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· America’s civil rights movement as a gospel revival.

By GEORGE WEIGEL [First Things] – The civil rights movement in its classic period was predominantly a Christian movement; its appeals to American traditions of equality and fairness were regularly buttressed by appeals to biblical ideas of justice. The legal movement to end segregation may have been led by lawyers, but the movement in the streets was led by black Baptist ministers and other clergy, and their presence helped give the classic civil rights movement the character of a revival.

Now it is certainly true that, in the period immediately following the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, legal change accelerated cultural change. But a critical mass of moral passion was essential to getting that legal change through Congress. And that moral passion was most often rooted in Christian conviction. The classic civil rights movement called America to a reckoning with the truths its Declaration of Independence deemed self-evident; it also called America to a reckoning with its God.

The United States today is no paradise of racial comity, and the bitter residues of segregation can be found among both blacks and whites in 2011. That truth notwithstanding, America is also the most racially egalitarian society in human history. Most Americans don’t recognize this because Americans, being the cultural children of Calvinism, are very good at self-flagellation. Compare the United States today with Europe and Latin America, however.

Continued at First Things | More Chronicle & Notices.

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