The Words of the Lowery Family

God moves in Mysterious Ways

Joseph Lowery
May 1984
President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Vigil for Religious Freedom (protesting Sun Myung Moon's imprisonment)

We are here in a sacred moment in history. God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform. He plants His footsteps on the sea and rises upon the stars. Our nation was founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all. But many of us have been compelled from the very beginning to engage in vigilant and vigorous struggle in order to make these noble principles live for all of God's children.

Our uncompromising commitment to liberty and justice and the moral imperatives of our faith compel us to be here today. We believe that it is the ultimate of patriotism to challenge the nation to live up to its noble principles of liberty and justice.

There are those who will criticize us today for challenging our nation to live up to these principles. There are those who would even call us unpatriotic. But I submit that we are the new true patriots, that we love the country so much -- and I don't like those bumper stickers that say "Love it or leave it", some of you may carry some of those on your bumper -- but we love it so much, we're not going to leave it alone until it straightens up and flies right. That's how much we love America.

We love America so much that we have to cause her pain sometimes. We've had to fill up her jails, we've had to crowd her streets, we've had to challenge her criminal justice system in order that she live up to the inundate we believe God has given her for now and for the future. So we come today and challenge our nation, not from a constitutional basis -- and that's important, not from any political persuasion as right as that may be. We come from the moral imperatives of our faith, for we believe that religion and the right to worship are granted us by God.

The basis for human relations is moral, is religious -- how can you love God whom you've never seen if you do not love your fellow man when you see him? The whole question of liberty and justice and non-discrimination is based in morality and theology and religion. If, a man discriminates against me because I'm ignorant, that's my fault, I can do something about it. But if a man discriminates against me because I'm black, he discriminates against God because (Joel made me black and there's nothing I can or want to do about that! If a man discriminates against me because of my faith he also discriminates against God because God called me to my faith.

Our fear of persecution must never prevent us from witnessing for truth. Voluntary silence on the part of the faithful today will strengthen the voice of our oppressors and make our silence tomorrow compulsory.

The world waits for power from religious communities united around the moral imperatives of love. Here we are today in the religious community with all its diversity and doctrine, ritual and theology, we have a common thread, that is, faith in God and the efficacy of love. Love demands today that we strengthen our commitment to the rights that are guaranteed by God and only delineated by the Constitution.

God moves in mysterious ways, bringing the religious community to protect liberties endangered. While Martin Luther King, Jr., was in jail, the majority of the religious community stood against our struggle. But God moves in mysterious ways and by the mid 60's much of the religious community was supportive of our struggle, but still God had to move in a mysterious way. A white religious leader from Nebraska, a yellow religious leader from Korea, brings the Judeo-Christian and Moslem community together around religious liberty helping us to understand that we are tied together inextricably. There is no path to religious freedom or racial freedom for Lowery, that doesn't intersect Grant and no path to liberty for Grant and LaHaye that doesn't intersect Lowery and Gutman. We're tied together. If you're going to keep me in the ditch, part of you has got to stay there with me... We have got to understand that racism and religious bigotry today are twin plagues, inseparable twin plagues that folks who have been engaged in the racial struggle, we've understood all along. That's why it wasn't hard for me, a black Methodist preacher to defend the religious liberty of a yellow Korean man who I can't understand most of the time. But what I do understand is that I'm not secure until his rights are secure. None is secure, until all of us are secure.

Let me say two or three things, then I'm through. God is calling all of us to get in the way today. There's a verse in Isaiah that says "I, being in the way, the Lord led me." I like another translation that says "1, being in the way, the Lord empowered me." The church has lost some of its power. We've gotten out of the way.

But there is power. God's power can change the Supreme Court, God's power can change the administration. God wants the religious community to get in the way. Get out of your own home, out of your self-interested, self-sustained, self-aggrandizing agenda, and look at the poor, at hunger, at deprivation, at war, at hate between clan and race, at the struggle between the urban and the rural, look at the struggle between black and white, young and old, rich and poor, there's power to bring us all together.

The final thing I want to say is that the religious community could be by the mysterious way of God able to save America. There's enough power in this concern to wipe out drugs, cocaine -- they ain't as powerful as the holy spirit -- if we just understand what holds us together, that we're like a tree with different branches and different limbs and even different leaves, but we got the same roots, the same trunk; it comes out of the level of God but it stems us into the world.

If somebody dug down deep beneath the redwood and discovered that the roots of the redwood tree were big and strong, but more than that, the roots of one tree and the roots of another tree, the roots of those trees were entwined... (At this point, Dr. Lowery joined hands with each of the speakers at the front of the stage. Applause) 

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