#64 When Right Isn't Easy (Selma Marches 50th Anniversary)
Being a Christian and living the Gospel isn't always easy; in fact, it's usually challenging. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr experienced that as he fought for justice. So did Archbishop Iakovos when, despite opposition, he chose to stand with Reverend King in Selma. Fifty years after the Selma marches, let's look ahead to how we can live with the same spirit of courage and love.
As you watch the episode, consider:
1. Dr King faced tremendous adersity, but still did was was right and lived the Gospel. How can his example inspire us to do what's right, even when it isn't easy?
2. Archbishop Iakovos fought against the injustice he witnessed. In what ways can we stand up against the injustice we see in the world today?
3. Does difficulty often prevent us from living the Gospel? Why? How can we overcome adversity?
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Hey everybody this is Steve, and doing what's right isn't always easy. A few weeks ago we talked about Dr Martin Luther King and why he's such an awesome example of putting our faith into action. This month we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of a really important episode from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, the Selma marches. A huge part of the movement was the realization was full and equal voting rights for black Americans. Though black Americans legally had the right to vote, that right was routinely and systematically suppressed through intimidation and violence. In Selma Alabama, of the roughly 15,000 black Americans living in the county, only about 300 were registered to vote. After years of effort and little progress, local leaders invited Reverend King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to join the struggle in January of 1965.
On February 18th in nearby Marion, a state trooper shot civil rights activist and Baptist deacon Jimmy Lee Jackson, after authorities violently disrupted a peaceful march. Jackson died a few days later. This horrific and brutal event lead the SCLC to call for a historic and dramatic march from Selma to state capitol in Montgomery, over 50 miles away. About 600 people gathered for this march on March 7, 1965. As they peacefully crossed the Selma city limits, the protestors encountered a force of state troopers and a city posse began to beat the protestors, attack them on horseback, and fire tear gas at them. This horrible violent attack is remembered as Bloody Sunday. Dr King and the other movement leaders called for another march two days later. Reverend King called on people from across the country, especially clergy, to join the effort. He lead 2,500 marchers of many races, ethnicities, and religions across the bridge at the Selma city limits. When the marchers again encountered the troopers and posse, Reverend King knelt and prayed. He decided to wait for a court order that would protect the marchers from more violence.
Later that night, three Unitarian ministers, who came to Selma for the march, were attacked by members of the KKK and beaten. One of them died two days later from him injuries. A few days later, Archbishop Iakovos, the primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, flew to Selma for the murdered reverend's funeral. Racial tensions were so high that the plane was forced to land on a cow pasture outside the city. After the memorial service, 4,000 mourners marched from the chapel to the county courthouse, with Dr King leading the way. Marching by his side was Archbishop Iakovos. The growing support for the movement in Selma culminated in the successful and historic march to Montgomery, on March 17th 1965.
50 years later Archbishop Iakovos's support for Dr King and the Civil Rights Movement continues to set a wonderful example for all Orthodox Christians. You can read much more about his participation at civilrights.goarch.org. As an Orthodox Christian living in the United States I can't help but be proud that Archbishop Iakovos supported the Civil Rights Movement, especially because many others didn't. Even within the Church many disagreed with Archbishop Iakovos's support of the Civil Rights Movement. He even received some threats after appearing in Selma. Yet no matter how loud or harsh or threatening the opposition was, Archbishop Iakovos never turned his back on Dr King or the Civil Rights Movement.
Being a Christian and living the Gospel isn't always easy or comfortable. In fact, it's usually challenging. And one of the most challenging things about being a Christian is standing up for others. Our neighborhoods and nations aren't perfect. Our world generally isn't perfect. We still confront situations and even deeply rooted systems that treat people unfairly and unjustly. Sure it's easy to close our eyes and pretend we don't see anything, to close our mouths and not say anything, but what's easy isn't necessarily right. In those times of difficulty we can remember the example of those who fought the good fight before us. We can remember Reverend King who faced difficult situations with prayer. Who faced arrests and threats and ultimately martyrdom but wouldn't give up, wouldn't change course. We can remember Archbishop Iakovos who faced threats of his own to support a man and a movement that he believed in, not because it was easy or because he would benefit in some way but because it was the right thing to do. As we look back on the Selma marches 50 years later, lets look ahead and prepare to face today's challenges with a Christ centered spirit, of determination, of courage, and love. So let's be the bee and do what's right even when it's not easy. Be the bee and live Orthodoxy. Remember to like and subscribe. I'll see you all, next week.
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