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On a cool Thursday morning—55 years ago today—a 42-year-old seamstress named Rosa Parks boarded a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on her way to work at the Montgomery Fair Department Store, about five miles from her apartment complex—just as she did every weekday morning.

At the end of the workday—around 6 PM—she boarded the bus for her return trip home.

Contrary to some perceptions, she was not sitting in the “White’s Only Section,” but was rather in the middle neutral section with its floating cut-off line (indicated by a movable sign), depending on the number of white passengers.

Three stops later, her actions would set in motion what has been called “the greatest nonviolent revolution in American history (one of the greatest in all history).”

Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Taylor Branch picks up the story in the first volume of his magisterial series on America in the King Years. Describing Rosa Parks as “a tireless worker and churchgoer, of working class station and middle-class demeanor,” he writes:


All thirty-six seats of the bush she boarded were soon filled, with twenty-two Negroes seated from the rear and fourteen whites from the front.

Wikipedia: "The No. 2857 bus which Rosa Parks was riding on before she was arrested (a GM transit bus, serial number 1132). She was sitting in the 2nd row from the front, all the way to the right window (looking from the back)."

Driver J. P. Blake, seeing a white man standing in the front of the bus, called out for the four passengers on the row just behind the whites to stand up and move to the back.

Nothing happened.

Blake finally had to get out of the driver’s seat to speak more firmly to the four Negroes.

“You better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats,” he said.

At this, three of the Negroes moved to stand in the back of the bus, but Parks responded that she was not in the white section and didn’t think she ought to move. She was in no-man’s-land.

Blake said that the white section was where he said it was, and he was telling Parks that she was in it. As he saw the law, the whole idea of no-man’s-land was to give the driver some discretion to keep the races out of each other’s way. He was doing just that.

When Parks refused again, he advised her that the same city law that allowed him to regulate no-man’s-land also gave him emergency police power to enforce the segregation codes. He would arrest Parks himself if he had to.

Parks replied that he should do what he had to do; she was not moving.

She spoke so softly that Blake would not have been able to hear her above the drone of normal bus noise. But the bus was silent.

Blake notified Parks that she was officially under arrest. She would not move until he returned with the regular Montgomery police.


Here is audio of Mrs. Parks a few months later (April 1956) recounting the story:

Mrs. Parks was not the first to refuse to move, nor the first to be arrested. But leaders like E. D. Nixon needed a “test case” to challenge the system, and Mrs. Parks—with an impeccable reputation and a quiet demeanor—was the ideal candidate. He bailed her out of jail that night.


That evening the idea for a one-day bus boycott was hatched, and with Rosa Parks’s permission Jo Ann Robinson—an Alabama State College professor and head of the Woman’s Political Council—secretly used her school’s mimeograph machine to produce 35,000 handbills calling for a boycott of the Montgomery bus system:

This is for Monday, December 5, 1955

Another woman has been arrested and thrown in jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus for a white person to sit down.

It is the second time since the Claudette Colvin case that a Negro woman has been arrested for the same thing. This has to be stopped.

Negroes have rights too, for if Negroes did not ride the buses, they could not operate. Three-fourths of the riders are Negro, yet we are arrested, or have to stand over empty seats. If we do not do something to stop these arrests, they will continue. The next time it may be you, or your daughter, or mother.

This woman’s case will come up on Monday. We are, therefore, asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial. Don’t ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on Monday. You can afford to stay out of school for one day if you have no other way to go except by bus. You can also afford to stay out of town for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don’t ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off all buses Monday.

The idea of contacting—much less convincing—40,000 people about anything seemed an almost impossible task, especially in pre-social media days. But word quickly spread as the handbills were distributed to students leaving school on Friday, and the local black churches were mobilized as word continued to spread on Sunday.

On Monday morning, December 5, after a brief trial, Mrs. Parks was found guilty and fined $14. Her lawyer appealed to the state court.

The entire city watched in amazement as empty buses like this one rolled along their routes:

That afternoon, at 3 PM, a group of leaders met at Mt. Zion AME Zion Church to discuss extending the boycott beyond that day and to plan a mass gathering that evening at Holt Street Baptist Church, in the working-class district of Montgomery. During that meeting they formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), electing as president the young pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist ChurchMartin Luther King Jr. Just 26 years old, he was 15 months into his first pastorate.

