Let the Alabama pastor speak … and everybody speak up too

Everyone likes free speech until someone says something we find vile.

Birmingham pastor Michael Jordan of New Era Baptist Church was in the news this week, decrying Church of the Highlands’ plans to open a campus in a high crime area of the inner city, calling “the white church” racist and hypocritical.

Jordan’s interview with Birmingham NBC affiliate WVTM is shocking and divisive, and many Alabamians, black and white, are slamming him as a “racist.”

“It’s a slavemaster church,” Jordan also said in an interview with Al.com. “I call it plantation religion, slavemaster religion. The white rich folks start a church and put a black pastor in charge of it.”

Pretty harsh words. Pretty sure that’s the last thing Church of the Highlands is trying to be. But Jordan comes across, however resentfully, however colorfully, as having sincere concerns. We don’t have to agree with him to try and understand where he’s coming from.

If someone is willing to voice such controversial statements, chances are there are other people who feel the same way but aren’t willing to say it out loud.

It’s been said the best solution to speech we don’t like is more speech, so it’s worth your time to read this op-ed by Joe Lockett, a black radio talk show host in Birmingham who stepped up to confront speech with speech, even though he might disagree with some of my points here.

Also worth reading the classic “Prayer of St. Francis” to put all this in perspective:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

Bring truth … bring love … bring pardon … bring joy … all require action, all can be done through speech.

So … speak up.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News