Civil Rights movement

Holy ghost in Alabama: NYT interviews white pastor friend of Rosa Parks, neglects to ask about his faith

Holy ghost in Alabama: NYT interviews white pastor friend of Rosa Parks, neglects to ask about his faith

"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.

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Wedgwood Baptist flashback: A clock started ticking on a new era of attacks on religious believers

Wedgwood Baptist flashback: A clock started ticking on a new era of attacks on religious believers

Day after day, I get waves of promotional emails from groups that I have covered during my 30 years as a religion-beat columnist.

Some of them I merely glance at. Others I fill away for future use.

One email this morning stood out, for obvious reasons. It was from the team of church-security advisors with an organization that calls itself the Sheepdog Seminars (as in workers who fight the wolves that prey on "sheep" in a church flock). One member of the team, Jimmy Meeks, is a Hurst, Texas, police officer who is also a Southern Baptist preacher. I've been corresponding with him for years (click here for a column from five years ago).

The email was from Sutherland Springs, Texas. Here's what it said:

This newsletter is short. Quite frankly, I don't know what to tell you this time. I do know this: we have now set a new "record" for the number of people killed on church and faith-based property this year: 92 so far.

The old "record" was 77 lives in 2015. This violence is not going to stop. You had better prepare your church. 

As our own Bobby Ross, Jr., noted at midweek, journalists have been all over the church-security angle of this latest tragedy -- with good cause. The fact that there are multiple companies and networks dedicated to this kind of work is evidence of the validity of this story.

The common theme is not that church pews need to be packed with people who have concealed weapons. The bottom line is that religious institutions need some kind of plan for security and, tragically, this now means preparing to stop or slow down a gunman, with worshipers briefed on evacuation plans, etc.

This is not a new story, of course. Thus, I appreciated that The Fort Worth Star-Tribune team dug into its own local angle on this latest massacre in a church. I am talking about the attack nearly two decades ago at that city's Wedgwood Baptist Church, which was the tragedy that -- for security experts -- started the clock ticking on a bloody new era.

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