The heart of American Christians rightly goes out to persecuted Christians in other parts of the world. But we mustn’t forget that our nation has its own tragic history of persecuting believers. The persecutors have often been professing members of the Christian church.
Sixty years ago today Denise McNair looked forward to a special Sunday. She would participate in her church’s Sunday morning service, which would conclude with the sermon, “The Love That Forgives.”
She dressed carefully for the day. The case above includes her purse, Buster Brown shoes, a Ten Commandment bracelet — and the piece of brick removed from her skull, a fragment of the explosion that claimed her life. Three 14 year-old friends perished with her: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson.
Earlier that morning, dynamite and a timer were laid under the steps of Birmingham, Alabama’s 16th Street Baptist Church near the basement area where the girls were changing into their choir robes.
Denise dreamed of a career in the field of social justice. Instead, her life was taken from her by men violently committed to white supremacy and racial oppression.
Media coverage of these young girls’ deaths aroused indignation throughout the country, and moved the nation closer to passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Denise McNair exhibit is one of the many moving displays at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. A 3 1/2 hour drive from Jackson, I recommend taking the time to tour this testimony to the struggle for civil rights and racial equality. It also tells the tragic story of the persecuted church in America, a story we must remember.