It is sometimes easy to get on the justice bandwagon or run as fast as one can for a few seconds. It is very difficult to get on and stay on, or to run the justice marathon for a lifetime. There is a great deal of positive energy about racial justice in our society presently, but will it last? I reached out to three esteemed colleagues who are committed to keeping the pace and running the long and winding race. It is my privilege to introduce to you Dr. LeRoy Haynes, Jr., Lisa Sharon Harper, and Tom Krattenmaker. Here are their bios and the questions I asked them. Check out the full video-recorded interview with them at the close of this blog post.
Dr. LeRoy Haynes, Jr. (LH) is Senior Pastor at Allen Temple CME Church in Portland, OR and Presiding Elder for the states of Oregon, Washington and Alaska. He was deeply embedded in the Civil Rights movement, including his role as the Youth Organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Southeast, Texas during the early 1960’s. He also served as Community Organizer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Austin, Texas, and as Chairperson of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Haynes’ many awards include The Skanner News’ Drum Major for Justice Award 2005 in the City of Portland, the NAACP Oregon / Washington Regional Award for Community Leadership 2012, the World Arts Foundation Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Collaboration Award, and the United States Department of Justice Attorney General, Lorretta E. Lynch Award for National Leadership in Community Policing (2016). Dr. Haynes is the author of God’s Prophet in Non-Violence: The Theology and Philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lisa Sharon Harper (LSH) is a prolific speaker, writer, and activist. Formerly a leader at Sojourners, she is the founder and president of FreedomRoad.us, a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap in our nation by designing forums and experiences that bring common understanding, common commitment, and common action. Her books include Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican…or Democrat (The New Press, 2008), Left Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Elevate, 2011), Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith (Zondervan, 2014), and the critically acclaimed, The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong can be Made Right (Waterbrook, a division of Penguin Random House, 2016). The Very Good Gospel, recognized as the “2016 Book of the Year” by Englewood Review of Books, explores God’s intent for the wholeness of all relationships in light of today’s headlines.
Tom Krattenmaker (TK) is a writer specializing in religion in public life, author of several books, a member of USA Today’s editorial Board, and Communications Director at Yale Divinity School. Tom’s publications include Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower (Convergent, 2016), honored as one of the top two religion books of the year by the Religion News Association. His first book, Onward Christian Athletes (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), examined Christianity in professional sports. The book was a winner in ForeWord Review’s 2009 book awards and a finalist in the Oregon Book Awards. Krattenmaker’s second book, The Evangelicals You Don’t Know (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), on the “new evangelicals” in post-Christian America, was a winner in the best books competition of the Religion Newswriters Association in 2014.
PLM: “Wherever there is a positive pro-action, there is always a negative reaction.” Dr. Haynes, you shared that line with me years ago. People may think that the current momentum surrounding racial justice will continue on undaunted and unchallenged on breaking down the racial barriers in our land. But history tells me that whether through inaction or reaction, we can expect dragged feet or harsh and violent push back. How would you respond, and how can we prepare for the negative reaction as we pursue positive pro-action?
PLM: Tom, you recently wrote in a USA Today article about the need to turn this present moment into a movement. Easier said than done. You wrote:
“White people, unlike our Black and brown fellow citizens, have the luxury of being able to check out and move on. No skin off our nose. No knee on our neck. Or so our complacency tells us.”
“But it is skin off our nose. Racism cheats our country of the contributions Black people could make more fully if their abilities and talents were nurtured and unleashed. Racism plagues us with a gnawing fear and guilt and deprives us of relationships that could enrich our lives and communities.”
This big picture perspective about how we all lose the race “race” when one group falls behind based on roadblocks is critical. How do you and I as white men—Humanist and Christian alike—miss out when we don’t do everything possible to make sure others get ahead, Tom?
PLM: Lisa, what are some of the roadblocks along the marathon race path that still need to be removed to foster lasting equity for the African American and also Native American populations, among others?
PLM: Dr. Haynes, you’ve been at this a long time and have engaged in organizing non-violent civil disobedience protests in various cities across the land. How would you encourage people to strategize in non-violent civil disobedient protest for pacing ourselves for the marathon race? A lot’s been happening in Portland these days. It’s been in the national news. Please give us your insights as to all the chaos and disruption that distracts from the justice protest march and deeply disturbing federal government interventions that local and state authorities oppose?
PLM: Tom, the church can be a positive force for good and a negative force for inaction and opposition. As someone who writes a lot about Evangelical Christianity as a judicious journalist, what do you see? How are those like me who are white Evangelicals helping or harming our witness for the long haul?
PLM: Lisa, as a writer and activist of deep and abiding Christian faith, you wrote, The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right. What’s that book about? How is the gospel very good, and how does it bear presently on making the racial wrongs racially right?
PLM: In closing, Dr. Haynes, you didn’t join the Civil Rights movement. You have lived it your entire life. What is your dream as a pastor and prophetic visionary? Tom, what is your hope for Christian humanism and secular humanism alike for building what Dr. King called “the beloved community”? Lisa, what will it take for the church to get to the racial marathon race finish line?
Their answers in the video interview below help us in our efforts to build endurance and move forward in the justice marathon race for life.