Making a Better World: African-Americans, Voting and the Christian Message

Jason R. Curry, PhD currently serves as the Dean of the Chapel at Fisk University. He is a licensed and ordained Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC). A Morehouse man, Curry also holds a Master of Divinity Degree from Harvard Divinity School and in 2005 he completed his doctoral degree studies at Vanderbilt University. Curry is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and he is also a Connecting Link.  Curry is married to Angela and they are the proud parents of three children, John, Nia, and Samuel. Stay connected with him on Facebook at Fisk Chapel.

By: The Reverend Dr. Jason R. Curry, Morehouse ’92

Recently, I had the pleasure of introducing my students to the concept of non-violent civil disobedience.  We were reading the Letter from a Birmingham Jail by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and I decided to show a video clip from the movie Eyes on the Prize. Much to my surprise, most of my students, ages eighteen to twenty-two had never seen this documentary, which is now on YouTube. Eyes on the Prize details the challenges associated with the struggle to end racial segregation in America. The class was captivated by the film and many of them had no idea the Black Church and ministers such as, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth (Selma University ’51, Alabama State College ’52), Reverend Wyatt T. Walker (Virginia Union ’50), Reverend Ralph Abernathy (Alabama State; Atlanta University ’51), Reverend James Bevel (American Baptist College) and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr (Morehouse ’48) were intimately involved in political matters.

One of the hour-long video clips of Eyes on the Prize noted the political involvement of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement necessarily and permanently changed the face of the Democratic Party. Indeed, most African Americans beamed with pride as First Lady Michelle Obama spoke during the Democratic National Convention. She embodied the success of the African American community’s quest to be recognized and celebrated within the political landscape of American life. Moreover, many of us were further inspired by President Obama’s closing convention address.

The Black Church has always been intimately involved in American politics. The Christian message calls for the improvement of the entire person, not just their spiritual lives. Jesus was concerned with our physical life (He healed the man with the withered hand—Matthew 12:10-13), our spiritual life (He is the Bread of Life—John 6:35), our emotional life (He said, ‘render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s…’—Mark 12:17). The early Christian church helped people who existed among the political landscape of Roman, Greek, and Jewish culture. Its focus was on meeting the needs of God’s people wherever they were located along a political, economic, physical or spiritual continuum.

The struggle for equality during the Civil Rights Movement while well documented by Eyes on the Prize, doesn’t name the many sacrifices of everyday heroes and heroines. Yet, we can pay tribute to them, by exercising our right and fulfilling our responsibility to vote in the upcoming presidential election and actively participating in our state and local elections.

Let us remember to exercise this right and encourage others to do so on November 6th.