LOS ANGELES — Pastor Rick Warren countered the nation’s racially charged times that led to troubling events in 2017 by opening up the first church services of the new year at Saddleback with author and civil rights activist John Perkins center stage talking about dignity.
“Mankind was created to bare the image of God. Dignity reflects the soul; that dignity that God gave you. You don’t give dignity, you affirm it,” said Perkins while being interviewed by Warren during his message, “Loving Like Jesus in a Fractured World.”
In his announcement about Perkins’ visit earlier in the week, Warren stated that he asked him to join him at Saddleback in response to “so many sad flashpoints in 2017” and to help him talk “about the Christ-like response to violence, injustice, racism, and poverty.”
Introducing Perkins during the first of four weekend services at Saddleback in Lake Forest on Saturday, Warren said, “You may have never heard of his name, but in Christianity he’s a giant. He’s right up there with Martin Luther King Jr. and a couple of others who talked about dignity and unity and love and forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Perkins, 87, is an American Christian minister, civil rights activist, Bible teacher, author, philosopher and community developer, according to Wikipedia. Despite being a 3rd grade dropout, Perkins is recognized for his work with 14 honorary doctorate degrees from schools including Belhaven University, Lynchburg University, Wheaton College, Gordon College, Taylor University, and Northern Seminary. He has served on the Boards of Directors of World Vision and Prison Fellowship.
“If you don’t affirm people’s dignity you are going to have these uprisings all the time because dignity cries out,” said Perkins at Saddleback. “We’ve wrapped ourselves around our own political social idea and we’ve become that and [the attitude that] ‘if you don’t believe in that like I do we got trouble.’ It used to be that people wouldn’t love you, but they would get along with you. We called that tolerance, but now if I don’t fit into your socio-economic political deal you don’t like me. It’s hard to speak through that. We have to affirm that dignity.”
He added, “What we are doing is demonizing each other instead of embracing each other. Justice is a stewardship issue. Justice is how we steward God’s creation. We have to deal with the whole idea of the dignity of humanity.”
Perkins shared that churches in America have a troubled history.
“The church accommodating racism was a huge mistake,” he said. Perkins believes that the current social unrest is really “an opportune moment” for Christians. “I think we should be looking at this as an opportunity,” he said.
“There should be one place in the world where people actually get along together. It’s called the Church,” said Warren in agreement with Perkin’s sentiments. “If we are not helping people reconcile, we’re not the church. If we’re not helping people reconcile between each other, we’re not children of God.”
Perkins, who implied that the Black Lives Matter movement has led to further division in the country, said there is “only one race, the human race.”
“Reconciliation is not just an event, it’s alive. Reconciliation is ongoing, it’s a never ending ministry,” he said.