Will Campbell: Klan Nativity

by Kim on December 22, 2011

[Will] Campbell understood that the ministry of reconciliation to which he had been called made him peculiar in the eyes of the world, and as he pursued his vocation in the changing South, he became increasingly convinced that Christ-shaped love resisted identification with either conservative or liberal politics. In 1963 he scandalized many in the [civil rights] movement when he announced that the same concern that they had been showing to the disenfranchised minority should be shown to poor whites, segregationists, and racists. Many of these men and women, who were unsettled by the prospects of legal equality for blacks, had been abused as chidren and were tormented by fears and uncontrollable rage, often by untreated mental illness. Campbell made himself available as pastor and confessor to racists and to members of the Ku Klux Klan, seeking to share gospel-grace with outcasts and sinners. “Most of us suspect that if Christ came back today he would once again be born among the lowly,” he explained. “But wouldn’t it shake us up if he came today and was born into a Klan family!” The redneck racist needed to be loved and cared for. Such was the radical love of Christ, the spirit of agape….

Campbell … was left with the nagging sense that something had gone wrong when Christians began speaking of racists and rednecks as enemies. A Christian was not free to pick and choose his or her friends and enemies; the born-again mission meant loving the other in grace and without conditions. “We’re all bastards but God loves us anyway,” was the way Campbell came to sum up the gospel. The mercies of Christ finally overwhelm all hostility and prejudice.

Charles Marsh, Wayward Christian Soldiers: Freeing the Gospel from Political Captivity (Oxford: OUP, 2007), pp. 87-88.

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