Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965

By Davis W. Houck; David E. Dixon | Go to book overview

§7 Dr. J. R. Brokhoff

On December 19, 1913 John Rudolph Brokhoff was born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. He received an A.B. degree from Muhlenberg College in 1935, an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.Div. from Philadelphia Lutheran Seminary in 1938. That same year, Brokhoff was ordained as a Lutheran minister. He received an honorary doctorate from Muhlenberg in 1951. Dr. Brokhoff served churches in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia before becoming a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University in 1965. An active scholar, Brokhoff’s theological work is still held in high esteem.

In addition to his work as a pastor, professor, and writer, Dr. Brokhoff served as president of the Christian Council of Atlanta from 1950 to 1952. He was president of the Mecklenburg Minister’s Association in Charlotte, North Carolina from 1960 to 1961. He also served as secretary of the Protestant Radio-TV Center in Atlanta, Georgia from 1948 to 1954 and as a board member of the Academy of Preachers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1982 to 1984. Brokhoff authored several books. In 1966 he received the George Washington Medal from the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. He retired from Emory in 1979. Brokhoff died 24 years later in 2003 on December 8. His papers are housed at the Pitts Theological Library at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. J. R. Brokhoff delivers a powerful speech before his Atlanta congregants, seeking to upend much of the contemporary thought on Christians and their role as catalysts for change. Brokhoff argues against common perceptions of Christ. Jesus did not meekly go along with the social norms and conditions of his time, as witnessed repeatedly in the New Testament. Jesus did not shirk from the responsibilities of what he knew he must do in the pursuit of justice and his calling. He went forth, making waves, and his example challenges us to do the same—even if we are called Communists. We must not shirk the responsibility we bear for the actions demanded of us. Brokhoff insists that if we love Christ and call ourselves Christians we must do as Christ did. We must open our hearts and minds. We must be kind to our enemies and those from whom social norms tell us we must separate ourselves. We cannot hide behind a façade of what is socially acceptable. If it was good enough for Christ, it is good enough for us. Only in directly confronting and solving the great social evils of our time can we truly follow Christ as Christians. One such evil is the “racial situation in our country.” Christ compels the church to disturb her segregated nation and world.


The Disturbing Christ

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Atlanta, Georgia
August 22, 1954

“And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold …”

˜ Luke 19:45

-65-

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