Social Question

whitenoise's avatar

What on earth is going on in Mississipi?

Asked by whitenoise (13453 points ) July 29th, 2012

http://www.11alive.com/news/article/250110/40/Baptist-church-in-Miss-denies-wedding-to-black-couple

A church refusing a wedding ceremony to people, over their skin color?

I thought we had left that level of open bigotry behind us….

If this is true, it is sad. Please help me understand how this can happen in the US?

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42 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Welcome to the modern south, the day and time the south is most segregated is 11 AM on Sunday.

jca's avatar

I expected to read it and find some other reason why the church refused to marry them, other than their skin color, but didn’t.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Thank you for sharing the article. It’s a shameful case that continues to give the US South a bad reputation.

This is a minister that succumbed to five or six vocal members, despite their having no previous objection to this couple, as well as some of the bride’s family members, being a part of their congregation. While he still performed the ceremony, albeit at another location, that doesn’t make his decision right.

@Tropical_Willie I attended several church services when I lived in the North. They were just as predominantly one race there as they are in the South.

Sunny2's avatar

We are not as civilized as we think we are. Bigotry is in a lot of hearts in the USA. Shame!

JLeslie's avatar

Churches can do whatever they want. What a horrible embarrassing shame.

A friend of mine is a minister in a church here in Memphis and he has actively pursued and welcomed all races and ethnicities into the church. One white guy went up to him and said he was leaving the church, because when he goes to church he likes to be surrounded by his own kind. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was along the lines of already having to deal with “them” in regular life, but in his home and while worshipping he doesn’t want to have to.

zenvelo's avatar

This has been going on in Mississippi for a very long time, it is not surprising at all considering the location. Their Governor defended the racist Citizen’s Councils of the civil rights era. What would have been more surprising is if a white church in the town had asked the couple to get married in their church.

Racism is alive and well in many parts of the South.

CWOTUS's avatar

If you read through the entire article you’ll see that it was a “small group” of people who approached the pastor with their demands / complaints. Most of the lay members of the church were not informed and not aware of what had happened until it was over.

Racism (and other forms of bigotry) such as this are still around, obviously. Usually it’s not so blatant and public. I think the prime difference here was the people who made this happen had no idea that it could become so public, so quickly. Many people are in the Dark Ages about all kinds of things (and not just in the American south).

Other than that, it is a church, after all, and the state probably cannot do anything to “discipline” the church. The pastor probably needs a sabbatical to think about his own response, which seems to have been inappropriate: “to want to avoid conflict?” Really? That seems patently un-Christian. I’d like to see what will happen in the church’s membership and organizational hierarchy after this. I would certainly expect some fallout.

wundayatta's avatar

How can this happen? Same as it always could. Racism and other isms are part of human nature. Why do you think we have managed to outgrow our nature? We’ve been working on it for hundreds of years, but evolution is hundreds of thousands of years in the making of humankind.

We survive by sticking with people who are like us. We use the algorithm of looks to determine who is like us. This is not the best way to do it, but it does work, so it remains in our bag of tricks. A church is a group of people who are like each other. When they see people who are like each other in all ways, except they don’t look alike, it isn’t enough to satisfy that evolutionary gremlin that says people who aren’t like us aren’t safe. You can’t trust them.

That’s where racism comes from. That’s why it is so powerfully ingrained in us. Just because we have a century of political progress, doesn’t mean that anything has really changed inside our brains. The underlying structure of our brain militates for racism. To overcome that, requires much education, and that education is easily overruled, I’m afraid. So this should be no surprise.

Racism is built into humanity. It lies underneath all the time. People don’t admit to it, but I think it is there. We have to constantly argue against it in our minds. It’s like mental illness. A chemical thing. A chemical imbalance, in fact. We can fight it, but it isn’t easy and it is very easy to slide back into our native way of being.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Do you think a predominantly white northern church would actually refuse to marry a black couple? Many churches around the US are somewhat segregated. I think in the case of churches it has more to do with people going to what is comfortable to them, which happens to separate somewhat by race and ethnicity in some cases, and also has to do with places of worship available in ones immediate community. I can’t imagine a northerner not understanding that this would be viewed as racist and unnacceptable, even if they were racist at heart. Being predominantly one color in a church is not the same as being racist or refusing to welcome people of another race.

What I wonder is what those church members say now? The ones who asked the Pastor not to perform the ceremony? My bet is they would say everyone should mind their own business, and still think it is perfectly fine for them to want to run their church however they see fit. Just a guess. They succeeded in ostracizing the black couple, finally got rid of them is how I figure they felt. Maybe in the northern churches you speak of it is all done more under the radar? I feel pretty sure the majority of churches would not do anything like this north or south.

