I thought that Christianity could be as good as those wonderful Jewish people. I thought my Christian faith could be as good as those black Muslims that were murdered on the scene. I thought my faith had to be involved as much as their faith.

John Perkins: And I had believed in God, and in the Bible, when I went back there.  Now, these kind of things then test your faith. Then you begin to talk about what to do with it, what to do with it and what force I want to join. Well, the dynamics, some of the dynamics of the civil rights movement–of course it was John Lewis, of course it was Moses, of course it was all those other guys you don’t know that was absolutely committed, kids who dropped out of University, gave their life to the civil rights movement. But of course the young Jewish people with Israel now having become a nation and the Zionist movement is coming back, and that they had missed the Holocaust, and that these young Jewish people, they wasn’t bringing their Jewish faith, they was bringing their deep commitment, social commitment. But they didn’t, they didn’t have any Christian faith. And most of them was young atheists. Wonderful people, wonderful Jewish people, young atheists. I would have probably been atheist too, if I had been over there and seen what the Catholic Church accommodated to that Holocaust, you see, I probably would have been. You see, and those guys come, but they didn’t, they didn’t, they didn’t have any faith, you know. And to a certain degree it was undermining the historical faith of those young, black, talented young folks who was joining with them. That’s what I think it was in that condition that I began to formally, I was motivated deeper by my faith, I was motivated by their commitment. And I was, I’m over-competitive, and you should know that, I have to conceal my competitive behavior.  I’m over-competitive, and so I thought that Christianity could be as good as those wonderful Jewish people. I thought my Christian faith could be as good as those black Muslims that were murdered on the scene. I thought my faith had to be involved as much as their faith. So I think that’s what, I was trying to maintain my faith that motivated me, that brought me there, that gave me my meaning, that freed me from my own individual prosperity and success. And it put me in the midst of that. I want to remain, I want to keep that in life. And then there was a morality of it, that these young men would fight for civil rights all day and sleep with somebody’s wife during the night.

And so all these kind of realities that was a part of my struggle, but I was looking for–I was wanting my faith to be the compelling element. It was the compelling element because I think I, I, I had found my meaning. I had found love.  And I knew what it was, and that love was in Jesus Christ and that love was for each other. That a–we make love a ideal that hangs out there, but it’s that love for each other. Do I have the gift to prophesy on everything, but I don’t have love? And not just love, love for each other. And that’s what I wanted to… so I think that’s what drove me to the sense of wholeness. You know, I always tell the story about me working for 15 cent, and when I really began discovering it, that justice was an economic stewardship issue. So I, that’s what–it was trying to maintain my faith. And, of course, later when I got (indistinct) in jail and got beat up, I had to struggle with my faith then. So I’ve had, my faith have come to crisis. And in the midst of a crisis I have, I have, I haven’t found a lot of contradictions in the word of God. You have to go stretch it hard to allow racism, to find racism as the reality in the New Testament. You know, it’s not there.

CM: Fannie Lou Hamer, your friend, the great civil rights saint, once said about those volunteers who came down in 1964, many of whom were humanist, or secularist or atheist, Jewish, from all other traditions and convictions, and if I had to choose between the white evangelical churches of Mississippi and these heroic–Christ-like is the term she used–men and women who came down to the South to help out, I would choose these people, because they, even though they come to the work of justice by other names, they understand what is really at stake here.

» Go to excerpt page