Dr. Richard Land: Moral Courage, Forgiveness March On after ‘Conscience of Congress’ Dies at Age 80
Southern Evangelical Seminary President and Other Conservatives Praise Former Congressman John Lewis’ Legacy of Civil Rights Activism
July 3, 2020
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Civil rights activist and thirty-three-year member of the House of Representatives John Lewis, D-Ga., died late last week at the age of 80, prompting condolences and praise from both sides of the aisle in and out of Washington, including conservative thought leader Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu). He was called the conscience of Congress.
Born to a family of sharecroppers, Lewis quickly became a prominent voice for civil rights, joining the Freedom Rides in 1961, helping to organize the 1963 March on Washington, and co-leading the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. The last of these was stopped short by violence on a day infamously remembered as “Bloody Sunday.”
SES President Dr. Richard Land, who is also an editor of The Christian Post, paid tribute to Congressman Lewis’s legendary impact on America.
“Despite being savagely beaten during the Freedom Rides in 1961 and at the ‘Bloody Sunday’ march in Selma in 1965, Congressman Lewis never strayed from his bedrock belief, shared with Dr. King and other civil rights leaders, that the nonviolent power to forgive is redemptive for all concerned — victim as well as victimized,” Land said. “He famously forgave the man who fractured his skull during the Freedom Rides, and he even accepted former Alabama Governor George Wallace’s apology in Wallace’s later years.
“John Lewis is an American treasure,” Land continued. “The arc of his life from lunch counter sit-ins to becoming a beloved Congressional leader should serve as an inspiration to all Americans to continue pressing forward to bring to fruition Dr. King’s dream of a nation where people ‘will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.’
“When John Lewis was once criticized for not being ‘black enough’ by those seeking more radical legislation, he replied, ‘I follow my conscience, not my complexion.’ May we all aspire to a similar moral standard for our beliefs.”
Lewis returned to Edmund Pettus Bridge for annual celebrations as recently as March 1, 2020, marking the 55th anniversary.
Land joined Lewis during an earlier annual reenactment of the bridge march, expanding a relationship previously confined to legislative issues.
“I had the privilege of representing Southern Baptists at one of the annual marches commemorating the tragic events of 1965,” Land said. “I had previously interacted with Congressman Lewis on several occasions on legislative issues, but it was especially moving to march with him across the infamous bridge in Selma.”
Land’s admiration for Lewis’s moral courage, and his appreciation of that monumental bridge walk, have spanned the years and continue to inspire Land’s own advocacy for civil rights under the laws of God and of the United States.
“The experience is one of the treasured memories of my life,” Land said. “And, for as long as I have breath, I will continue to fight for an America that stands for justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”
In addition to Land, other national thought leaders have praised Lewis since his death last Friday. Vice President Mike Pence, who walked with Lewis on the 45th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, called him a “great man whose courage and decades of public service changed America forever.” Congressman John Neal (D-Mass.) said Lewis “spent his entire life working to make America a better and more just place.” Former President George W. Bush joined the chorus, urging Americans to continue the march toward improvement.
“As a young man marching for equality in Selma, Alabama, John answered brutal violence with courageous hope,” President Bush said. “And throughout his career as a civil rights leader and public servant, he worked to make our country a more perfect union. America can best honor John’s memory by continuing his journey toward liberty and justice for all.”
Under Dr. Land’s leadership, SES continues to be known as an institution that equips evangelicals to articulate the reasons for their orthodox Christian faith.
SES teaches that both moral law and the unalienable rights of every man, woman and child are discoverable in and descend from natural law, the fullest revelation and expression of which is found in the Bible.
Read more about Southern Evangelical Seminary and SES President Dr. Richard Land, as well as his radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” which airs on nearly 800 stations nationwide, here. Dr. Richard Land is a leading voice of evangelicals in America. He serves as executive editor of The Christian Post and President of Southern Evangelical Seminary, a leader in Christian apologetics education.
To interview Dr. Richard Land of Southern Evangelical Seminary, contact Hamilton Strategies, Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108, or ext. 102.