*Nearly a half-century later, his statement about church segregation still is largely true.
For (Martin Luther) King and other Christian theologians, the tragedy of church segregation was both political – one more sign of the racial divide still prevalent in America in the late 20th century – and theological. Christianity was supposed to break down racial barriers.
In his New Testament letter to the church at Galatia, the apostle Paul wrote, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek” – Jew and Greek, for Paul meant different races – “for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
It was, and remains, a grand statement of how the Christian church, by definition, breaks down racial distinctions and sweeps them away. That hasn’t happened in America.
While congregations have become more ethnically and racially diverse, the integration has been modest. And it has been mostly a one-way street: More blacks are attending white churches but not vice versa, according to Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology, religion and divinity at Duke University and director of the National Congregations Study.
Chaves said there has been a significant increase in the presence of some minorities in predominantly white congregations.