Racing Toward Reconciliation
About the Guest
Mississippi has come to be known through the years as a state rife with racial tension. But could God slowly be changing all of that? Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with author Dolphus Weary, the executive director of Mission Mississippi - a ministry dedicated to reconciling the races in Mississippi and around the world.
Mississippi has come to be known through the years as a state rife with racial tension.
Racing Toward Reconciliation
Dr. King: [from audiotape.] With this seed, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day …
President Kennedy: [from audiotape.] I am therefore asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities, which are open to the public – hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments. This seems to me to be an elementary right …
Bob: Although the U.S. passed civil rights legislation in the 1960s, we have continued as a nation to experience racial bigotry and prejudice.
Dolphus: Black people had to go in the back doors of restaurants, to separate water fountains, to separate everything …
Bob: Here is Dolphus Weary.
Dolphus: Now, all of a sudden, people start getting frightened. We've got to start sharing this.
Dr. King: [from audiotape.] The government has failed us, you cannot deny that. Anytime you are living in the 20th century, and you're walking around here singing, "We Shall Overcome," the government has failed us.
President Kennedy: The legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American, in every community across our country.
Dolphus: That's scary when you start – you've got to change, and so there was angry on the part of the white community who said, "We don't want to change."
Gov. Faubus: [from audiotape.] You can never whip these birds if you don't keep you and them separate. You've got to keep the white and the black separate. That's the law enforcement agency, that's what you've got them hired for.
Dolphus: We want to keep these days the way they are, they are good day, but good for who? You see, when I'm dealing with a lot of people today, they say, "Well, we want to go back to the good old days?" What was good about those days for me? It might have been good for you, but it wasn't so good for me.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 23rd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll talk today about the power of the Gospel to bring unity and real racial reconciliation. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I had the opportunity this past Sunday to hear our guest today preach. He preached at our church and our church is a suburban, mostly white, church. And there was a time when he was preaching when I think he wondered if there were any of us out there, because I remember he asked, he said, "Is anybody listening?" And I felt like I need to speak up, so I just said, "Come on."
Dennis: You did?
Bob: I did – "Come on." And my wife gave me this elbow. She said, "Honey, come on, you're kind of being conspicuous, you're sticking out here." I said, "I'll be conspicuous."
Dennis: Come on, you're just thawing out.
Bob: I'm helping the preacher preach.
Dennis: Not one of the frozen chosen.
Bob: That's exactly what I was doing. And so I kept doing it and finally, David, my son, looked over – "Dad." So I settled down a little bit. I didn't want David to be embarrassed. I didn't mind Mary Ann being embarrassed.
Dennis: One of the problems with our white churches, is we're too white, we really are, and we're just kind of uptight.
Bob: Come on.
Dennis: Come on. And if you've never been to an African-American church, you know what? You ought to take a can of oil, a can of oil, you know, a little squirt of oil that you put on something that's squeaking?
Bob: Like WD-40?
Dennis: that's right. Take a can of oil and go to an African-American church, and then as they start to cut loose, you're going to need to squirt in on your ankle so your foot begins to tap …
Bob: Your elbow?
Dennis: And then your elbow and maybe squirt some on your tongue, so you can kind of say "Come on, come on." Well, we have a great friend with us on FamilyLife Today for a second day – Dolphus Weary. Dolphus, welcome back.
Dolphus: Thank you, it's exciting to be here.
Dennis: Dolphus is the president of Mission Mississippi. He and his wife, Rosie, have three adult children. Dolphus, I want to take you to April 4, 1968. You were a young man, and the news came to you that Martin Luther King had been assassinated.
Dolphus: Someone mentioned that to me. I ran to my room. I was on the campus of LA Baptist College, an all-white Christian college in Southern California. I ran to my room to turn on the radio to try to find out what happened to my hero. And while I was listening to the radio, I heard kids in the hallway laughing and joking and talking about how glad they were that he was shot. Then …
Dennis: Now, wait a second, was this a Christian school at that point?
Dolphus: This was a Christian school, conservative Christian school, that I was attending. And I couldn't understand that a place where the Bible is held high is a paradox. I don't understand that. How are people celebrating the death of Martin Luther King.
