Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What Should We Think of Rosa Parks?

I have the utmost respect for Albert Mohler and Russell D. Moore. Dr. Mohler is President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dr. Moore is dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern. But I'm troubled by the gushing praise heaped on Rosa Parks by both men

In an October 26th blog entry, Mohler begins with a quote from historian Paul Johnson, asking whether a nation can "rise above the injustices of its origins and, by its moral purpose and performance, atone for them?" Mohler says, "Mrs. Parks' death reminds us once again that human sinfulness can take the form of institutionalized hatred and bigotry...Nevertheless, we are indebted to individuals like Rosa Parks, who summoned the courage to confront racial segregation and demonstrate its inherent evil. Her death reminds us of how far America has come -- and how far we still must go."

In his essay on Parks, Moore says, "the civil rights movement succeeded in the South because it spoke the language of Scripture, particularly to the equality of all persons as created in the image of God and redeemed through the blood of Christ." Moore asks, "How can you champion segregation, the prophets asked their segregation-supporting brethren, when you send your Lottie Moon money to evangelize Africa? How does Jim Crow line up with a common Adamic ancestry or, more bluntly, with John 3:16?" According to Moore, "Rosa Parks didn’t keep her seat because she was a social revolutionary. She kept her seat because she understood what the Word of God has told us from the beginning -- our God is not a respecter of persons."

But wasn't Ms. Parks, in fact, a social revolutionary driven more by a secular doctrine of egalitarianism then "evangelical revivalism"? And when Dr. Moore writes, "Southern Baptists recognize the racism of the vast number of dark-skinned infant body parts being emptied behind 'clinics' in the United States of America," shouldn't he be concerned that Mrs. Parks served, for example, on the board of Planned Parenthood?

Over at VDARE, John Brimelow linked to an essay by the late Sam Francis written in 2003. Here is a taste:

A book published in 1995, "Speak Now against the Day," by John Egerton informs us that Mrs. Parks, so far from being a simple black woman, was in fact an officer of the local NAACP.

If that suggests that she mounted a rather more artful act of civil disobedience than the legend acknowledges, it's because such is precisely the case.

Mr. Egerton shows that Mrs. Parks was in fact an alumna of an institution in Monteagle, Tennessee, known as the Highlander Folk School, usually and not inaccurately described as a "communist training school." Highlander was founded and run by a gentleman named Myles Horton, who was never actually a member of the Communist Party but told a veteran Red pal that he didn't join so he could avoid having the label pinned on him. For all practical purposes, Horton was a communist.

As Mr. Egerton writes, "Highlander had started summer workshops on school desegregation in 1954, right after the Brown decision. The Montgomery NAACP wanted to send a delegate to Highlander the next year. They chose their youth director, Rosa Parks."

Mr. Egerton's book contains a photograph of Mrs. Parks with Horton at the school in 1957, but her first training session took place only a few months before she sat down in the front of the bus in December, 1955.


Ms. Parks was the first woman to lay in state at the U.S. capitol. She is being mythologized and lionized, morphing into a representative of the American creed. This has important cultural significance, as Dr. Francis pointed out in a 1988 essay on Martin Luther King. Francis writes that allowing King into the national pantheon, which Parks is likewise being escorted into, represents a cultural revolution:

King Day in fact represents a revolution in our national mythology, a transformation that seeks to delegitimize the symbols of American history and national identity and to redefine the meaning of the American Republic—perhaps even the meaning of the Christian faith…To be sure, a nation that honors Dr. King and his legacy renounces such manifestations of racial inequality, but it also must renounce all forms of inequality, racial or other, because if all men are indeed equal, then it is absurd to say that only some forms of inequality are evil. If, as Dr. King understood it, the Declaration of Independence is a “promissory note”—not merely declarative of national independence but also imperative of social reconstruction in accordance with an egalitarian commandment—then the delegitimization of the traditional symbols, values, and institutions of America is not only in order but also long overdue, and the radical reconstruction of American society is not only a legitimate goal but also the principal legitimate goal of our national endeavors…We forfeited the right to revere the Constitution, the governmental principles and mechanisms it established, and the men who wrote it when we put Dr. King into the pantheon. The federalism, rule of law, states’ rights, limits on majority rule, checks and balances, and separation of powers that characterize the Constitution all are incompatible with and constraints on the full blossoming of the egalitarian democracy that Dr. King envisioned and which is the completion of the radical reconstruction to which the holiday commits us…Once the United States, through its national government, chose to adopt Dr. King as an official hero, neither the American people not their leaders had any legitimate grounds to resist the logic and dynamic of such forces and the radical reconstruction that is implicit in them. It is one thing to say that Dr. King was a great man and a great American, a man whose personal courage and vision, despite his human flaws, errors, and enthusiasms, challenged lesser men of both races and forced them to confront evils, falsehoods, and obsolete ways. It is quite another to say, as the U.S. government does say in creating a legal public holiday for him, that Martin Luther King, Jr., was the most important American who ever lived, at least the peer of George Washington, the Father of his Country, the only American in history to have his birthday made a national holiday, the man who is now first in the hearts of his countrymen…To say that Dr. King and the cause he really represented are now part of the American creed…is the inauguration of a new order of the ages in which the symbols of the old order and the things they symbolized can retain neither meaning nor respect, in which they are as mute and dark as the god of Babylon and Tyre, and from whose cold ashes will rise a new god, leveling their rough places, straightening their crookedness, and exalting every valley until the whole earth is flattened beneath his feet and perceives the glory of the new lord.