I gave a Montgomery City Tour today to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government's Center for Public Leadership. They called it a Policy Immersion Field Experience. They are traveling through Alabama and are exploring how past history affects economic disparity today.
I led them on a whirlwind journey through battles with Creek Indians, pioneer settlement, economic growth, how Southern cotton production fueled the Industrial Revolution, the growth of slavery, the subversion of the Southern white church to economic and social interests in a quest for defending their "way of life," Greek philosophy, the Civil War, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement.
Through all of this, I interwove a story about True Christianity and how the "better way of Jesus" is different from the slaveholder's religion or the racial religion that dominated the South for hundreds of years. I talked about Jesus and the Apostle Paul and Galatians and Colossians and how the truth of the gospel regarding how we treat one another was sacrificed to a prosperity gospel that eventually saw human oppression and bloodshed as a result.
We talked about systemic poverty and immigration issues, gentrification, the criminal justice system, racism, and economic inequality and how to bring about development that benefits all.
This was a secular group, so at the end, I left them with a perspective on how the only way forward for communities torn by strife and division is not by trying to solve "racism," per se, but rather, to recognize that someone always benefits by keeping us all divided and to follow the money to see who it is. Then, counter that division by cultivating perspectives that facilitate sacrificial love, concern for others, and joining together to benefit our neighbor and put their interests ahead of our own. I was clear about my own perspective and belief that answers were to be found in the life and teachings of Jesus, but even if they rejected that to at least consider that what happened in the South under the guise of religion and race had nothing to do with Jesus at all. The group received everything well, asked a hundred really good questions and were really engaged. #tellabetterstory