And so in praying about it, I went through several emotions. The first emotion was what I need to do is to leave this school and go join the Black Power movement. The Black Power movement was just getting started in the San Francisco area with H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael. I said maybe I need to go join – my Christian is failing me right now – maybe I need to go join the Black Power movement. That was the first emotion.
The second emotion was maybe I just need to stay here and not have anything to do with white people. The third emotion was maybe I need to just start hating white people.
Well, in that period of time in praying, God gave me the fourth emotion. The fourth emotion he gave me was compassion. And God began to show me that these kids are only playing back the tape that's been recorded in their head. Several months prior to this, someone came to our campus and showed a documentation film that documented Martin Luther King as a Communist, okay?
And so these kids in my head now, these kids are only playing back the tape that's been recorded because somebody had put it out that he was a Communist. What they are really doing is celebrating the fact that a Communist has been killed. That helped me in the process of my compassion. But, more than anything else, I knew from that day on I needed to help some of these students understand that the information that they have is not the best information. How can I help them, and every time I wrote a paper – I did a paper on the historical church and slavery. Every time I gave a speech, everything I did was designed to try to educate people.
And I really do believe, as I look back now, that that was the beginning point that God laid it in my heart for me to be doing what I'm doing now in Mississippi.
Bob: I remember that event as well. I was in the sixth grade in 1968, and it was coming up on spring break at our school, and every year my family would pack up the station wagon, and we would drive from St. Louis down to Panama City Beach, Florida, and we'd have spring break at Panama City. And we usually spent the night somewhere along the way, and my dad had planned that we would drive to Memphis, and we'd spend the night in Memphis, and then we would go on to Panama City.
And I remember the night he came home, and I hadn't heard anything in the news, but he came home, and he said, "Well, they shot Dr. King in Memphis, so we're going to have to reroute the trip and spend the night in Meridian or somewhere else because there are going to race riots in Memphis. We're not going to want to be caught in the middle of that.
And I had the exact thought – I wasn't laughing and joking, but I remember thinking, "Well, it's probably a good thing that they shot Dr. King."
Bob: Because all I had ever heard was that here is a man who is going around the South, and he's a rabble-rouser, and he's stirring people up, and he's creating problems, and if he's just leave well enough alone, we'd get this thing fixed.
Dolphus: That's good, absolutely.
Bob: That's what, as a 12-year-old boy, those were the tapes I'd gotten in my house. So that fact that somebody took him out was a good thing. Maybe now we wouldn't have the problems that he was creating.
Dennis: I don't even remember. I mean, I was so far removed from this as a boy. I grew up in a small town, our listeners have heard me talk about it, there was a town of 1,300 people, one African-American man in the entire town. There wasn't racism in our community.
Bob: There wasn't race in your community.
Dennis: There was no race to have there, and so I was totally oblivious to what an African-American man would feel. It wasn't talked about in our home. I just didn't know how to process it, and I'm sitting here listening to you process through those four emotions, and I'm thinking, "I don't know if I could have gotten to the four emotion – compassion, if I were you."
I mean, I really do understand humanly why some young men were so angry they joined the Black Panthers, and why they joined the militant forces. But the Scriptures don't call us to a human response. They call us to a Holy Spirit-led response, and that's what happened in your life.
Dolphus: Absolutely, and God began to work in my life in such a way that that message is still true today. We need to learn how to look at the situation, and we need to learn how to have compassion for others, but how can we have compassion when we're so busy judging each other.
And when we understand that if everything is going a certain way, the white community was in control, black people were subservient, black people had to go in the back doors of restaurants, to separate water fountains, to separate everything. Now, all of a sudden, people start getting frightened. We've got to start sharing this, okay? We've got to start changing the way we do business. That's scary, that's why your dad said what he said. That's scary when you start – you've got to change.
And so there was anger on the part of the white community who said, "We don't want to change. We want to keep these days the way they are. They are good days," but good for who, you see? And out of that, what I'm dealing with a lot of people today, they say, "Well, we want to go back to the good old days." What was good about those days for me? It might have been good for you, but it wasn't so good for me. Those are the kind of things we've got to break people across.
