History will evaluate 1964 with its decision on the civil rights bill as one of the critical years in our national annals. The issue now before the country is more than one of integration versus segregation; it has to do with the integrity of our democracy.
As the Senate debate moves toward the day of decision, one senses a feeling of inevitability. This is a time of hard choices, not just for the senators who must cast their votes but also for the rank and file of their fellow Americans. We are all involved. The hour is long past—if it ever was at hand—when a man or woman might stand and watch the civil rights struggle as from a window overlooking the busy street.
What is happening this spring in the Senate is not an academic debate in which one listens to affirmative, negative, and rebuttal, and then awaits the judges’ decision. No American, and least of all no Christian American, has the right to follow the civil rights debate unconcerned and unmoved. The vote on H.R. 7152 will indelibly affect the nation’s future.
Patriotism demands individual concern in a matter so close to the public welfare. And patriotism is neither sub-Christian nor outmoded, even in this sophisticated age. For Christians it is plainly enjoined in Scripture. Moreover, ethics are united with patriotism; no Christian can stand passively by when the good of others is jeopardized. Obedience to the law of love for one’s neighbor requires concern for the welfare of one’s neighbor.
The kind of civil rights bill the nation will have depends in the first instance upon how the Senate votes. But it is equally true that how the Senate votes will reflect public opinion. In fact, the extra weight that will tip the balance one way or the other will come from the people. ...1
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