CWOTUS's avatar

I think that some people in some northern churches would do exactly as you suggest, @JLeslie, and forbid the wedding… but they would do it with a bit more finesse, and not admit it to the prospective couple.

All kinds of “family emergencies” can crop up, as well as unrealized schedule conflicts, unavailability of key personnel, you name it.

I do have to hand it to the Mississippi pastor for at least being honest about it, and thereby triggering the publicity and what will certainly be a resulting conversation. I’m sure that the ones who made the demand are perfectly furious with him for his honesty. That wasn’t part of their grand scheme.

JLeslie's avatar

@CWOTUS Interesting. I have no real experience or idea of this sort of thing. I never belonged to or attended regularly any church or synagogue. My closest black friends are Catholic, and their churches are predominantly white, and I have never heard them have any sort of problem. I think a lot of the big churches here, big Evangelical Christian chruches, are fairly diverse, not sure, but the smaller ones maybe are more segregated? @Pied_Pfeffer would that be right?

jerv's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Is you want to know why many churches up north are predominantly one race, you may be interested to know that some areas don’t have other races to mingle in. For instance, the area of NH where I used to live is 96–98.5% White. Do you want to bus in non-whites from hours away just to be politically correct? If not, then you probably wont see too many non-white faces in the pews.
And considering how many of them have little/no issue with same-sex marriages, I doubt interracial weddings would be an issue… unless there were other reasons to deny service as well. Personally, I have occasionally been accused of being racist just because somebody who happens to be a different ethnicity is a total fucking asshole.

CWOTUS's avatar

It’s not common, @JLeslie. It’s not even common in Mississippi (no matter what some bigots from other parts of the country think). But yes, it happens. It happens mostly when too much bigotry is bound up in too few people with too much power, and for that reason it can happen in nearly any organization where those conditions exist.

tom_g's avatar

I try to pause when I hear things like this. Sure, it might be easy to condemn the residents of Mississippi. But from what I am reading in this article, we’re talking about 6 members of a church. Hardly a representative sample.

I do find a couple of things from the article interesting, though:
The pastor stated, “I didn’t want to have a controversy within the church, and I didn’t want a controversy to affect the wedding of Charles and Te’Andrea. I wanted to make sure their wedding day was a special day.”
I’d be interested to hear from any Baptists (or ex-Baptists) on this issue. I would think that a man who has such a personal relationship with the creator of the universe would have enough sack to stand up to a few chumps in his church. I mean, what could be the purpose of such an organization if not to address – in real time – issues like this in the most appropriate and “godly” way? Or maybe those 6 people have it right.??

Also, from the article: “Wilson said he had been attending the church for about a month and his now wife had been attending for more than a year. His wife’s father also attended the church, and her uncle was custodian at the church.”

Real nice touch.

Jaxk's avatar

There’s no question the minister should have handled that differently. Perhaps he needs a lesson in how to have a spine. The church will be permanently tarnished by this and rightfully so. There will always be those that will use this to paint the south or religion with a broad brush to foster widespread charges of racism. While there is more of it than I would like, there is less than some would like you to believe. Nobody wins in this type of situation. We all lose.

PhiNotPi's avatar

I don’t really like all of the blanket statements made in this thread. As far as we know, there were only six people involved, not the tens of millions who live in the South. Surely all of them cannot be equally racist? I live in the south, meaning that I am being cast under any blanket statements involving Southerners.

In my opinion, the location of the event shouldn’t matter. If such an event happened in the North or in the UK, or anywhere else, would people be pointing out how racist the British are?

When it comes to prejudice, does it really matter if skin color is involved? Degrading groups of people based on anything besides personal actions is prejudice in my eyes.

But anyway, I am disappointed with the outcome of the story, and wish that the pastor had the willingness to not listen to those five or six people.

{these are my daily words of wisdom}

Dutchess_III's avatar

UN believable. Although, from the sound of it, many of the church members were upset over that too. Hopefully the pastor will lose most of his parish. You know, a pastor tells us to stand up for what we believe in….well, he’s a hypocrite.

JLeslie's avatar

The so called blanket statement are not to say that all southerners are racist, not even the majority, in fact I say the majority of churches north and south would not likely do anything of the sort. But, we are saying if there is going to be blatant, outward racism like this, the people on this Q seem to believe it is more likely to happen in the south.

