taking the words of Jesus seriously

Around midnight on October 16, 1915, William Joseph Simmons, a Methodist minister, ascended Stone Mountain in Georgia with fifteen men. He built an altar to his god and laid upon it a Bible, a sword, and an American flag. A cross was also set ablaze. Hence, the second rise of the Ku Klux Klan was born.

Later, reflecting on that day, Simmons declared, “The angels that have anxiously watched the reformation from its beginnings must have hovered about Stone Mountain and shouted hosannas to the highest heavens.” During Simmons’s seven years of leadership, the Klan experienced dramatic growth. Facilitating acts of racial terrorism across America, the Klan gained majority control over several statehouses and made public witness of their increasing influence by marching through the streets of Washington, D.C.

The racial hatred currently being spawned across America is not new. This is not the first time that the god of white supremacy has been worshipped in both citadels of power and churches. Yet, this does not diminish the clear and present danger that it poses. White supremacy comes with a body count, and when racism reigns, death runs rampant, too.

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The courageous work of antiracists engaged in the ongoing struggle for racial liberation saves lives. Literally. The work of the diverse organizations highlighted in this volume, and many others who are not, is vitally important.

The divides in America are readily apparent. Yet, the roots of these divides are not as distinguishable for many. Before we can heal these divides, we must take full inventory of the roots from which they spring. Oftentimes, our divides result from a form of idol worship. When our god is a manifestation of our unsubstantiated fears and greed, we follow a god shaped and formed exclusively to serve our own callous interests, as opposed to the God who shapes and forms us as a reflection of Godself to care for the concerns of others.

WATCH: RLC Book Club with the authors of “How to Heal Our Divides”

The author of Ecclesiastes opined, “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new” (1:9 NLT). Racism and racial oppression are not new, but just as they are not new, neither is our opposition to them. This truth is a well of hope. We have been gifted with a blueprint for transformative struggle. In multiple generations before us we find persons who combated these evils with courage and consistency, persons brave enough to bend the arc towards justice knowing that it does not bend itself, persons who bear witness to the light of God in the whole of humanity and who work boldly against any force seeking to diminish that light.

Coretta Scott King said, “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.” As in generations past, we must boldly, courageously, and consistently pick up the mantle of justice and advance the cause of freedom forward against this familiar foe. With faith in God and in community with each other, we will certainly prevail.

Content taken from How to Heal Our Divides with permission. You can find more by Dr. Michael W. Waters at michaelwwaters.com. You can also join us on February 27th at 7pm EST for a special “Race in America” event live on Zoom , RLC’s Facebook, YouTube, or website.

About The Author


Dr. Michael W. Waters is a principal with MY Waters Consulting, LLC. A pastor, professor, author, activist, and social commentator, Waters’ words of hope and empowerment inspire national and international audiences. He has appeared on ABC Nightline, AJ+, BBC Newsnight, the Black News Channel, CBS This Morning, C-SPAN, Fox Soul, MSNBC Live, NPR, The NBC Nightly News, PBS Newshour, and VICE on HBO. He has also been featured or mentioned in/on The Associated Press, The Chicago Tribune, The Christian Century, CNN.com, Dallas Business Journal, D Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Epitome Magazine, Essence Magazine, Faith and Leadership, GQ Magazine, The Huffington Post, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Library Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek.com, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Reading Religion, Reuters, SiriusXM, Sojourners Magazine, Texas Monthly, The Today Show, Yahoo! News, and The Washington Post among other media outlets. Waters has addressed such esteemed bodies as American Airlines, Duke University, Facebook, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the United States House of Representatives. A best-selling, national award-winning author, Waters is a two-time winner of the prestigious Wilbur Award for Stakes Is High: Race, Faith, and Hope for America, winner for Non-fiction Book, and For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World, winner for Youth/Children’s Book. For Beautiful Black Boys is also the winner of the Goddard Riverside/ Children’s Book Council’s Inaugural Youth Book Prize for Social Justice. Publisher’s Weekly calls his latest nonfiction book Something in the Water: A 21st Century Civil Rights Odyssey a “blistering critique of white supremacy and racial injustice” that “should be a wake-up call to Americans in general and the church in particular.” Kirkus Reviews calls his latest children’s book Liberty’s Civil Rights Road Trip, an early introduction to places, people, and events that transformed history, “a unique and valuable perspective.” He earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees with honors at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas where he founded the SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage and currently serves as an adjunct professor and executive board member at the Perkins School of Theology. A former co-chair of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square and board chair of the City of Dallas’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, Dr. Waters is the board vice chair of Foot Soldiers Park and Educational Center in Selma, Alabama. A recipient of numerous honors and award recognitions, Waters has received special commendations from The White House and Special Congressional Recognition for Service and Leadership from the U. S. House of Representatives. He is also a recipient of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus’ Outstanding Texan Award, the DFW Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Community Leader of the Year Award, the Center for Theological Activism’s Pastor of the Year Award, the Dallas Peace and Justice Center’s Peacemaker of the Year Award, the South Dallas Business and Professional Women’s Club’s Humanitarian of the Year Award, the B’nai B’rith Harold M. Kaufman Memorial Award in Social Ethics, and SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Emerging Leader Award. Honored as a recipient of the Emerson Collective Fellowship, Dr. Waters is presently researching storytelling as pedagogy for civic action. Waters is married to Attorney Yulise Reaves Waters. They are the proud parents of four children.

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