I was in Houston this weekend and discovered the Rothko Chapel. It is a place celebrating the intersection of social justice, contemplation, and the arts: three streams of influence we desperately need after this weekend and its aftermath.
Why social justice? Because Jesus and the prophets remind us of this: if it’s not good news for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized, then it is not good news.
Why contemplation? Because creating space to connect with God empowers us to resist and stand firm against the forces of evil and the principalities of racism and white supremacy.
Why the arts? Because there is an alarming lack of imagination in the world, especially in American Christianity. And we need our imaginations so we can walk in the shoes of those who seek the dignity their humanity deserves and the gospel demands.
Outside the Rothko Chapel is the “Broken Obelisk” monument. In 1969, John and Dominique de Menil matched a grant from the city to purchase this monument under the condition that it would be placed near City Hall and dedicated to the recently assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. The city of Houston accepted the gift but refused the dedication, so the de Menil’s paid the full price instead of half, placed it where it is today, and dedicated it to Martin Luther King, Jr. Nearly 50 years later, cities are still struggling to find the courage to get our monuments right.
In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” MLK regretfully acknowledges that the biggest threat to civil rights and racial equality is the “white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.”
What do we say? What do we do?
It’s not a mystery. The path is clear. There is no place for racism or white supremacy in our homes, schools, churches, or anywhere else. They cannot be justified or tolerated. Whether in Birmingham, Houston, or Charlottesville, anything less than full solidarity with people of color is not an option.
The time is now. It’s not about standing on the right side of history. It’s a matter of standing on the right side of humanity. Resist racism wherever it seeks a foothold, and join the movement of those working toward God’s future of inclusion, reconciliation, and equality.