King only had 20 minutes or so to prepare his speech. Well before the proceedings began the spacious church overflowed with several thousand people—in the sanctuary, in the balconies, in the basement, and lining the streets outside to listen via loudspeakers.

Thundering applause and sustained cheering erupted when King said the following:

And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression.

There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair.

There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November.

There comes a time.

Here is the only audio excerpt I’ve been able to locate—a clip that follows shortly after the excerpt above—though the recording isn’t of great quality:

The boycott made a serious economic impact on the city of Montgomery with its near-empty buses, and required extraordinary discipline, organization, sacrifice, and discipline among the black residents of Montgomery. It was not without cost to the black citizens of Montgomery. For example, the Kings’s house was bombed and he spent two weeks in jail.

Mother Pollard, an 80-year-old matriarch, was asked at a mass meeting how she was doing, and her answer summed up the feeling of many: “My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.”

On November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court upheld a federal district court’s ruling that Alabama’s segregation laws were unconstitutional, thereby allowing black bus passengers to sit wherever they wanted. The boycott officially ended December 20, 1956, having lasted for an amazing 381 days. Through non-violent means a revolution was well underway.

If you want a great film on the Montgomery Bus Boycott which accurately and compellingly tells the story above in more details, check out the HBO Film Boycott (2001). You can watch a trailer here.

Thanksgiving the holiday is over, but for the Christians thanksgiving should be as natural and constant as breathing (1 Thess. 5:18). And one of the things we can be thankful for is the gift and grace of Rosa Parks.

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Comments:


43 thoughts on “55 Years Ago Today: Rosa Parks Refuses to Move and Sparks a Movement”

  1. Dave Moore says:

    The biography on Parks by Douglas Brinkley is quite good. Wonderful insights about her love of the Bible.

    1. Radiance says:

      I always find it noteworthy when a member of the Gospel Coalition chooses to honor a great WOMAN of history. The articles and overall layout of the TGC site (perhaps unintentionally) tends to promote the false notion that Christianity has a strictly male-dominated narrative. I hope to see essays and articles reflect the truth of history and give heed to the great female martyrs, evangelists, missionaries, (not to mention the great women of the BIBLE) who laid their lives down (and continue to lay their lives down) for the Gospel and the Kingdom of Christ in their respective generations.

  2. Jan says:

    Thank you for much for this short bio and history lesson. It’s good to know and remember things in our history that we never saw or experienced ourselves. Because history affects today. I appreciate that you have pulled this together for us today.

  3. Mike Johnson says:

    Excellent tribute! Thanks for posting it.

  4. Jim says:

    I never knew the details of this story. Thanks

  5. Hope says:

    Thank you, Justin.

    1. I’ve argued that what she did was contrary to biblical morality. It became quite a long conversation. I haven’t changed my mind in the intervening five years.

      1. Aargh. I never get these hierarchical comment reply things right. It doesn’t seem undoable, though.

  6. pduggie says:

    So, awkward question….

    Was refusing to move a Christian thing to do?

    Support or challenge with biblical references, please.

    1. pduggie says:

      or legal references, too, as that could be a line of argument.

    2. Dave says:

      pduggie

      A brave question, but we do need to think biblically, so a necessary one.

      However, I want to explore this in terms of general principles about if/when/how we should defy authority.

      I want to try to think biblically, these are my thoughts at this point, but feel free to correct me (anyone) from scripture with anything I’ve got wrong or not understood.

      We do need to allow the word of God to correct us, and sometimes we might find our own cultural assumptions / world view make hearing God’s word very uncomfortable for us. But we do need to renew our minds with God’s word.

      I’d like to start with what the NT says about slavery. Because slavery is something I think we would all agree is unjust and morally utterly reprehensible. How Christians who happened to be slaves were told in the NT to behave is I think relevant to the issue of when/if we should disobey authority.

      Scripture tells slaves to obey their masters e.g. Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2:9 etc.

      And this was in the Roman world. Sometimes slaves were treated well, but this was at the master’s whim, slaves had no rights at all. If the master wanted to abuse them, well, they were the master’s property.

      So what do we make of scriptures that clearly told slaves to obey their masters?

      Scripture is not condoning slavery, merely recognising that it did exist and telling slaves (and masters) how they should behave.

      Masters were told by the scriptures not to abuse their slaves:

      ‘Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.’ Col 4:1

      Frankly, I think a master who genuinely gave his slave what was right and fair would have given him/her their freedom, a humble apology, and massive compensation for their time spent in slavery too. But what if a master didn’t? I’m sure most probably didn’t.