I understand wanting the Pastor to stand up to these people, I think he should have, but also maybe his intent was good, in that he was trying to help the couple who was planning their marriage. He felt it was a hostile environment I guess, and maybe didn’t find it a good time to stand on principal for the couple to be married. It could be seen as though he was honest with them, to help them. Again, I think he should have stood up to the horrible few in his church, much like my friend did who I describe above who is a minister, because probably the majority of the members of the church have no problem with the black couple. Gotta wonder if the few loud voices give a lot of money? That would go to the point someone made above about the loud voices with power.

jerv's avatar

Okay, the end of the world must be near. I wholeheartedly agree with @Jaxk, so Armageddon cannot be too far off.

Sunny2's avatar

I’m wondering if the six or so people who got the pastor to move the service were pillars of the church and the biggest contributors to the sustenance of the church. The power of threats to withdraw funds can be greater than the power of conscience.

jca's avatar

The groom’s uncle is on the State Supreme Court. I have a feeling we have not heard the end of this.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@JLeslie Do you think a predominantly white northern church would actually refuse to marry a black couple? I don’t know, just like I don’t know if a church of any other race would refuse to marry a couple of a different race. The same goes for the churches in the south.

I sincerely hope that any church, or any house of worship for that matter, that welcomes members of any race into their ‘home’ would be willing to perform a marriage ceremony based upon religious beliefs, as long as it is within the state’s law

I can’t imagine a northerner not understanding that this would be viewed as racist and unnacceptable, even if they were racist at heart. You lost me there. Are you saying that prejudiced people who live in the north are aware that their views are wrong and that southerners are not? If that is the case, it explains why these stories crop up in the news and target the south. It doesn’t dismiss that it exists all corners of the world.

It is stories like this that crop up in the news that perpetuate the stigma of the old racist south. I’m not denying that it doesn’t exist. It does. Here in the south, those that are seem to be more open about it. At least we’ve reached the point where these cases can be publicized. Hopefully, it will change, if not enlighten, the views of those that are not acting like true Christians.

Personally, I hope that one of their beloved family members chooses to marry someone of a different race. That seems to open the door to their perspective.

I think a lot of the big churches here, big Evangelical Christian chruches, are fairly diverse, not sure, but the smaller ones maybe are more segregated? I don’t know dear friend. I have only attended about a dozen services here in various churches. All I can tell you is that they seem to be predominantly one race or another. What are you doing next Sunday? We could meet up and go to the Belleview Baptist Church not too far away from us. That place is large enough to have its own zip code. :)

As for synagogues, I have only been to two, and one was regularly when I lived in DC. It was an all white congregation. That doesn’t mean that people of the Jewish faith shun others based upon race.

@jerv I lived in both Minneapolis and Chicago. Also, DC, which I don’t consider part of the south. While Minneapolis is predominately white, Chicago is almost 50/50, and I cannot even begin to guess what DC’s is. In all locations, I worked with a lot of people from all races. Other than DC, most of my Christian co-workers were open about their faith, but the only ones who invited me to attend their church were the ones with the same color of skin as mine, unless it was to attend their wedding. When I met up with them, it was a predominantly white congregation or all white.

P.S. “Assholes” are not limited to one race. :)

@CWOTUS It happens mostly when too much bigotry is bound up in too few people with too much power, and for that reason it can happen in nearly any organization where those conditions exist. This is an interesting point. It is probably true in many cases where a person in a leadership role makes decisions based upon others and not their initial intent. Based upon this one article alone, it sounds like this is a prime example.

From the article, Mississippi Baptist Convention Executive Director the Rev. Jim Futral said it was unfortunate what happened.

“It’s not reflective of the spirit of the Lord and Mississippi Baptists,” Futral said. “It’s just a step backward. ... It’s a sad thing.”

To be fair, it seems to crop up in the news a lot in Mississippi. All I can hope is that these reports where people are speaking publicly about these incidents shock the supporters out of a passive role and take action.

@Dutchess_III UN believable. Although, from the sound of it, many of the church members were upset over that too. Hopefully the pastor will lose most of his parish. You know, a pastor tells us to stand up for what we believe in….well, he’s a hypocrite. After you posted this, I re-read the article. I don’t see any mention of fellow church members being upset over it. I hope that they are though. I don’t wish that the minister loses most of his congregation. I hope that they speak up and help him understand that this was not the way to treat fellow members of their church. Since he performed the wedding ceremony, I wouldn’t call him a hypocrite, but, as @Jaxk puts it, he needs a spine.

Supacase's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer From the article:

“Casey Kitchens said she and other members of the congregation are outraged by the church’s refusal to marry a black couple, a decision she says most of the congregation knew nothing about.

