Rosa Parks

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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Who succeeds Billy Graham? Reporters are all over the map trying to answer that question

Who succeeds Billy Graham? Reporters are all over the map trying to answer that question

Even though it's been three days since Billy Graham died, you'll be hearing more about him for at least one more week. His funeral preparations alone are worthy of a head of state, starting with a 130-mile procession from Asheville to Charlotte, N.C., where he’ll lie “in repose” for two days.

Then he’ll be flown to Washington, DC to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. That’s totally unprecedented for a minister. The most recent private citizen to receive that honor was Civil Rights Movement matriarch Rosa Parks in 2005.

A “private” funeral will be held March 2 back in Charlotte although it’s unknown how private an event for 2,300 invitees can be. 

Along with all the tributes comes the inevitable question that the experts have been asking for decades: Who –- if anyone –- can replace this man? A few publications have already run “what next” articles.

Ed Stetzer, in an opinion piece in USA Today, said replacing Graham in impossible, possibly a snub toward heir-apparent and oldest son Franklin Graham.

In a culture always looking for the "next Michael Jordan" or "the next John Wayne," there will undoubtedly be articles asking who will fill Graham’s shoes, and inherit his legacy. There is no next Billy Graham. There are and will be many effective preachers of the Christian gospel, but Billy Graham’s ministry of influence will forever be unique and unparalleled.

Tim Funk of the Charlotte Observer foresaw this question and tackled it last May. His answer -- care of one of the go-to Graham experts for journalists -- was essentially what Graham himself has been saying for several decades.

“I don’t think any single person will be ‘the next Billy Graham,’ ” says William Martin, author of “A Prophet with Honor,” long considered the definitive biography of Graham. “That’s in part because evangelical Christianity has become so large and multifaceted -- in significant measure because of what Graham did -- that no one person can dominate it, regardless of talent or dedication. It’s just not going to happen.”…

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How should Christians holding public office conduct their duties?

How should Christians holding public office conduct their duties?

GENE’S QUESTION:

How ought Christian believers conduct themselves as public office-holders? To what extent should they promote biblical principles in the context of a democratic society? What grounds should they cite? Are some biblical principles too idealistic for a secular society?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Gene posted this fourfold query before Kentucky county clerk Kimberly Davis won headlines by briefly going to jail rather than authorize same-sex marriage licenses that violate her Christian belief. As religious liberty advocates argued, the simple compromise was having others in her office issue licenses.

Religious civil disobedience against laws considered unjust or immoral, with willingness to suffer resulting penalties, has long been honored in the United States, if not elsewhere. The U.S. usually accommodates conscientious objectors, such as those refusing the military draft. Some likened Davis to Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, but civil rights demonstrators acted as private citizens. An example with public officials might be Catholics handling abortion, which their church staunchly opposes. If liberal Democrats, they often say they’re “personally opposed” but shouldn’t challenge public opinion or court edicts.

Unlike ancient Judaism, or past and present-day Islam, Christianity has always recognized various forms of separation between “church” and “state.” This stems from Jesus’ saying deemed important enough to appear in three Gospels: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” The narrow meaning was to pay taxes due to secular regimes, even despised Roman occupiers. But interpreters think Jesus’ cryptic maxim has far broader applications.  In New Testament times, of course, the tiny, powerless band of Christians didn’t ponder their duties as public officials.

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West Point cadet quits, citing religion

I’ve long been fascinated by stories about religious practice at the service academies. My brother attended the Air Force Academy in the 1990s and the religious pressure there was quite strong. His commanders didn’t quite accept that the generic Protestant service at the beautiful chapel there wouldn’t quite work for him (Missouri-Synod Lutherans don’t worship in a unionistic manner). They were suspicious as to why he needed to go off base for Divine Service, etc.

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