Monday, September 16, 2013


My friend Ken Mullins posed this question on Facebook:  "Did God ever put a Rosa Parks on your bus?"

After questioning Ken as to what was meant and discussing it with Uni, the wheels in my head got turning.  (Please forgive me for over-thinking.)

My first thoughts were of the time in the summer of 1955, when I and some of my fellow (white) Marine Reservists from Michigan boarded a bus in South Carolina to go to town and sat in the far back.  We noticed the bus driver was upset with us, especially when a black lady got on, but we were not, to our thinking, doing anything unusual.  We were simply doing what we'd always done in Michigan.  In fact, we thought the whole incident rather humorous.  (It wasn't.)

When I read Ken's question aloud, Uni almost immediately responded "Keith."  Keith was a young man with AIDS, I'd met back in 1989, and brought to the church I was pastoring (See:  MY FRIEND.), without considering the possible negative consequences.  And there were some.

A bit of background for those who may be unfamiliar with the story behind the question:

Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955 was deeply segregated.  Most African-Americans "knew their place" and went along with the Jim Crow laws which regarded them as second-class citizens.  However, on this day, Mrs. Rosa Parks, a quiet, middle-aged black lady did a radical thing:  she refused to give up her seat on the bus when a white man boarded - as the law required her to do.  Three others had given up theirs, as African-Americans were not even allowed to sit parallel with whites.

When J. F. Blake, the bus driver said, "Look woman, I told you I wanted the seat.  Are you going to stand up?"  Mrs. Parks simply and calmly replied, "No."  After further threats and refusal, Blake got off the bus and phoned the police, who came and arrested Mrs. Parks.  During the interval before their arrival, passengers began leaving the bus.  Blake pressed charges. 

Thus began the Montgomery bus boycott, which triggered the Civil Rights' Movement and brought to the forefront a young African American preacher named Martin Luther King, Jr.  (See:  David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross.) 

Many possible implications in Ken's question crossed my mind.
·       Have I ever been, as the bus driver, an unwitting agent in a history changing  incident?
·       Have I ever been, as the bus driver, more concerned about the enforcement of an unjust law, than with the fact that I was dealing with real people?  (I recognize that there would have been negative consequences for him, had he not taken the actions he did.)
·       Have I ever been, as that unnamed white man, willing to see another person humiliated, simply for my own comfort?
·       Have I ever done as those other three black persons, complying with an unjust law, simply to avoid conflict or even possible real trouble?
·       Or have I, unlike that bus driver and the other passengers, been willing to take a stand against injustice and side with those like Rosa Parks?

I guess I'd have to say yes, God has done this to me many times.  There probably have been times I've been totally oblivious to what was going on around me.  There've been times when I simply "got off the bus" to avoid personal inconvenience, or when I've "taken my place" to avoid negative consequences.  And there've been a few times when I actually did the right thing.

I wonder what Jesus would have done if He'd been on that bus?  Maybe He was!  I pray that I would do what Jesus would have done.

Anyway, thanx Ken, for stirring up my thinking!


KenMullins said...

I wish this was mine, but I saw it on another post and copied it.

I was thinking about the times I thought I was loving my neighbor like Christ only to have a "Rosa Parks" get on my bus and show me how un-Christ-like I really am.

Canadian Atheist said...

"Or have I, unlike that bus driver and the other passengers, been willing to take a stand against injustice and side with those like Rosa Parks?"

All the more reason to support marriage equality. There's thousands of Rosa Parks out there right now being oppressed by a majority. Time to take a stand.