That’s Andrew Goodman, above. Fifty-six years ago this past Sunday (Father’s Day June 21, 1964) under a plan hatched by the Ku Klux Klan with assistance from law enforcement officials, he and two other young men, part of a massive black voter registration effort, were murdered by a mob on a lonesome road in rural Neshoba County in the heat of a summer night.

They had been in town investigating the Klan’s burning five days earlier of the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church out east in the Longdale community where a mob that included law enforcement beat some parishioners like Mr. Bud Cole nearly to death. I came to know Bud and Beatrice Cole and they were kind, humble, hard-working Christian people. He walked with a limp the rest of his life the beating was so severe.

Imagine your church being burned by a mob and the fear that some of my friends today felt as high school seniors then. Jewel hid the few gifts she’d received in the chicken house thinking the Klan might be back to burn their home. 

Andy Goodman, one of the young men murdered, was athletic, he loved the dramatic arts and he was a peacemaker, his mother, Dr. Carolyn Goodman, told my predecessor Stanley Dearman in a 1989 interview at her apartment on New York’s Upper West Side, the same apartment Andy left to come to Mississippi. Andy was 20.

Mrs. Goodman came to love Philadelphia and Neshoba County and I believe her trip to Mississippi in 2004 to meet with The Philadelphia Coalition led to the indictment of the man responsible for planning her son’s murder.

Under the threat of what turned out to be death for a few of us, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted by a jury of his peers 41 years to the day in a courtroom ringed — even down the center aisle — by uniformed Mississippi State Troopers. Getting anywhere near that man I could feel a presence of evil.

Standing up to the Klan in 1964 meant risking having your business burned, but there was no grand conspiracy by the town. Some might have been a little prejudiced but they were not for murder. They were mostly afraid, and it’s still unclear why the cancer erupted in Neshoba County because a majority of the people are good and decent. The sin of racism is as real today as it was then but less prevalent as hard hearts die off and as we strive to eradicate the hate by softening hearts with the Gospel.

In 1964, the Rev. Clay F. Lee, senior minister at The First United Methodist Church of Philadelphia, was outspoken about the murders and preached one sermon where he left the pulpit in tears comparing the suffering to Jesus. There were two Klansmen in the church, a judge and an insurance salesmen, who were for running Clay Lee off. 

But the Administrative Board met one night in what was said to have been a tear-jerkering discussion about right and wrong and the Gospel and voted unanimously to ask the Bishop to bring Clay Lee back — unprecedented in the Methodist Church.

On Sunday, for the first time, First Methodist formally participate in the memorial Mt. Zion has put on faithfully for 56 years with an ensemble singing the spiritual “I’ll Fly Away.” The church had quietly helped with the rebuilding of Mt. Zion in 1964 and provided its Family Life Center as a meeting place for the Coalition.

Our great country is in the midst of a purge that is dangerous. Every revolution carries with it the seeds of its own destruction and we are starting to see it when they set up one of these zones and start shooting each other. 

We can overcome evil and justice can be served when people seek objective truth in Christian love and do the right thing.

Mt. Zion streamed the memorial on Facebook with about 50 attending in person. One of my friends who faithfully organizes the memorial shared in 2004 the shame of being forced as a child to use the “Colored” waiting room, the same doctor’s office we went to as kids. I can’t imagine, but it’s helped me understand the anguish.

Another friend as a teenager remembered white men in the back of pickup trucks with “Rebel flags” riding around their neighborhood at night firing shotguns and their family ducking behind the couch. I can’t imagine, but it’s helped me understand the anguish.

Just a few years ago a man who is the son of our church janitor when I was a kid told me about going to work with his dad in the 60s and walking into what he described as a large and beautiful sanctuary and declaring: “We could come here.” His dad made him walk 8 miles home. (First Methodist during that time eventually adopted a policy of seating everyone regardless of skin color, but you will never hear about that or Clay Lee’s call because it does not fit the narrative of systemic racism.)

People want a change with our state flag, but they don’t want to be alone and they certainly don’t feel comfortable lining up with liberal elites who insult us at every turn as if we’re ignorant deplorables just because we don’t believe in abortion or 56 genders, yet we can still strive love others who are not like us.

Our country is at a breaking point. Erasing history is not an answer and neither is ignoring the anguish. We are one in the human race, the sons and daughters of Adam, wretched sinners saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.

If you’re trying to figure out what’s going on from a Christian worldview perspective, the root of the problem is cultural Marxism and the deconstruction of Western Civilization that’s long been a threat but made easier as lines are blurred with the rise of relativism in a world where there are no obsolete truths. 

Cultural Marxism is an infection of the mind and it happens when a culture systematically purges the entire political, economic and cultural life of a country and inserts a bland Godless framework where there are no absolute truths and everybody falls in line with the left-wing ideology. There are purges and opponents are executed.

Conservatives have long guarded the front door of economics and policy, but meanwhile, the cultural Marxists have broken in the back door and indoctrinated our children at schools, university, in the media and even at church. 

We have lost the culture and it’s evident by the mobs — not peaceful protesters — in the streets with the chaos and rioting. And strangely, government policies are keeping us out of church and distanced, forlorned and dejected unable to even sing hymns. It is hard to believe where we are.

We are in the fight of our lives, but we need to remember what happened on hallowed ground at places like Mt. Zion. We can stand with the congregation as they memorialize these young men — James Chaney, 21, and Michael Schwerner, 24, were the other two heroes — who by their deaths gave an entire swath of the human race liberty they didn’t really have but are guaranteed under our Constitution. 

Our Declaration of Independence says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

Andy didn’t know exactly what he was getting into, his mother told me, but he understood the danger and was willing, part of his pursuit of happiness that led him to seek freedom for others in a selfless denial not seen today.