While I was working at the Culver Palms
Church of Christ in Los Angeles, I took some
classes at Fuller Theological Seminary in
Pasadena. I still get mailings from them,
and one of the most interesting recent ones
was Mark Labberton's "Fuller's President
Reflects on Events in Ferguson."
Labberton has some interesting things to
say, speaking from a Christian perspective.
"Silence is one of the sins of omission that
has allowed us to be in denial about racism
in our country.
"Ferguson, Missouri, exposes the open
wound of racism in America. It's not new,
and it's not healing."
To help improve race relations, Labberton
urges all of us to write our local, state and
national representatives about Ferguson.
Let them know how you feel.
Build relationships among people with
different cultural experiences. "Listen for
deeply harbored wounds of racism. . . . And
join with your new relationships in concrete
local action to improve interracial relations
between churches, and with your
neighborhood and in your places of work.
I knew Calvin Bowers, minister of the
Figueroa Church in Los Angeles, dean of
ethnic and urban studies at Pepperdine
University from 1969 to 1976, and director of
equal opportunity and professor of
communication and religion there from 1976
Dr. Bowers died last month, and his remarks
are from an interview by Lynn McMillon in the
September 2013 Christian Chronicle.
Dr. Bowers grew up with racism. He
explained, "The superintendent of schools in
McNairy County, Tennessee, where I lived
was a member of the Church of Christ. He
wanted me to be the first African-American to
enroll at a Christian college 20 miles from
"The response came back that the school
had no provision for Negro students and
recommended that I go to a high school in
Nashville, even though I had graduated from
"In 1955, after graduating from Millikin
University in Decatur, Illinois, I tried to enroll
in graduate school in all of our Christian
colleges and was only accepted at
Pepperdine. When I arrived in Los Angeles,
I did not know a single person. I met some
benevolent people at Pepperdine, where I
completed two master's degrees."
"In 1969, I began teaching at Pepperdine.
This gave me an opportunity to develop a
curriculum reflecting many cultures.
"My approach in working with people of other
races is to realize that each culture and
subculture has its unique set of problems.
To begin, we must admit and proceed to
work on our problems together, preferably in
a Christian context.
"First, there must be a desire to come
together, talk and just get to know each
other. This will help to reduce stereotypes
that have existed for years.
"Then, we need to find ways to plan and
work together as true brothers and sisters in
Christ. If this is genuinely done, we will
learn to trust each other and do great works
"The motive for all such action must be love
for God and fellow man. Shallow,
occasional gestures do little good in the
long run. Such efforts should be pursued
with mutual respect."
Dr. Bowers demonstrated this respect In the
1970s when we worked together to launch
the Ethnic Evangelism Workshops. Having
seen the problems of black-white
relationships and aware of the influx of many
other races into Los Angeles, we hoped to
help these new relationships avoid the
problems of the previous ones.
We may not have done a lot to discourage
racism, but we were able to build bridges of
understanding between churches that had
been separated before and to give people
who had been silenced a chance to speak.
I watched Gwen Ifill's excellent town hall
discussion, "After Ferguson," on PBS.
We need to continue that discussion in our
cities, schools and churches. We also need
to continue it as individuals. What is the
experience of your friends of different racial
backgrounds in this country? What can we
do together to make things better?
A woman in Ferguson demonstrates God's attitude toward race relations.