America needs Jesus. No greater reminder of that fact can be seen than the recent protests in the streets of the nation.
The anger against what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis last week is justified. The violence and looting that came in the wake of protests is not.
A white officer knelt on the neck of a black man in his custody until he was dead – while being recorded on video by numerous bystanders. But protests turned violent and destructive, and now they are taking place in major cities all over the nation.
In an editorial in The Wall Street Journal (June 1), Robert Woodson opines, “Riots Invite Crime, Not Justice.” He adds, “Blacks end up suffering more when hostility to police makes it impossible to maintain urban order.”
Long-term positive change can be effected through peaceful means. I think, for instance, of the peaceful African American lady who, with God’s help, led the peaceful wade-ins at Fort Lauderdale beaches in the early 1960s.
She was the late Eula Johnson, and I interviewed her in her home in 1991 – 30 years after the event. I was delighted to learn that she was a regular viewer of the televised Christian services of the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, for whom I worked.
Here’s what happened. Fort Lauderdale is known for its lush beaches and relaxed lifestyle. Before 1962, however, blacks were not allowed on the beaches.
They were allowed one little strip of beach, in Dania (five miles south of Fort Lauderdale), to which they had to be ferried. But they couldn’t go to the more popular beaches in the area.
One Sunday on the 4th of July, after they attended church, Eula Johnson and Dr. Von Mizell (a local physician – just the second African American doctor in Fort Lauderdale) concluded that it was time that their community have access to those beaches too.
She told me, “We decided … to celebrate a little more independence than what we were enjoying. People were talking about independence – I felt like we had no independence. We would do our best to try to obtain some independence that we would have a right to celebrate the 4th of July.”
So she, the doctor and a couple of others walked to the beach. Word of their bold march preceded them. Eula said, “And we could hear them broadcasting over the radio, ‘Negroes are lounging at the municipal beach in Fort Lauderdale.’ When we looked up, we saw [opposing] crowds. The ambulances were out there. Policemen were out there. The fire department was out there.”
Despite the sea of angry white faces, thankfully, no violence took place. Eula, then president of the NAACP-Broward, continued going to the beach with other blacks. And so the city of Fort Lauderdale sued her for fear of losing valuable tourist dollars. And in deciding the case, U.S. District Judge Ted Cabot not only ruled in Eula’s favor, but with a single decision, he struck down all of Fort Lauderdale’s Jim Crow laws.
What was the source of Eula’s strength? She said, “God was with me. I take my strength from the Spirit of God. God is big enough to handle it.”
While Fort Lauderdale sued her in the 1960s, later, it gave her a key to the city.
Today, one of the beachfront state parks in Fort Lauderdale where Eula was not allowed to be is now named the “Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who did more than any single person to peacefully work toward making America become more colorblind, once said that America’s problem is not with its creed – that all men are created equal. It’s that we have not been living up to that creed.
His niece, evangelist Alveda King, told me in an interview that we could solve much of the racial conflict in this country if we would just accept what the Bible teaches: “You go to Acts 17:26, ‘Of one blood God created all people to live together on the earth.’ Now, if we are separate races, we cannot possibly be brothers and sisters. So, we have to see ourselves as one race, one human race, created by God, and we’re supposed to live together in this world as brothers and sisters. So, that’s a fundamental truth that America has not yet embraced.”
Her Uncle Martin preached: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
MLK also declared, “Nonviolence is not a symbol of weakness or cowardice, but as Jesus demonstrated, nonviolent resistance transforms weakness into strength and breeds courage in the face of danger.”
Positive, long-lasting change comes from doing the right thing by God’s help – not from stealing television sets from Target while claiming to “demand justice” for George Floyd. God is the key to true healing in America.