      What we might struggle with is that the slave’s obedience is not presented in scripture as conditional upon whether the master is fair or not:

      1 Peter 2:18
      ‘Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.’

      Titus 2 seems to develop the reason why:

      ‘Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, *so that* in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.’

      ‘For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.’

      Paul appears to be putting the interests of the gospel first, and pointing all Christians towards the eschatological hope we have.

      Of course God hates social injustice. There are so many places in scripture which make this clear. God commanded his people to act justly, and rebuked those with power for oppressing the weak and vulnerable, e.g. Isaiah 58. But how does the NT church understand/apply this?

      There was a massive amount of social injustice in the Roman world, but perhaps the curious thing (from our perspective) is that the NT church did not launch itself into political campaigns for change. Instead, they focussed on preaching the central message of the gospel, i.e. what happened at the cross and why, the need for us to turn to Christ in repentance and faith, what happens if we do and what happens if we don’t.

      The early church changed the Roman world eventually – but one true convert at a time, not through civil disobedience. Granted, the church also lived out the gospel by caring for others in practical ways, there’s evidence of that even from secular sources. But they didn’t generally advocate or practice civil disobedience against Rome. (I recall something about a massive protest concerning an imperial order to arrest John Chrysostom, 4th century, Christians loyal to John tried to physically stop the arrest, can’t remember the details right now)

      That said, I think there can sometimes be grounds for civil disobedience.

      My understanding of the principles:

      Romans 13 instructs us to obey the governing authorities. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

      But we live in a fallen world, in rebellion against God. No human government is perfect, and some may even resemble the beast of Revelation 13.

      There are some very clear cases where disobeying governing authority is undoubtedly correct. Acts 4. Peter and John are forbidden from preaching Jesus, and they respond with ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!’

      We have been commissioned by the Lord to preach the gospel, and authorities which command us to remain silent must be disobeyed on this point.

      So if the governing authority is commanding that we disobey a direct command from God then it’s simple – we must disobey them and obey God.

      Daniel provides another example of this. When commanded not to pray to YHWH he disobeyed the king’s edict. Daniel 6.

      On the importance of prayer (and campaigning for change), Daniel also provides an example of how sometimes we may, if it’s the Lord’s will, be able to persuade a governing authority to change their policy, which thereby avoids a confrontation. Daniel had already resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food, but he reasoned with the chief official responsible first, and managed to get the policy changed. Because God caused the official to show favour to Daniel. I’m sure Daniel was praying throughout – he seems to have been devoted to prayer.

      That seems to support the notion that we can legitimately campaign and lobby for change (praying all the time of course).

      No governing authority has the right to order us to disobey God. In 2 Samuel 1, the Amalekite reports to David how Saul died. We know that the Amalekite is lying, because 1 Samuel 31 tells us what really happened. Perhaps the Amalekite thought he would win David’s favour with his false version of events.

      But the Amalekite’s version is taken at face value by David, who has no reason not to believe his account. David orders the Amalekite’s execution, because he has dared to strike down the Lord’s annointed. According to the Amalekite’s version, this was what the Lord’s annointed ordered him to do, but David clearly took the view the Amalekite should have refused to obey, even though it was the king he would have been disobeying.

      I take the view that in Romans 13 Paul is arguing that the governing authorities only have authority because it has been delegated to them by God. I realise Paul is living in the Roman world, but Paul argues:

      ‘For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.’

      Paul seems to have in mind here obedience to a governing authority which is carrying out its God given mandate of punishing wrongdoing. To the extent that the governing authority commends what is right, and punishes what is wrong, then it should be honoured by Christians.

      ‘They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.’

      But what happens when the state becomes more like the beast of Revelation 13, and instead of punishing the wrongdoer, it commends wrongdoing and punishes those who do good? I think a case could be made that Paul is commanding obedience to ‘rulers (who) hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.’

      It is these who are God’s servants, the ones who are ‘agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.’

      If the state orders what is wrong, and punishes what is right, then it abrogates its God given right to command, and Christians are I think correct in disobeying any direct order from the state which contradicts what God has commanded.

      Paul’s comments about governing authorities are followed by:

      ‘Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.’

      So any order from the state which could be seen as a violation of loving my neighbour as myself is one I think I can justifiably disobey. The state is ordering me to disobey God.

