My faith hero John M. Perkins on Racism, Reconciliation & the Church

I had the privilege of attending a luncheon today featuring 84-year-old John M. Perkins, a man who tops my list of faith heroes.  His autobiography Let Justice Roll Down is a must read and will transform you.  Dr. Perkins was a key leader in the Civil Rights Movement, was tortured and almost killed in prison by white police officers while not even having a charge brought against him and used the redemption of Jesus to lead a movement of racial reconciliation, which he continues to this day.  Dr. Perkins co-founded the Christian Community Development Association.  Today’s luncheon was a small 30 person gathering where we got to hear from and interact with Dr. Perkins on a variety of issues.  Here are some bullet points from my notes.  If you’re not familiar with Perkins’ work or you’d like more clarity/context on any of these snippets, please ask and I’d be happy to interact more with you:

  • We believe so lightly in God.  We believe God is whatever we think of him as.
  • Injustice is always an economic issue.  It’s a matter of greed, exploitation and domination.
  • Reconciliation is an intricate part of the gospel.  The last part of the gospel is to reconcile people together so we can have peace.
  • When Nebuchadnezzar conquered a people, he made them speak his language.  He says they must fit into my culture.  That’s how you control people.
  • At Pentecost, the gospel was sent to break the cultures and bring us back to one.  One in Christ.  Whereas today, the Black Church believes their church is just as good as whites and whites know theirs is better because they have the money to uphold it.
  • You’re not going to solve the problem by continuing to have a Black Church and a White Church
  • The God of Heaven and earth has invited us to join in his redemption–how much more of an honor this is than being at the White House at the request of the President.
  • We need to plant churches with a new generation of people who desire diversity.
  • That black church gonna die.  That old white church gonna die.  You aren’t going to change them.  But maybe you can get them to give to your cause.
  • To blacks: I understand that the Black Church is all you’ve ever had, that it’s the only place of power and influence the whites ever gave you, but you’ve got to give that up.  I understand your loss, but you’ve got to give it up. 
  • Maybe white people are so damaged by imperialism that they are helpless to do reconciliation; the Black Church needs to step up and make these multiracial churches happen
  • Every business had to start with initial capital.  Everybody had to borrow from somebody to start a business.  
    Churches can create these lending pools!
  • “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.  Teach him to fish, feed him for a lifetime” is a huge lie.  Whoever owns the pond determines who gets to fish.
  • Preach on racism proactively, not just reactionary.
  • I’m going to do it and whoever comes with me, we’re going to do it – I ain’t going to wait for black people or white people to get on board.
  • I’m tired of black people waiting for white people to do for them, you do it.  You do it and bring them into it with you.  What do you want the white people to do, lay down and die?  
  • (Using modern day Native Americans as an example for modern day black people) Ain’t nobody gonna give you your land back, you’ve got to do something with what you have.  
  • A leader is someone who turns their problem into passion, and shows others that vision and brings them along with them

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