An essay entitled, “The Bible and Civil Rights,” by Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Executive Director Kevin Smith is one of the many articles in the new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Study Bible published in 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Included with over 16,000 study notes, tools, and word studies, these essays give in-depth coverage to major biblical/theological issues. One such issue is the topic of civil rights, as acknowledged in the book of Philemon, which inspired Smith’s article.
He noted that “the Bible was central to the thought, rhetoric, and development of the Civil Rights Movement,” pointing to the example of popular civil rights’ “I Have a Dream” speech, which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered on August 28, 1963.
“The speech reflected King’s criticisms and hopes for America set in the language of the prophets of the Old Testament,” Smith writes, pointing to the biblical phrase, “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24) included in King’s speech.
Even more powerful was when King said he dreams of a day when “every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:4-5).
“It should not be taken for granted that the celebrated leader of the Civil Rights Movement was a black preacher,” Smith says, stressing its importance. “The central intellectual strain behind the movement focused on the issue of the equality of all humans, since they were ‘created… in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).’”
Smith asserts: “It would not be a stretch to suggest that the Civil Rights Movement would have lacked moral fiber (and one might further say divine blessing) without the underlying truth claims drawn from the Bible.”
A revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), the CSB strives to be “meticulously faithful to the ancient Scriptures and exceptionally clear to understand.” For over 20 years, more than 100 Bible scholars from 17 denominations translated the HCSB from the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. Learn more at https://csbible.com. — Shannon Baker