      God has not granted to any authority the right to tell us to disobey him.

      But isn’t this given in scripture as the limit of the extent to which we can disobey authority?

      As evil as slavery was, the NT letters still told slaves to obey.

      I think we need to be very careful with resisting or rebelling against authority, as there is something about our fallen nature which seems to like to rebel.

      But there is another aspect to our fallenness. That of failing to recognise our responsibilities, or passing the buck, saying it’s not my problem, not my fault, nothing to do with me.

      Gen 3 – God challenges Adam about his sin. Adam’s response begins with, ‘This woman you gave me…’ So now it’s the woman’s fault, and is he not also implying it’s somehow God’s fault? ‘I was doing fine until you brought this woman along…’

      God asks Eve ‘what have you done?’ Her response begins, ‘the serpent deceived me…’ So it’s the serpent’s fault.

      Our fallen condition is such that we have a tendency to refuse to accept our responsibilities, or/and to pretend to ourselves and others that it’s not my problem.

      ‘I was obeying superior orders’ is not an acceptable response when charged with violating God’s law. People have a tendency, well researched by psychological experiments, to be far more likely to act in a way contrary to their own conscience if they think they can put it down to ‘I was only following orders’.

      Sometimes the right, godly thing to do is to rebel against wrongful orders. But only if they directly contradict what God commands.

      As unjust as a situation may be, it seems to me that though we can and should pray, campaign and petition the authorities, unless the state/governing authorities are ordering us to disobey a direct command of God, we still have to obey?

      1. So… was Rosa Parks wrong?

        1. Dave says:

          I deliberately didn’t address that in my post as I was more interested in seeing this blog as an opportunity to think through biblically the wider issue of if/when/how Christians should disobey authorities today. I’m sorry if that seemed off-topic, or a kind of blog hi-jacking. It seemed important to me though.

          As you’ve asked me to offer my view on Rosa Parks, I will.

          As others have pointed out, in your constitution (I’m from the UK, not the USA) you have entrenched legislation that other laws are tested by – if they fail the test and your Supreme Court says they are unconstitutional, then they are not valid law. The only way to find out if a law is unconstitutional is to create a test case and have it go through your appeal process. So, yes, I think Rosa Parks did the right thing, because the ‘law’ she was ‘breaking’ was not valid law, and a case could be made that she was entitled to have the Supreme Court decide the issue. And thank God your Supreme Court made the right decision in ruling segregation unconstitutional.

          The wider relevance for today which I saw in this blog is that it concerns civil disobedience. As Christians we want to honour God, sometimes that means disobeying a secular authority. But we need to be sure about the biblical grounds for doing so.

          In some parts of the world, even the supposedly free and democratic Western world, it seems that Christians are increasingly coming into conflict with police/employers/authorities. We need to think about how we should respond. How do we best honour God in such a situation?

          I know of a street preacher in the UK who got arrested because someone asked him what the bible said about homosexuality, and he honestly answered the question. It wasn’t the main point of his preaching at all, but it got him arrested all the same, and bailed by magistrates on condition he gave an undertaking not to do any more preaching.

          http://www.christian.org.uk/news/exclusive-video-preacher-arrested-by-british-police/

          His is not the only such case. I know Don Carson has preached on ‘The Intolerance of Tolerance’ – well worth listening to. The new, post-modern so-called ‘tolerance’ is making such inroads into western societies that we can find ourselves coming into conflict with authorities if we faithfully repeat the message of the bible. We need to know how to respond in those situations.

  7. Daryl says:

    Pduggie,

    That took guts… :)

    Good question, well worth asking.

    I think it was a Christian thing to do, but still, the question needs to be asked, if only to provide and answer for those who would say that the civil rights movement was wrong.

  8. Robin says:

    pduggie,

    She got arrested for refusing to comply with a law that she felt was unjust…and she accepted the legal consequences for that decision. Scripture has many examples of people who refused to comply with unjust laws. Daniel refused to stop praying at the king’s command, and I believe he even made his prayer more public after it was made illegal. There were the three brothers that passed through the furnace for refusing to worship the civil God. In the NT I believe several of the apostles were arrested for illegally proclaiming the gospel.

    You could say this is a civil issue while those were worship issues, but I think the principle is clearer than that. We are told to submit to the civil magistrate, but there are clear examples in scripture where people disobeyed that rule when what the magistrate required was unjust. Alabama had an unjust law and she refused to participate. I would feel the same if the US Army required a soldier to do something in war that was plainly unjust (like killing civilians) and the CHristian soldier refused to obey the direct order and obeyed God instead.

