Obviously, if I had no use for the black Church, I could hardly even imagine something called a "white Christian." It was totally impossible for me to imagine that the white Church, the private club of the oppressors, had anything to do with reality and justice. Prejudice, of course, knows no boundaries; it can be found anywhere (p. 63).
And John Perkins knew a lot about prejudice. After serving in World War II, his oldest brother was murdered by a white deputy marshal in Mississippi, because he was talking too loudly with his girlfriend while waiting for a movie to begin. Perkins grew up in a bootlegging broken home, raised by his grandmother and aunt. His father abandoned him. White employers cheated him. The Church, both white and black, disappointed him.
Then he met Jesus!
He tells his story in the reissuing of the Civil Rights classic, Let Justice Roll Down. During his time in Korea, he applied himself to the education he never found interesting or important growing up. When he moved to California and married his sweetheart, Vera Mae, Perkins learned about economics. He began searching for something to fulfill his life beyond money. After seeing the powerful changes that God was working in his young son, Spencer, Perkins came to Christ.
I could see something was developing in him that was beautiful, something I knew nothing about. I'd had no real experience before of seeing Christianity at work like that in a person's life--at work in a way that was beautiful...and good (p. 66).
He and Vera Mae threw themselves into a variety of Christian ministries which brought him into contact with Christians of various races.
In those workshops I found something I never expected besides the Bible learning. I met white Christians. It's hard to describe how odd, how different that whole experience was for me. Not just white church members, but white Christians--people who said that God had actually changed their lives (p. 73).
Then God required something extraordinarily hard of them--return to Mississippi. Neither of them wanted to, but it was especially hard for Vera Mae to go back to the racism, poverty, and ignorance of the area. However, they did!
Yielding to God's will can be hard. And sometimes, it really hurts. But it always brings peace (p. 82).
There, they took their ministry to a whole new realm.
Still, I decided that if something was right, I would do it as a command from God and not be scared out because some non-Christians also thought it was right (p. 107).
They started with child evangelism, moved into adult teaching, started health care facilities and a church, a cooperative, and a voter registration drive.
We rode in fear. We registered in fear. And we voted in fear. Those black voting lists were carved out in fear (p. 192).
During the tumultuous sixties and seventies, Perkins tried to reach out to the white community to encourage it to embrace justice for all. Though he found a few concerned and willing, he found the majority hostile. His efforts earned him a severe beating by the sheriff and highway patrol and a sentence to prison. As he fought the unjust legal system, he experienced bitterness, injustice, and God's hand of love opening to him in a new way.
I wouldn't have expected most good Americans of that day to believe that such things--like what happened to us at Brandon--still happened in this country. I wouldn't expect them to believe how the police and the Highway Patrol had that thing planned (Perkins' ambush and beating nearly to death) and how those people acted. Whites would probably have said, "It's almost too much to believe. Who would be so stupid as to beat someone like that in a jail?"
And most white Christians would not have wanted to believe this either. Instead, they would have closed their eyes to it. Why? Because if a white person minded his own business, he went up the ladder. He didn't get in trouble. So he figured that a black guy who got in trouble just wasn't obeying the law. (Thirty years later, too many still think this way.) (p. 167).
Let Justice Roll Down is well-written and fascinating. If it had not been re-released by Regal, many of us would have missed this call for justice. Perkins not only tells an absorbing story, he describes a moment in history that many of us are not familiar with. One of the greatest values in the book is his analysis of the sin of racism, its causes, cures, and of our absence in the fight.
But there were, and always will be, human emotions. Such as sadness at seeing those that I knew as brothers in Christ insist on a Sunday religion that didn't sharpen their sense of justice during those years of turmoil. It wasn't a question of what "team" to join. In terms of social justice, evangelicals just didn't have a team on the field (p. 107).
Perkins teaches his heartfelt message of justice through his gift as a storyteller. His résumé includes accomplishments enough for any six other men as a founder of Mendenhall Ministries, Voice of Calvary Ministries, and the Harambee Christian Family Center and Preparatory School, publisher, author, counselor of at least one president, and member or numerous other boards. He has applied his abundant energy and zeal to teaching on racial reconciliation and preaching the Word of God.
His analysis includes a recognition of racism as sin that anyone may be guilty of. His explanations promote understanding of what those fighting for social justice want and of what those most opposed to social justice fear. His understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the movement, of the society, and of human nature bridges the gap for those at various points on the circumference of the issue. It also shows how by avoiding the hard truths of scripture, the Church gave up its potential influence to radicals-- a lesson for us on many other issues. And how by loving one another as the Lord commands, we can bring healing.
May this new release of this must-read book bridge the gap between races and continue John Perkins' ministry to all people for the Kingdom of God. – Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews.com
Here’s a real-life story of the transforming power of Jesus Christ and one man’s response to Jesus’ call to love others.
John Perkins, founder of Voice of Calvary ministries, was born in New Hebron, Mississippi, in 1930. His family was made up of sharecroppers and he grew up in grinding poverty, part of a system that preserved prejudice and racism. After his brother was killed, Perkins left Mississippi for California where he found job opportunities, racism of another kind, and faith in Jesus Christ.
He returned to Mississippi to share the gospel and help his own people find equality, justice and economic independence through self-help cooperative efforts. And he made progress—too much progress.
Everything came to a head early in 1970 when John Perkins and others went through an unbelievable night of torture at the hands of white law enforcement officers. Beaten almost to death, Perkins somehow survived and so did his work, which moves ahead today with a threefold strategy:
biblical evangelism and Christian education
the kind of social action that should come out of knowing Jesus Christ as Savior
visible community development that is creating new models for black housing, economic independence, education and health care.