Editor’s Note: Volume 4 is finished, and we couldn’t be more excited to share it with you. Today we’re giving you a sneak peek into one of our favorite features of the magazine: an interview with civil rights giant Dr. John Perkins.
He may be 87 years old, but Dr. Perkins shows no signs of slowing down. His voice for justice has long shaped America’s civil rights history and continues to speak truth into the tumultuous times in which we live. During our interview he reflected on deep love, human dignity, and racial reconciliation—all through the lens of his final years of life. We couldn’t fit the entire interview in Volume 4, but the following excerpts were too good not to share. Enjoy!
“I began to be healed.”
When I was locked in the Brandon jail I came to the end. I’ve been to the end of life, I’ve [seen] what death looks like, what hate looks like. When I was in the Brandon jail, when those white folk were torturing me, I knew death was there. [But] I called out to God for help and he delivered me.
Then I looked at myself; my solution is the same as theirs, it might be worse…and that’s when I thought of the Gospel. God can save whites and blacks, Jews and Gentiles… I said, “Lord, if you let me out of this jail alive, I want to do that.” Then whites and blacks began to show love to me, and I began to be healed. We got to love each other, we got to get to know each other, we got to value life. [Jesus said,] “I’ve come that you might have life.” That is to be believed, it’s not to be handed out in little teacups.
The word “evangelical” comes from angels, a host of angels, that’s it what it is. It’s the angels singing. I go back to there, listen to what they said. The leader of the choir says: “Behold I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all people.” You hear me? To ALL people. I’m gonna defend this, especially I’m gonna defend all people. Life matters. All life matters.
Even now I’m really looking…human beings are looking more beautiful to me. And human beings together in a collective group, I like the color of that.
“What shall I do, I don’t know what to do.”
The Christian needs the mind of Christ all the time, and that’s what prayer is. I think prayer is sort of utilizing the mind of Christ. It’s saying I need thee, I need thee, and I’m listening for you Lord, I’m listening to you, what shall I do, what shall I do. I think that’s a powerful prayer. What shall I do, I don’t know what to do. What shall I do.
“It’s my response to His love.”
Justice really comes from humanity’s dignity. The biblical account is that God made man, created this humanity in his own image to reflect God in the world. He created man with the mission to go into all the world and reflect God. That talks about the preciousness of this creator’s love for humanity.
God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. What motivation, what passion that came from God would do all of that? It came from this: he wanted us to love each other, he wanted us to do justice.
So somewhere between love and justice, deep love then would be working out that justice. Deep love. And that deep love, I’m discovering it, comes from loving God. In the last year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is very, very difficult in this world to love our neighbors as ourselves and I’m sort of believing that I’ve got to concentrate on loving God, and I really think that loving the neighbor is God’s love. It’s my response to his love. It’s my gratitude for his love, so I praise him and in turn he gives me that will to want to love my neighbor. I want to do this more creatively with the end of my life.
“How do we make the seen visible?”
Truth is eternal vision, truth is what is relevant. How do we puncture the unseen, and how do we make the seen visible? That’s what faith is, and that’s a pressure to life, it’s acting by faith. Bringing the unseen into reality.
Portrait by Robbie Jeffers.