    1. pduggie says:

      I think there is a difference in the direction of the injustice. If I’m required to kill a civilian in a war by law, then I am being forced to act unjustly toward them and I must refuse. And God’s command for me to pray is a higher imperative than obedience to men who tell me not to.

      But where I sit somewhere on a bus is an injustice committed towards me, and Jesus says a lot about suffering such injustices meekly. Going a second mile if a roman soldier compells me to go one mile. etc.

      I think you kinda have to make a legal argument about why a resistance is lawful before the Christian principles of submission to even wicked authority aren’t violated. Even the Jews of Esther’s day didn’t argue they had a natural right of self-defense (or if they did, they though it best to get the legal right secured before exercising it)

    2. Jess says:

      You seem to be implying that the Civil Rights Movement was not following Christian principles by its methods of attempting to change unjust laws. As far as I’m aware choosing not to use a bus is not illegal but helped to demonstrate the inequality of the law which discriminated against the majority of people who used the service. Therefore a perfectly legal right to choose came the vehicle to bring about change. Whether Rosa Parkes was in the right would I suppose depend upon whether she was breaking any law (ambiguity which is highlighted in the article) and whether the Bus driver constitutes a legal authority to arrest.

      I think to use Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek in all situations is somewhat restrictive and doesn’t recognise that different situations require different responses. In my reading Jesus is referring tspecifically to suffering for the Kingdom, not to accept willingly any forms of injustice. Paul appealed to the Emperor when he had been falsely accused, otherwise we would be expected to accept whenever a shop cheats us or a company abuses our consumer rights.

      1. pduggie says:

        No, i think it was. But I think it’s because they had the legal framework which gave them the right to make such arguments as lawful.

        I’m not to sure about Aquinas saying all laws contrary to the natural law are unjust and carry with them the duty to disobey, but I’m very sure that all laws that are unconstitutional carry the duty to be regarded as null. So I’m glad that the Civil Rights movement moved to work to make the unconstitutionality (and immorality, of course) of legal segregation manifest.

        It would be like the Jews of Ether’s day relying on a prior law of Ahashuerus giving them the right of self defense, and appealing to that to defy the new law that says they didn’t have the right to kill other attackers.

  9. ajcarter says:

    Nice Justin. Thanks for the reminder!

  10. Mark says:

    If you have never read the book recommended by Justin, “Parting the Waters” by Taylor Branch, pick it up. It is incredible. And thanks for the recommendation of the Rosa Parks bio. I’ll check it out.

  11. John says:

    I have to wonder, what of the white man who was to have Rosa’s seat? What kind of man would take a woman’s seat after a hard day’s work? Apparently he felt no shame or guilt for demanding her seat, nor did the rest of the bus passengers. I thought about this the other night, and the only answer I could come up with was something like the following: the man had no sense of guilt or shame or wrong because he – and everyone else – really felt that African American’s were inferior. How shameful and humbling. Thank God for people like Rosa and MLK who suffered so that future generations could be free.

  12. boog says:

    Is pduggie’s question really a good one? To put it another way, did Paul jump on the Athenians for having idols, or did he find the glory in their trash? To put it a third way, who cares if what Rosa Parks did was Christian- society sees her willingness to care about injustice, even at great personal cost to herself, and celebrates it. We should commend them for celebrating this sacrifice, and make some sacrifices of our own, so that we can earn the right to say to Whom the sacrifices point. Do you agree?

    1. pduggie says:

      I’m just looking for more clarity about what counts as the kind of injustice that Christians may morally resist, and when do we “joyfully accept the plundering of our property”.

      Christians try to resist abortion, taxes, the vietnam and iraq wars, slavery, consumerism, communism, and segregation. Those aren’t all the same kind of “injustice”.

  13. Injustice that is based on skin color is injustice that should certainly be resisted. Often in the new testament it is called partiality.

    This kind of ethnic prejudice was repudiated by Jesus multiple times in relation to Samaritains.

    Injustice that targets the poor, or those without protection and provision (the fatherless, the widow and the refugee) is denounced in the strongest terms throughout Scripture.

    One thing missing very often in this discussion is that God calls His people to stand for the rights of the oppressed (Is. 1:17) among many others. And yet historically it far too often the oppressed that stand alone for themselves.

