In the River
There are stories of white religious men doing the right thing. Let’s not be foolish and deny their existence. To live in a black or white, religious or non, male or female world is quite disheartening. It makes us believe that the opposite of us is of “no good” or that we are incapable of being just. It also denies us the hope of unity. Unity, I believe, is an essential human longing because it is “shalom” or the peace of GOD.
Carolyn Crowder of Black Mountain, NC set out to tell stories of white religious men doing the right thing during the civil rights movement in her documentary “At the River”. What has come of her work is really quite enlightening. “At the River” features interviews of men who decided to step “into the river” by being involved in the civil rights movement rather than “standing on the banks” staying quiet. When black men and women in their southern towns were being lynched or ridiculed these white pastors said something. Sometimes their words came in sermons and other times in arguments with law officers, but in the midst of it all they spoke with kindness and dignity to both the abused and the abuser. Their stories were almost lost because they were too humble to tell them. However, Crowder, a southern native, realized that their stories needed to be told.
Crowder has recorded 50 interviews with Southern Presbyterian ministers who made various stands during the civil rights movement. Some lost their jobs. Many received threats by white nationalists. Some faced heresy charges. Others checked their cars for bombs in the morning. Many picked up the phone and heard the KKK telling them that they better not preach the next morning. Others lost their churches and their positions in society -- but ALL did the right thing in hard times. As Presbyterians we would not canonize them as Saints (because Presbyterians believe that all believers are saints), but let us not forget their stories. These men, religious white men, lived into their calling.
Many live here among us in Western North Carolina. They are living legends of doing the right thing. Let us honor their stories (their existence) and then let us reflect on our own callings. Are you doing the right thing? Are you standing on the banks or deep down in the river? Have you taken the plunge and let the water fill and carry you? In both the Old and New Testaments the spirit is called a holy river carrying life to any and all that need it. Stand in it. Be among it. Become united with the river. Bring peace to the landscapes around you. Be shalom.
“Hard days are ahead and God is counting on the church to lead society - not lag behind it.” Jim Peck, Minister, Alabama 1962
Crowder’s documentary (filmed by Rod Murphy, Jr.) will be shown at the White Horse Black Mountain on January 28th at 2pm. Or find out more information www.carolyncrowder.com.
Photo above by: Josef Josep Moncada