Today we step back from the readings and remember four little girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair.
Sunday morning 50 years ago today, those little girls got up, put on their Sunday dresses and went to Church. No one in their church could have imagined that at 10:22 a bomb would end their young lives and wound 22 others physically and scores of others emotionally.
For most of us it is impossible to imagine the kind of hatred that motivated the bombers, the terrorists. We ask ourselves: How could one human being hate another simply because of the color of their skin?
On the surface we have made great strides. We dare not say the N-word. And laws prohibit discrimination. But if we look beneath the surface, we see that we still have a long way to go.
Now instead of a bifurcated society (black and white) much of the animosity is directed at the growing Hispanic population. And the problem is not limited to the south, or to whites. All too often in every community ignorance and fear overwhelm the call of the gospel. We accept the equal dignity of every person as a theoretical construct, but fail to let it guide us when we are having those political discussions with our friends, who still tend to be mostly our own race.
Today let us call to mind the four little girls who died 50 years ago in Birmingham. Let us call to mind the pain of those parents who had to suffer the agony of burying their children. And let it empower each of us to transform our society not just in our laws but in our hearts. Today is a day for every American of every race, religion, ethnicity, to, first of all, look deep into our hearts and acknowledge the prejudices that are there. Secondly, allow the grace of God to heal us as individuals, communities, and as a nation.