    How many believers of all colors did not stand up for Rosa Parks that day as well as before and after this incident? Far too many.

    The question I would ask is, who are the Rosa Parks of today. that believers need to stand with?

  14. Dave Moore says:

    Acts 4:1-20, esp. v. 18-20 is helpful. Christians can object to ungodly laws, but may face ungodly consequences as a result.

  15. Andrea says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing this story on this memorable day. Thanks to the many Rosa’s in this life for striving to make the world a better place.

  16. Joey says:

    Interestingly enough, just a short distance from where Rosa Parks boarded the bus, John Wilkes Booth made a leap into acting stardom, also on December 1 (but 40 years ahead of Parks’ incident).

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/the-assassins-debut/#more-71401

  17. steve hays says:

    I’d just note that under our current system, the only way to test the Constitutionality of certain laws is to break them, then have the case wind its way through the appellate process. That’s not the same as Rome.

    1. Dave says:

      A good point re the USA. I’m from the UK, our constitution differs. We don’t traditionally have entrenched legislation that the courts measure other laws against, and then strike them down if they fail the test. Traditionally, the only thing an English court can do with an Act of Parliament is to apply it. Although it has to interpret it first of course, which is where creativity can come in. And UK membership of the European Union has modified the traditional position as well.

  18. boog says:

    My point was that it is irrelevant to have discussions whose central thrust is “was Rosa Parks acting like a Christian” or “Was it Christian to fight the Civil War about slavery.” I really don’t understand why we as Christians feel the need to raise these questions. Is there any doubt that modern society believes that Rosa Parks was a hero, or that slavery was wrong? None. Furthermore, society has good reasons derived from natural revelation to support the claims. In an effort to be all things to all people, shouldn’t we exhort the good reasons, and show how they point to Christ, instead of fighting old wars for the purpose of… what?

    1. Dave says:

      I think it’s relevant and necessary to think through biblically where we stand on issues around obeying/disobeying secular authorities.

      I’m from the UK, don’t know so much about the extent to which the USA may be in the grip of the political correctness of post-modernism, but in the UK there have been incidents where Christians have incurred the displeasure of police/authorities/employers for basically falling foul of the so-called new ‘tolerance’.

      Seems to me that thinking about when, biblically, we are justified in refusing to comply when the state tells us what to do/say or not do/not say is important.

      1. boog says:

        I couldn’t agree with you more: thinking about how to interact biblically with the authorities today is important. Thinking about this (and then doing it) is foundational, so I totally understand where you are coming from.

        However, I don’t think this undercuts my hesitation to do things like question the actions of people in the past who society sees as good with good, biblical reasons. Every time I hear a Christian trying to defend the biblical institution of slavery, even academically, I get frustrated. Is that really a hill we need to die on now? Or can’t we just say: you know, its really good that people arent mistreated that way anymore!

        I guess I’m saying that thinking through how to interact with authorities now is vitally important, but criticizing past decisions merely misses the opportunity to give glory to God in a way that our culture can understand.
        Does any of this make sense?

        1. Dave says:

          Yes it makes sense to me. In my first (rather long!) post I didn’t actually mention Rosa Parks at all. Rather, I saw the blog about her and civil disobedience as an opportunity to explore issues around if/when civil disobedience today is a necessary Christian response. I wanted to sound people out on this.

          I’m sorry if my first post seemed inappropriate or off-topic. I’m not from the USA so probably not aware of the extent to which any perceived questioning of the rightness of Rosa Parks’ actions might seem in bad taste or unhelpful.

  19. This was excellent, Justin. I really appreciate this blogpost. I wrote an article today in our newsletter commemorating this day and this article was very, very useful. Thanks!

  20. Radiance says:

    I always find it noteworthy when a member of the Gospel Coalition chooses to honor a great WOMAN of history. The articles and overall layout of the TGC site (perhaps unintentionally) tends to promote the false notion that Christianity has a strictly male-dominated narrative. I hope to see essays and articles reflect the truth of history and give heed to the great female martyrs, evangelists, missionaries, (not to mention the great women of the BIBLE) who laid their lives down for the Gospel and the Kingdom of Christ in their respective generations.

  21. Limousine says:

    55 years ago, a tired seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama challenged racial segregation in the United States. Rosa refused to sit in the back of the bus, as segregation laws dictated when the bus continues along its route.

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