"Bombed by the K.K.K. A Friend of Rosa Parks. At 90, This White Pastor Is Still Fighting."
That really nice headline atop a recent New York Times story certainly grabbed my attention.
When I clicked the link, I expected to read — at least a little bit — about the pastor's faith.
Amazingly, I didn't.
The Times managed to avoid a single detail about how the minister's religion influenced his approach to civil rights. This, friends, is what we at GetReligion refer to as a "holy ghost."
The haunted piece opens compellingly enough:
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Rev. Robert S. Graetz was virtually alone among Montgomery’s white ministers in supporting the bus boycott that helped galvanize the civil rights movement.
That’s when the bombings began.
As the white pastor at an all-black Lutheran church in Alabama in the 1950s, Mr. Graetz was just 28 years old when he became a recurring target for the Ku Klux Klan.
“The noise awakened us,” Rosa Parks, who was a neighbor of the Graetz family, wrote of a 1957 attack.
In the brief, handwritten document, Mrs. Parks described decades later how she and her husband went quickly to the Graetz family’s home after the bombing. The area had been roped off by the police.
“They said we could not enter. Rev. Graetz spoke to me and said, ‘Come in Brother Parks and Mrs. Parks,’” she added. “We went and offered to help. We began sweeping the floor and picking up.”
Keep reading, and the Times offers more details on the document written by Rosa Parks and the Graetz family's plans to donate it to historically black Alabama State University.
Then the piece transitions into Q-and-A mode:
Recently, Mr. Graetz, 90, Mrs. Graetz and two of their adult children — Meta and Diann — agreed to an interview at their home near the university campus. Mr. Graetz, who was born in West Virginia and educated in Ohio, is in hospice care and sometimes struggles to recall events. But during the interview, he spoke vividly about his memory of Mrs. Parks and the experience of being targeted by white supremacists in the South.
The Times asks relevant questions about Parks, details of the bombings, the acquittals of white men who were charged and other issues related to the civil rights movement.
But the paper fails to ask what to me would be an obvious question: Why did this white pastor, unlike so many others, feel called to become active in the civil rights movement?
What role, if any, did his faith play? Did his Bible tell him something different than those other pastors' Bibles told them? Did the trials he and others endured cause him to question God?