After the Rallies, the Real Work

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Philadelphia March. Photo from the News and Observer

By Will O’Brien

The Wednesday following the violence in Charlottesville, I joined with thousands of people in Philadelphia, mostly persons of faith, to march in the streets and rally.  The energy was high, the anger was rife, and the sense of energy to change palpable.  As distressing as the events were that precipitated this march, it felt good to be there.

But it also stirred some long-standing concerns and questions of mine.  This was partly the result of recently picking up off the shelf my old copy of Will D. Campbell’s memoir Brother to a Dragonfly, a book that had a powerful impact on me when I first read it over thirty years ago.  Campbell was a Southern Baptist preacher from rural Tennessee who became an important leader in the civil rights movement.  As a white southern man, he was part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  His radical understanding of the gospel and his own discernment of the racial crisis in his home region led him to the conviction that “Jesus died for the bigots as well,” and he took to a very controversial ministry among Ku Klux Klan members.  Ornery and wickedly funny, Campbell often cut through the pretensions and hypocrisies of many white liberal activists. Continue reading