This week Heather is joined by journalist Paul Kix, whose bestselling book You Have to Be Prepared to Die Before You Can Begin to Live takes readers on a sweeping tour of the chaotic streets of Birmingham, Alabama, in the spring of 1963. It’s the story of the pivotal ten-week campaign of marches, nonviolent resistance, and overnight jail stays that helped turn the tide on Jim Crow segregation. Who can forget the gut-wrenching photos and video clips from Birmingham during these days? The images of young Black students being assaulted by police dogs and water cannons went viral decades before the Internet was available to go viral on.

Paul walks Heather through his research on Birmingham, on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and on King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference organization. He also calls attention to the important contributions of Civil Rights Movement leaders such as Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth (whose chracteristic maxim became the book’s title) and Dr. King’s chief of staff, Wyatt Tee Walker, who were often overshadowed by MLK’s immense fame. Paul’s book reveals how those ten weeks in Birmingham changed the trajectory of American politics, religion, and race relations.

Sixty years later, the Birmingham story would also have a profound impact on Paul Kix’s view of his marriage and family. As a white man, married to a Black woman, with a daughter and twin sons who identify as Black, he was deeply affected by the 2020 murder of George Floyd as well as other incidents that appeared to devalue the lives of Black people. Out of his personal wrestling with those events, and hard questions from his kids, Paul found himself called to remember Birmingham 1963. When Paul originally started digging into the work of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he was not a practicing Christian. But the faith of the men who led during the Civil Rights Movement, didn’t just inspire him intellectually, it also inspired him spiritually. This poignant interview sits at the intersection of faith and social justice.

Heather also welcomes back our resident social media expert, Brady Shearer, to discuss another tool for your Social Toolkit. This week, Brady shares ideas for repurposing weekly sermons into condensed content for podcasts and YouTube.

Guest Bio
Paul Kix is a journalist and author whose last book was The Saboteur, a bestselling and critically acclaimed true story of the most daring man in World War II. His writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, GQ, and ESPN The Magazine, among other publications. His latest book , You Have to Be Prepared to Die Before You Can Begin to Live, is the subject of this episode of the podcast. He lives in Connecticut with his family.

Host Bio
Heather Thompson Day is an associate professor of communication at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. She is the author of eight books, including I’ll See You Tomorrow and It’s Not Your Turn. Reach out to Heather on X, the app formerly known as Twitter, at @HeatherTDay and on Instagram @heatherthompsonday. Get Heather’s weekly inspirational email delivered to your inbox every Friday night at 7 p.m. EST. Sign up now at:

Viral Jesus is a production of Christianity Today
Host and creator: Heather Thompson Day
Executive Producer: Ed Gilbreath
Producer: Loren Joseph
Mix Engineer: Alex Carter
Director of CT Podcasts: Mike Cosper