After briefly considering permanently removing this article from Authors Den due to actions by some that would hurt the efforts of the local ministers in Jena, Louisiana, to bring healing to our community, I have decided to keep the article here and add this explanation: I believe that racism, bigotry, and hatred exist in our community just as it does in villages, towns, and cities all across the United States, North and South. I reject the notion that our local law enforcement, governmental, and educational institutions perpetuate these fruits of wickedness. In fact, I believe those institutions in Jena have lead the way in correcting the imbalances caused by racism concerning equal rights for all. Opportunities exist for all people of all races in our community under the law. Personally, I have not found the local courts to be biased in judgment nor the school system to prevent advancement from anyone based on race. However, you cannot change the heart of anyone through legislation; education alone will not undo bigotry or hatred instilled from birth. Unless we deal with the spirit of our people, we will never learn the grace and mercy of God towards those less fortunate in life nor the power of forgiveness towards those who have wronged us. The ministers in our town have bravely decided to step forward and address the spiritual aspect of the issue of bigotry and hatred. I invite other communities to join together in faith and fight these enemies of our soul as well.
David Duke once received over sixty percent of the vote in a statewide election in LaSalle Parish. For whatever reason, there are a couple of schools here that were never integrated. There are no longer any tracks—the railroads having long abandoned what was once a sawmill paradise—to separate us in Jena, but most blacks live in their “quarters” while most whites live in theirs. I’ve lived here most of my life, and the one thing I can state with absolutely no fear of contradiction is that LaSalle Parish is awash in racism: True racism. Not the sort of affirmative action/name-calling/reparations-seeking fluff that keeps Jesse Jackson and liberal do-gooders in business, but a systematic, culture of bigotry, neglected by the scrutiny of time.
Here in the piney woods of central Louisiana, where some gentle, old, Christian, white women still call graying black men “boy” and some angry, young, Christian, black teens attack pizza delivery trucks that would dare enter their neighborhood, racism and bigotry are such a part of life that most of the citizens do not even recognize it. Cross Highway127 just south of Jena and you enter two different worlds, separated by class and race. If we as Christians face powers, principalities, and rulers of darkness in high places it is certain that part of the spiritual wickedness arrayed against the citizens of LaSalle Parish is hatred born of racism.
All that may be suddenly changing. Through a series of events, which include white boys hanging a noose from a tree on school grounds, which infuriated some black parents, racial fights in various locations in town, the gutting of Jena High School by an unknown arson, and culminating with the arrest of several black boys for attacking a white boy, beating him mercilessly, at the high school, the ministers of Jena decided it was time to do something. A meeting was hastily called. White and black ministers met to discuss the problems facing our youth and to turn to the only One with the power to stop the hatred swirling around us. The ministers joined together to publish a statement in our local paper (this week’s edition can be found at http://www.thejenatimes.net/index2.html;) a walk-through prayer meeting was held at all the local schools on Sunday evening; the following Wednesday night, all the churches, black and white, closed so that everyone could meet at the Jena High School football stadium to pull together for our community to fight the real enemy of our souls. The local radio station broadcasted the service live for those who could not attend in person.
What an amazing sight it was! There was the United Pentecostal preacher standing with the Baptist pastor, seeking the hand of God for our children. There was the black minister lifting his voice with the white minister to sing praises to our King. The principal of Jena High School was thrilled to see us there on his campus, politically correct or not, calling on the Name of Jesus for mercy and for grace. The Superintendent of Schools caught the spirit and preached like a Bible-thumping evangelist from a rickety pulpit. The “congregation” of our city gathered together in one accord to fight the spiritual wickedness that has bound us for so long. Perhaps the most touching moment of all was when the students, black and white, suddenly joined together on the football field and sang the alma mater hand in hand, special emphasis given to the line that states, "God keep safe thy fame." All convention was set aside for the higher purpose of finding answers. We called on our Savior to set the captives, all of us, free. In all my years I never saw it such in Jena, Louisiana.
Change comes in small steps. Time will tell if we have made any substantive progress. Perhaps, because we’ve waited so long to take up our weapons against racism here in Jena, change can come in this huge leap of faith that so many Christians of every race, class, and denomination have taken to save our children. Pray for us, and may God grant us success with each new step/leap forward in this battle for spiritual survival.