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Monday, May 16, 2022

The church’s fight for civil rights continues but looks different

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As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, it is important to remember the role of King and other religious leaders in the fight for civil rights. While the world is undeniably different from the one King left half a century ago, local pastors believe the church still plays a vital role in addressing communal ills.  

Dr. Christina Jones Davis, an ordained minster and therapist, said advocacy in the modern church involves addressing communal concerns such the violence rate, suicide, food disparities and mental health. Davis believes these health concerns can and should be intertwined with spirituality. 

“God is a God of wanting health for individuals and systems,” Davis said. “Because that is the God that I serve, I think it’s very important for us to think of spirituality as one of the things that keeps us healthy, even in the struggle for justice.”

Davis is exploring health in her discussion “Racism, Trauma & Healing,” which will dissect racism and its effects and hopefully propose ways to move forward. The conversation allows Davis to draw on both spiritual and health concerns. 

Many local churches such as Christ Missionary Baptist Church offer health fairs to address health concerns, said Pastor John “Pastor G.” Girton. The health fairs offer services such as prostate cancer screenings. In addition, Christ Missionary Baptist Church partnered with Oak Street Health to educate members about health insurance. These events are a good way for experts to share their knowledge with the community, Girton said.

In addition to health care, Girton thinks the church should address division within the city. He believes Indianapolis struggles with division in several areas: politics, religion, geography and age to name a few. After living in Nashville for 13 years, Girton said he noticed the subtle divisions when he returned to Indianapolis rather than the blatant divisions down south.

“Even though people [in the South] had very, very strong ideologies about who they did and who they did not care for and didn’t like, all of those issues were on the table,” Girton said. “Everything was above board. You knew who was for you and you know who was against you. … There are people in Indianapolis who will say they are for you when in the back room, in the closet and behind the scenes, it’s a different story.”

To address the fractured community, Girton and Davis recommend churches fall back on the Bible’s bedrock messages showing compassion for the widow, the powerless and those who are different from you. Simply put, being a neighbor, as Davis calls it. 

“I think churches can really be, and are already, at the helm of what it means to be good neighbors to one another and to break down what I believe are walls that are created … where there needs to be more conversation and bridges,” Davis said.

While being neighbors can involve fancy programs and charity, Girton said it is also as simple as sharing a piece of advice.

“If it takes me 20 years to go through something and learn what it takes to get there, I need to take 20 minutes to turn around and share that same information with the next generation,” Girton said. 


Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.

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