Dennis: Help me with something – I was on a panel for the United States Air Force, and it was a group of religious leaders from around the country, all right? And I was seated right next to an African-American gentleman, who represented a denomination, a very prominent denomination, and as we were talking about some of these matters on this panel, he was angry. He did not get to the fourth point. I felt the white heat from him toward me, as a man.
Now, there is no question biblically what my response is to be to him. But help me and others who are listening, how do we respond to those who don't have a godly response back to us? Who are just militant, they're just angry about the generational sin of how we've treated our fellow human beings.
Dolphus: I think there are two things. One is we need to take a prayerful mode to be praying for ourselves and then pray for the other person or persons. The second thing we need to do is we need to identify somebody that we can develop a relationship with so that we can ask the hard question. The hard question is help me understand a little bit more about your anger, help me understand that.
I came across as not an angry person, but there are some people that's being fed information, negative information, that keeps building the fire hotter and hotter and hotter. Many times, it will be important to develop a relationship – see, every now and then it would be good for you to go outside of the normal people you might talk to, to talk to somebody who is "a little militant" so that you can learn a little bit more from them, not so much that you can change them, because the change needs to take place in your own heart as well as the change that takes place in their heart.
So often we want to fix people. We find somebody like that, and we want to fix them real quick, and sometimes I'm trying to tell people, "Let's don't try to fix somebody so quick, let's try to spend a little extra time trying to find out why they are angry and what's going on."
Dennis: You know, you're describing exactly what I was feeling as I sat next to that gentleman on the panel. My emotions were, "Get over it."
Dolphus: That's right.
Dennis: "This is in the past, this is a modern day, there's all these strides, positive things happening, just move on, brother, just move on." And it isn't fixable. You don't just flip a switch and forget 50 to 100 years of oppression.
Dolphus: That's right, that's right.
Bob: Well, let me ask you this, let's go back 100 years, and if we say oppression 100 years ago on a scale of 1 to 100, we'll say oppression was at 100.
Bob: Fifty years ago, we'll say, "Okay, oppression had" …
Dennis: Don't – don't – let him answer.
Bob: Yeah, oppression had …
Dennis: Fifty years ago.
Bob: Fifty years ago, if it was 100 years ago, where was it 50 years ago?
Dolphus: Probably 75.
Bob: Seventy-five – where is it today?
Dolphus: We're still running somewhere around 30.
Dolphus: Because we still are operating from the fact that there is nothing wrong. See, we are not willing – if I speak to Christians, we are not willing to allow our Christian faith to help us to do what's right. We will let the culture and history and the way things have always been done to dictate to us in terms of how we make decisions rather than allow our relationship with Jesus to dictate to us in terms of how we make decisions.
Bob: But we live in a day today where Denzel Washington gets the Academy Award, and where Oprah is the richest woman on television, and where African-American pop stars are making a lot of money, and sports figures – I mean, Michael Jordan is the best known – and Tiger Woods? I mean, look – and we've still got 30 percent factor here that's the racism factor?
Dolphus: Absolutely. We're still dealing with things on one level and still at the top where is it? What does it look like? What does it look like in terms of who still owns it? What does it look like in terms of who still controls it?
Dennis: And I want you to help me understand something. I'm going to ask you a very hard question.
Dennis: And I'm not sure how you're going to answer it – the most segregated hour in America is 11 to 12 on Sunday morning. What's your feeling about that? Should it be different than how it is right now, or is it okay that it's segregated?
Dolphus: That's a good one, I like it, I like it. See, I think it's okay. I really think it's okay. The problem is that people don't ever get out of that mode. You see, it's okay for people to choose to worship at the style and to choose to worship at that style. The problem is we never come together periodically. If there were churches that were – a segregated church that was meeting, and then once a quarter you had churches all over the city getting together for a Sunday evening service, I firmly believe that the paradigm that I want to push with Mission Mississippi is pardon the churches. Not integrated churches.
Integrated churches only happen because every church ought to be open, period. That's just a fact. Every church ought to be open to anybody that God would bring to that church. That has not been the thing historically.
So I firmly believe that the way to go is open churches and then, secondly, is that we need to have churches in a given community that will intentionally come together periodically so that people in those bodies would get to know each other rather than trying to deal with an integrated body.
