversary of the 1963 Civil
Rights March on Washington, and I actually had goosebumps at the believed,
tears coming to my eyes.
I
was a twelve-year-old boy in Southern California when that march was held. I
knew tiny of the struggle for Civil Rights that culminated in that march. On
that day, I was at a pretty distinctive type of mall, Topanga Plaza, 1 of the
initial grand buying malls constructed in a trend that would sweep the United States.
A significant retailer window had multi-level shelves stacked with TV’s facing toward
the mall’s interior, and every single 1 of them was tuned to the news coverage of
the March on Washington. I knew one thing pretty essential was taking place.
Weeks
later, in our doctor’s workplace, I saw Life Magazine’s coverage of the march with
its supersized images and captions. Quickly the film and book To Kill a Mockingbird would inform the story of racial segregation
and injustice in the South from a child’s view in a way that could support a young
boy like me fully grasp and empathize. In public higher college, teachers taught me
more—not just about racial injustice in the South, but the de facto segregation
in my personal hometown of Los Angeles, and apartheid in South Africa.
Exchanges
with inner city schools and the Watts riots furthered my education. Our higher
college principal, an African American, spoke so eloquently, it prompted my
wish to create and speak as effectively as he did. But the actual estate marketplace
practices of the time prevented him and his family members from acquiring a property in our
neighborhood—and this in supposedly “liberal” California!
1
of the motives I left the fundamentalist Christian tradition in which I was
reared was for the reason that, when 3 black girls visited our Baptist Church, I
overheard 1 of our members say to one more white lady, “I bet they had been right here
to attempt that integratin’ stuff, but we showed them they had been welcome even if
they are Negroes.”
I
bear in mind precisely exactly where I was when I discovered Martin Luther King had been shot. I
was 17, and not however totally conscious of all that he had performed and all that had been
performed to advance racial equality, but, like seeing the several tv
screens broadcasting the 1963 Civil Rights March, I knew one thing essential
had occurred. My brother had just heard it on the radio and came in the kitchen
to inform my mom and me. My initial believed was to pray for him, which I did. Then
the news came that he had died.
I
had been attending a extra progressive church, and the following Sunday evening,
the youth pastor took his turn in the pulpit and study 1 of Dr. King’s
sermons, “Three Dimensions of a Comprehensive Life.” The initial dimension King
described was length of days that permitted a complete flowering of a human’s
prospective. The second dimension was breadth, in King’s words, “breadth by which men and women concern themselves in the welfare of other individuals.” The third
dimension, King preached, was generally ignored: that of height—in King’s words,
“that upward attain toward one thing distinctly higher than humanity.” We generally
fail to attain for the spiritual dimension of life. He stated of these who fail to
attain for that spiritual dimension, “They seek to reside with out a sky.”
Like
all great preachers of the time, King brought his observations collectively in a
homely story:
A smart old preacher went to a college to provide a
baccalaureate sermon. Just after finishing his message, he lingered on the campus to
speak with members of the graduating class. He spoke with a brilliant young
graduate named Robert. His initial query to Robert was: “What are your plans
for the future?” “I strategy to go straight away to law college,” stated Robert. “What
then, Robert?” continued the preacher. Robert retorted, “I ought to frankly say
that I strategy to make lots of income from my law practice and thereby I hope to
retire rather early and invest a terrific deal of time traveling to many components
of the world—something that I have usually wanted to do.”
“What then, Robert?” added the preacher with an
pretty much annoying inquisitiveness. “Well,” stated Robert, “these are all of my
plans.” Seeking at Robert with a countenance expressing pity and fatherly
concern, the preacher stated, “Young man, your plans are far as well little. They can
expend only seventy-5 or a hundred years at the most. You ought to make your
plans significant adequate to include things like God and significant adequate to include things like eternity.”
In
my personal words, I would echo King’s sentiment in this way: this is our moment to
reside and shape eternity, to reside and shape the divine life of this universe.
That
is what I wanted to do when I grew up, in my personal little way, as a gay activist
in the church and beyond.
Providentially,
higher college mates invited me to pay a visit to a Presbyterian Church whose liberal
views they believed I’d like. The initial sermon I heard there, the initial Sunday
of the year 1970, was a recounting of the prior ten years of the Civil
Rights movement. Come to obtain out, the largely white congregation was
participating in a system to overcome racism referred to as Project Understanding.
Via weekly forums and neighborhood outreach, the church hoped to be awakened
to social justice issues, like race, the Vietnam war, Native American
troubles, the demands of the adjacent Latino barrio, and sooner or later, even gay and
lesbian issues. It was a “woke” church prior to its time. The denomination to
which it belonged had written a new Confession of Faith in 1967 that referred to as for
the reconciliation of races, religions, and nationalities.
It
was portion of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., the northern stream
of Presbyterianism in America, broken from its southern stream given that the
abolition of slavery and the Civil War, ultimately to be united as the
Presbyterian Church (USA) right here in this pretty city of Atlanta in 1983. The two
denominations actually marched to the Atlanta City Hall as a physical
representation of our new-identified unity, and there Mayor Andrew Young, himself a
United Church of Christ minister, welcomed us.
That is
in all probability extra than you care to know about Presbyterian history, but I inform it
to clarify how I came to be at the 1983 March on Washington commemorating that
initial March in 1963. I was there as portion of the Presbyterian contingent.
The
initial congregation I served soon after seminary closed its worship service joining
hands and singing “We Shall Overcome.” This dated back to its days supporting
the Civil Rights movement. When I attempted to edit this song out of the service,
considering of it as a dated relic, the congregation rebelled for the reason that it had
develop into about extra than black and white, it was about gay and straight, girls
and males and transgender, it was about every single religious viewpoint, about every single
category of humanity by which we attempt to separate ourselves from 1 one more.
In response to my speak,
1st Existentialist stood in a circle, joined hands, and sang the a lot of verses
of “We Shall Overcome.” In the speak, I also integrated the words of Bayard
Rustin, the gay African American who organized the 1963 March on Washington,
that I published in an earlier post, “Bayard Rustin Speaks.”

Devoid of controversy, residents removed “Confederate” from our street indicators.

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Copyright © 2019 by Chris
R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and
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