“This is a small, small group of people who made a terrible decision,” Kitchens said. “I’m just ashamed right now that my church would do that. I can’t fathom why. How unfair. How unjust. It’s just wrong.”

Even though I am rather familiar with the south, I am stunned by this. Stunned. The minister, most of all, really blew this. I think he was probably caught off guard and didn’t quite know what to do. He wanted to keep the peace in the church – but he should have been more concerned about doing what was right.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Supacase Thank you. Obviously, I’ve overlooked that piece twice. I don’t know how it works in Baptist churches, but in Presbyterian ones, the minister could be reported as not supporting Christian beliefs. They are moved from that congregation, and sometimes booted from the affiliation, depending upon the circumstances. I would hope that this would be one of them.

Judi's avatar

I haven’t read all the posts yet, so I’m sorry if I am repeating anyone.
My hope is that people would rise above this kind of prejudice.
As a separation of Church and State issue, I would not want the state to get involved in forcing churches to go against their beliefs no matter how idiotic I think they are.

MilkyWay's avatar

Despite everything, I am quite shocked this could still happen in the States so openly today…

JLeslie's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I am not sure exactly my point with northerners beng more aware the general public would not go for this. I’ll try to explain where my mind is at. Up north there is definitely some prejudice, but I don’t remember experience much discrimination if any at all. There are stereotypes, generalization, and self segregation, in that people tend to be with people similar to themselves, but it is mostly by socioeconomics, but race and ethnicity sometimes plays a part, it is all intertwined. In the south more than once; hell, more than 10 times, other white people who barely know me openly say racist things assuming I probably think like them I guess? This would almost never happen up north. Sure things are said behind closed doors at times, generalizations or stereotypes, but between people who know each other well, or something that would be said in front of the specifics group face, but racist comments lie what I here in the south from practically strangers I never heard up north. There seems to be two extremes, most people here say nothing of the sort, won’t even stereotype Italians as great cooks, or Irish people having red hair. Then there is the much smaller group who are racust, they just are, and they think they right.

The south is in a tricky spot in a way. They are more likely to have racial tension black and white statistically, because most blacks live in the south. It feels to me there is more poverty among black people in the south, I have no idea if that is statistically true compared to the north, and so there is a socio economic tension, regardless of race. I half joke but it is a horrible obnoxious joke, that the white southerners did it to themselves, they brought black people here, now they more than other white Americans have to live among them. What I really believe is be ause of the souths history, and how it proceeds now present day, it will be a long time in coming til things change. I don’t see how things can get much better here with how many people think, black and white.

Among some of us northerners we admit it is different here, not sure how you feel about this. That a northerner who has never lived in the south doesn’t understand what it is like regarding race. But, what I also say is southerners have no idea how different it could be, better, if they just did things more like the northerners. That part of the difficulties is blacks and white reacting to each other.

Did you vote about the schools? Is that on your ballot? I have friends who voted yes to separate the municipaltities and yes for the tax increase, saying they cannot believe they voted for a tax increase, but it isn’t fair for the children to have to deal with the inner city kids. I understand the predicament, both sides. I can tell you most of my black friends in the area definitely view it as racist, continuing separate, but equal, which doesn’t pan out to be equal.

filmfann's avatar

I am of two minds here.
The church is absolutely wrong in refusing to participate in a marriage due to racial mix.
The Government should not be able to force a church to be a part of something they stand against.

I would not want to marry in a church that had such a policy. A church is a house of God, and that is the whole reason you would want to marry in a church. Any church that supports such racism is not a house of God.

JLeslie's avatar

@filmfann Is there talk about forcing the church to marry them? I am against the government getting involved also. I didn’t think that was even part of the controversy. Is it? In my first answer I said churches can do whatever they want, and what I meant was it is not for the public at large or government to interfere in, assuming there is no grave harm or injury to a person.

Blackberry's avatar

I would just go to another church. They’re everywhere down here, anyway.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@filmfann Would you mind clarifying what you mean by ‘refusing to participate in a marriage due to racial mix’? When I hear ‘racial mix’, I think of two different races. This is not the case. Some members of the congregation didn’t want a black couple to be married there. The couple are members of that church.

@Blackberry LOL! You are right. We could drive from one point to another in the south and hold our breath between churches and not pass out…there are many.

The point is, the couple were members of that church, meaning that they were welcomed there. They booked the wedding. They sent out the invitations. Two days before the ceremony, the minister told them that it could not be held there based upon the protests of 5–6 members of the congregation.

@JLeslie You may be right on all accounts, but my experiences are different. I am not willing to put a blanket stereotype on northerners and southerners just because one is more vocal about their prejudices than another. I also can’t say that there are more poor blacks in the south than whites. I would need to see statistics in order to agree with your assumption on this.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I meant more poor blacks in the south than poor blacks in the north. A ratio to the total blacks in each place.