Bob: Let me bounce this off you. Somebody said to me one time, said "White people and black people have a fundamental – they view the Gospel in a fundamentally different way." He said, "If you go to a white person, and you say, 'What's the core message of the Gospel?' the white person is going to say 'It's about Jesus forgiving our sins.' He said, "If you go to a black person, you say 'What's the core message of the Gospel?' they're going to say it's about justice, about God restoring justice on the earth.' My friend said that reflects our 200 years of history in the United States where the Gospel is all about justice to the black man and all about the need for forgiveness of sins to the white man.
Dolphus: That's a tough one. Sometimes in the white community, there is a narrowedness down to a personal relationship with Jesus, a personal relationship, and that is something that should be copied. It is something that's needed. It's a personal faith that we deal with.
But in the black community, the question is how does your personal faith impact what you do, okay? How does it impact, and in the white community, is what I do in terms of drinking, not drinking; cursing and not cursing. In the black community it is how does it affect your thoughts of justice and equality and all those kind of things, and it goes a whole lot deeper. It's like goes to the community – how does it affect the community? The black Christian community is saying how does it affect the community, and the white one is how does it affect me personally.
Dennis: You know, Dolphus, I appreciate how you have been such an ambassador here, and I'm sorry we don't have our broadcast, Bob, on the Internet where you can see the smile on Dolphus's face as he speaks straight to us to help us better understand not merely the need for racial reconciliation but also how to better understand our fellow human being who has been oppressed.
I think the real challenge for us today, though, in this area of racial reconciliation is for those of us who are the moms and dads, the grandfathers and grandmothers of future generations – we need to go out of our way within the Christian community to make sure we reach out; that we don't wait for those people of color to come to us. We go to them, and we seek that relationship you're talking about.
I've done that, Dolphus, and I continue to do it, and I'm going to tell you, I am a better man, I have a much better understanding – I don't fully understand, there is no question about that, but I know that, Bob, many times our outreach is here at FamilyLife. We are purposefully going after people of color, and that would be any number of races that are in America today because of what God has done in our hearts here at FamilyLife. We want to be a part of blessing the families of all of America and all of the world.
Bob: And yesterday you mentioned that a strategy families could employ to try to help shape the thinking of our children, to get a book like the one that Dolphus has written and read it for family devotions. Just go through a chapter a day as you go through your family devotions and help your kids. It will get them – you like to say, "Get them out of their box," isn't that right?
Dolphus: Absolutely, absolutely.
Bob: We all need to spend a little time outside the box, don't we?
Dolphus: Absolutely, and we need to always keep in mind that we need to push people back to the Bible. We need to push people back to central Christianity and following what the Word says, whether we're talking about black, white, Asian, Hispanic. We need to keep pushing people back to the word of God.
Bob: Come on.
Dolphus: Because we have messed it up. Culturally, we have messed it up, and that's one of the things we deal with all the time is because we have messed it up, and you just can't use Christianity because we messed it up. We've got to keep pushing people back to what does the Bible say, and we need to quit trying to jump on all these bandwagons.
Bob: Yeah, come on.
Dolphus: We need to keep pushing people back to the Word.
Dennis: I agree, brother, I agree. And you know what? I've enjoyed the past couple of days, and I hope you'll come back.
Dolphus: We hope so.
Dennis: Uh-huh, I love you, Dolphus, and I sure appreciate you and your ministry Mission Mississippi, and just pray God's favor upon all you do down there, and I do hope you'll come on back.
Bob: I should mention that the proceeds from this book, "I Ain't Coming Back," go to help support Mission Mississippi, right?
Bob: All the royalties go to the ministry, and so if you want to get a copy of the book, you're not only helping your family, but you're helping Mission Mississippi as well.
You can contact us by going to our website at FamilyLife.com. When you get to the home page, you'll see a red button in the center of the screen, and if you click that button that says "Go" that will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about how to order a copy of Dolphus's book.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, and you click the red "Go" button in the middle of the screen to get where you need to be in order to get a copy of Dolphus's book. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-358-6329. 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team will make arrangements to get a copy of Dolphus's book sent out to you.
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And we hope you have a great weekend this weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when Dr. Michael Easley and Kay Arthur are going to be here. We're going to talk about some new ways to study the Bible and get more out of your Bible study. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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