“Me, I ain’t gonna do nothin’ to kids,” he said. “A man, I can fight him. I don’t hurt no kid no way of no color. I got a kid of my own, and I know that if anybody did anything to him, I wouldn’t wait for the police, I’d go kill the son of a bitch. I won’t do nothin’ to no creed I don’t want done to me.” The Sixth Avenue church was filled. Rev. John Porter, a 33-year-old native of Birmingham, telling them about a youth meeting, said that “We need not be afraid to come out. We must not be afraid, because after all, God is with us. We in the church are supposed to be fearless.” “That’s right!” voices said. This church had been the scene of a mass funeral for victims of the bombing earlier in the week. It was a big cave of a church, lit by three bare light globes and the Sunday morning light filtering thiough the many lovely stained glass windows of geometric designs. Paint had peeled off many places around the walls. The lady organist was reflected over her head in the mirror hanging above her, from the base of the golden-colored pipes of the organ. The choir was arrayed between her and the preacher. Down front, on the magenta tithing box, were written the words, in white, “Try God.” Rev. Porter gave a special sermon, “Paul’s Letter to the City of Birmingham.” It was interrupted just once, by a siren wailing somewhere in the city outside. He said: it WE WOULD LIKE to share with you an imaginary letter from the pen of the Apostle Paul. The postmark on the envelope reveals that it _ comes from the city of Ephesus, and upon opening the letter we discover that it is written in Greek rather than in English. At the top of the page it says, ‘Please read to your congregation as soon as possible, and then pass on to the other churches.’ . . . And here is the letter. I, Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, to you who are in Birmingham, grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For many years I have longed to be able to come and see you. . . . I am told that your beloved city nestles like a sleeping lark amidst the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. And the natural deposits of coal, iron ore, and limestone are found in unusual abundance, making it an industrial city second only to Pittsburgh. The population of 600,000 people attending 700 churches are only indicative, I am told, of the spiritual potential that is found in the city of steel. I am further thrilled to hear of your great medical center which has contributed to the curing of many dread plagues and diseases and thereby prolonged lives and has made for greater security and well-being. All of this is marvelous. You can do so many things in your city that we could not do in the Graeco-Roman cities of yesterday. In your age you can travel 6 The Texas Observer distances in one day that it took us three months to travel. Driving over four lane highways or flying from the municipal airport you can make your way to the four corners of the world in a matter of hours. That’s wonderful. But Birmingham, as I look at you from afar, I wonder whether your moral and spiritual progress has been equal with your scientific progress. You have allowed the material means by which you live to become more important than the spiritual end for which you live. You have allowed your mentality to outrun your morality. Through your scientific genius you have succeeded in making the world a neighborhood, but you have utterly failed to make your city a brotherhood. So Birmingham, I urge you to place an even greater emphasis on moral growth so that your material advances will not be in vain. The Christian community is saddened and shocked to hear of the death of six innocent children in your beloved Binning !Ai col ham. The evil system of segregation has caused the dominant race to lose all sense of humanity. … Somebody in their mad effort to prolong the evil system of separation of the races has stepped over their bounds, and God, in His all wise providence,. is displeased. But let me hasten to remind you that it is still your responsibility to conduct yourselves as Christians. It is understandably hard to live as a Christian’ in an unChristian society. I am told that some, who are angered by the dastardly act, are allowing their hearts to become filled with hate. Some are advocating that you retaliate with guns, knives, and rocks. I know how you feel, but I can hear our Lord even now saying to Peter, Put up your sword, for he who lives by the sword will die by the sword. And be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. THIS IS NOT TO SAY, throw up your hands and do nothing. This is not to imply that, you are to be confined to your knees in prayer. But be strong and courageous in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For you wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness in the world, against wickedness in high places. Fight, my children, the good fight of faith against the evils of segregation. Gird your loins with truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness and take a stand. When others are forsaking the way of the Lord and going over to the other side, stand where you are. When homes and churches are being bombed, stand where you are. When leaders are being slain with rifle shots in the night, stand where you are. When the dogs are turned loose and water hoses are brought to bear, stand where you are! When little children are dying and men and women are weeping in the streets, stand where you are, and the grace of God will give you victory. . . . Just before leaving, I must say to you, as I said to the church at Corinth, that I still believe that love is the most durable power in the world. . . . That which we should all seek after, is love, for God is love. He who loves is a participant in the being of God. He who hates does not know Him. So my Christian brothers and sisters, you may master the English language. You may possess all of the eloquence of articulate speech. But even if you speak with the tongues of man and angels, and have not love, you are become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. You may have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries. You may be able to break into the storehouse of nature and bring out many insights that men never dreamed were there. You may ascend to the heights of academic achievement, so that you will have all knowledge. You may boast of your great institutions of learning and the boundless extent of your degress. But all of this amounts to absolutely nothing if you have not love. But even more, you may give your goods to feed the poor. You may give great gifts to charity. You may tower high in philanthropy. But if you have not love it means nothing. You may even give your body to be burned, and die the death of a martyr. Your spilt blood may be a symbol of honor for generations yet unborn, and thousands may praise you as history’s supreme hero. But even so, if you have not love your blood was shed in vain. So it is, the greatest of all virtues is love. It is here that we find the true meaning of the Christian faith. This is at bottom the meaning of the cross. I can hear Him saying Father forgive them, for they know not what they’re doing. When He was born, there were little children dying. When those six innocent children died I hoped, Maybe this is the beginning of a new day. The love of God may break through like never before in Birmingham .. . Be always positive that there is no hate in your heart for any man. No matter how he treats you, have love in your heart for him.” V I ES, YES,” Rev. Porter’s congregation responded to. Paul’s letter to Birmingham. R.D.
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