It isn’t a blanket statement, I am just talking about my personal experience regarding a few instances. I am not generalizing all southerners are a certain way. I have southern friends here who fit nto the northern stereotype I describe, it’s just generalizations where these experiences are more likely to happen.

You don’t find any differences between southerners and northerners regarding attitudes towards people of different races and ethnicities? How they talk about the various groups, or don’t talk? My husband never said one thing about black people until he moved to Memphis, never had a stereotype in his head until we lived here. We lived in Raleigh, NC for a while, another southern city, but it was a different experience.

@blackberry when we first moved to NC my husband was going through the newspaper one day and turned to em and said, “look at this, something like 4 pages of churches. In FL it would be strip clubs.” we had just moved from FL.

aquaticeyes's avatar

Please understand that not all Mississippians are like that..It’s kind of sad that the only news of ours that gets national attention is this shameful case

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@JLeslie I have a feeling that where we continually differ on this topic of North vs. South is that I look at each person as an individual with their own opinions. It doesn’t matter where they come from. I have traveled over a fair amount of the US while inspecting hotels, and I just haven’t witnessed racism in action, other than hearing some complaints about Indians running some of the hotels. Even then, it wasn’t limited to the south. The rest comes from news reports, such as this one.

I am just not willing to say that all people in one large area of the US feel the same way. I doubt that most of them do. From what I have seen, people work side-by-side with others of a different race. I have heard a lot of co-workers and employees complain about various things, but skin color has never come into play. If it had, I would have questioned them about it on the spot.

JLeslie's avatar

I treat everyone as an individual too. So? I don’t assume anything about anyone. Do you know a lot of people where we live who socialize outside of work with people from outside their own race? I have never seen people so divided socially. I am not talking about work or getting along in general, or showing respect for each other, or even liking each other, but actually becoming close friends? I don’t see much of it here. Definitely less than any other place I have ever lived.

And, who is saying ALL? I have never said all. I never understand why people on Q’s like this persist on saying others are making blanket statements even when we specifcally say we don’t mean everyone. Not even the majority in this case. Just more often in the south than in other places certain behaviors, that is all I am saying.

whitenoise's avatar

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts.

I still haven’t found the right words for this. I guess more than anything I’m shocked by the openness this took place in. I fear that is an indication of people not even wondering about the option of society’s disapproval.

We should all continue to put effort in avoiding judgement of people on anything else but their individual person. As I read one theme above, it is the ease with which racism and bigotry creaps into people’s hearts and minds.

We need to stay vigilant against racism and bigotry.

jca's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer: Historically, the American South has been racist. That’s changing, however, and so I would never (and don’t want to be accused of :) say that everyone in the South is racist, but it’s no surprise that this type of thing still occurs there. I think that racist people in the South, like racist people anywhere, know that it’s best kept hidden now, whereas 200 years ago or whatever, it didn’t have to be hidden because it was the opinion of the majority.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@jca The time is not 200 years to keep it hidden, the local high school reunions from the 1960’s have segregated schools. Yes I live in the south.
Today the all white schools are the private and religion based schools.

Dutchess_III's avatar

We’re still going backwards, aren’t we.

CWOTUS's avatar

No, we’re emphatically not going backwards. That’s the point of why this is a news story.

Fifty years ago this would not have been “news” of any kind, but “business as usual”. Despite what some may still think about Mississippi and other parts of the South, this is not “business as usual”. That’s what makes it news.

Second, despite my feeling that the pastor did wrong for both the bridal couple and “the cause” by sidestepping the issue and acceding to the wishes of his bigoted minority by refusing to hold the ceremony in the particular church the couple wanted, he did a very good thing by bringing the topic into the open. I have no doubt that this topic will be thoroughly aired within that church, and some things will change. I expect change for the better. (Maybe most of the parishioners will leave to a more inclusive church, which would be one kind of change for the better.)

Third, this was “a small minority” in “a single church”. The rank-and-file parishioners are upset by the decision. I’m sure that most of Mississippi is not on board with it. (I would not be at all surprised to see other churches jumping over each other in attempting to offer their venue to the bridal couple, if only to show how inclusive they are.)

I have no illusions about racism. I know that it is alive and well throughout much of the country, hidden in various pockets. But it’s not “the norm” anywhere, not in the North, in the South, or in Mississippi, either. That’s why this was “news”.

reijinni's avatar

Because it’s Mississippi and that’s how things are done there.

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