Mississippi Madness: When Truth Crumbles into Folly

“All we wanted to do in the eyes of God was to be man and wife in a church that we thought we felt loved. What was wrong with that?” — Charles Wilson of Mississippi.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” — Galatians 3:26-28

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The tragic story of a Mississippi couple spurned at the altar not by each other but by their pastor and congregation reflects the continuing battle in the Deep South over race.

ImageHere’s the story link to CNN.com. Basically, a black couple attending a predominately-white Baptist church in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, wanted to get married in their church. The pastor agreed and the wedding was set. But when word of the impending nuptials reached some people in the congregation, they emotionally approached the pastor with their objections. No black couple had ever been married in that church’s long history and they were intent on keeping it that way. The pastor didn’t want to cause a church split so he moved the wedding off-campus. The couple was hurt and devastated.

“I had dreams of having my wedding the way I wanted it, and I also dreamed of having it at the church and unfortunately, it didn’t happen,” Te’Andrea Wilson told CNN. Her husband said if there was a time to “step up and be Christ-like,” it was before their wedding. Hindsight is 20/20.

“If it was such a minority of people, why didn’t the majority stand up and say, ‘in God’s house we don’t do this?'” said Charles Wilson.

Indeed, Charles is right-on with his statement. Why didn’t the God-followers stand up for what is God-honoring? Why didn’t the pastor? When it comes to standing for truth and teaching the truth and loving the truth, why did the “man of God” crater? He had a perfect opportunity to teach through the situation (tactfully) and chose the passive route. He wasn’t a young pastor. He knew better. Tackle the truth head-on, man!

Charles also said another profound thing. If there was a time to step up and show the love of God in Christ it was BEFORE the wedding. Not after. That little church collectively blew its chance to be ambassadors of the King to Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson during their most exciting hour. Congregations are living organisms and there were probably some awesome people who reached out to them and loved them sincerely. After news of the wedding controversy reached the whole congregation, many were outraged that the Wilsons were treated so badly. But the minority objectors rule the roost. And the pastor was too weak to oppose them in the name of Christ.

As you might expect, there is a deeper issue here of lingering societal racism in the South. There is bigotry everywhere you go, from East Texas to South Carolina. My folks grew up in Louisiana. Their folks grew up in Louisiana and East Texas. Their grandparents came from Alabama, East Texas and points in between, so my American heritage is a Southern heritage. Whenever I visited my older relatives east of here bigotry was still present. My dad’s dad, for example, hadn’t met a good black man, or so I was convinced. Actually, to him men were still “boys” and those who aspired for societal advancement always had a suspicious agenda. I loved him as my grandfather but hated to be around him when he brought up race.

It’s so sad that we can’t be kind to another human without questioning their skin color, motives or family origin. I have made the personal decision to show love wherever I see racism and bigotry it so that MY kids don’t have to deal with the crap that their grandparents dealt with and that I see lingering around me. I want my kids to not only accept people of other color and culture as equals, I want them to learn about those other cultures so they can better relate. And if something is holy and right, encourage and pursue it faithfully.

What happened to the Wilsons in Mississippi is an embarrassment to the pastor of First Baptist Crystal Springs and those who spoke up in opposition to the wedding. Those people have hurt two individuals deeply. It’s my prayer that Charles and Te’Andrea don’t give up on church or following Jesus just because a few of His followers acted in bigotry and fear instead of truth and love.

Here is an interview with the couple, if you’re interested in listening to their perspective.