By Sydney Melson
The Birmingham Times
The Rev. Ken Gordon, House of Light Church, downtown Birmingham, pastor for four years, said he has always been moved by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings on the importance of inclusiveness.
“People out there that believe in violence and force have a very exclusive message. King, [however], understood that all sides need to be inclusive,” he said. “The African American man in America is never going to get to where he is constitutionally promised to be by himself. It’s going to take a coalition of all people. There are people who are willing to take on that fight . . .”
Gordon said that fight means improving the way we communicate.
“To me, that’s not just someone talking,” he said. “Communication means listening, it means understanding, even if [that person] has not experienced [a problem].”
It also means optimism, he added: “How can you not be optimistic when you look at the advancements we continue to make? There are people right now who are gaining their voice, and that’s what we’ve got to have in this country. We’ve got to have real communication, as well as reliable people who are willing to try to understand where other people are and where they’ve been.”
Gordon believes it is essential for people to go forward with love in their hearts.
“The Bible says love covers all things: it’s not proud, it doesn’t discount others. When we understand King’s message in conjunction with the Bible, especially in a country that prides itself on its religious founding, the two of them intersect so much. Love doesn’t mean you dismiss another person. Love your neighbor as yourself,” he said, stressing the importance of perseverance.
“You’ve got to keep going. Always keep facing forward. You’ve got to know that no matter what, no matter how small the improvements might seem, all those small things add up,” he said.
What’s needed is civility and treating others with kindness and respect—something that’s lacking on the national stage, according to Gordon.
“There are a lot of people out there fighting for change and equity, but they themselves turn to look at someone differently or treat people differently,” he said. “When we talk about tolerance, show tolerance. It doesn’t mean we cannot have our conviction and our believes, it just means that just because someone’s beliefs don’t align with yours, it doesn’t make them wrong.”
The riot at the U.S. Capitol was saddening, Gordon said.
“For weeks and weeks, there has been an indication that there would be not only protests but an angry and objectionable protest,” he said. “For [Trump supporters] to have breached one of the most sacred areas of our government showed a double standard. [Police] don’t perceive white people as a threat the same way they perceive Black people as a threat.”
The scenes of violence in Washington, D.C., have focused the world’s eyes on the United States, Gordon said.
“I have coworkers in Germany and in Austria, and we were texting while it was going on,” he said. “They were like, ‘Is this the America that used to be the beacon of light?’”
Gordon believes the recent riots are a heart issue, too: “I had Bible study with members [of my church] during which I said, ‘You have to understand that people’s actions will not change until people’s hearts change. To get to the heart of the problem is through Christ, as well as through open, honest dialogue where you’re not looking to place blame.’”
Click one of the links below to read what other pastors had to say.