David French Falsifies Civil Rights History at Easter to Shame Christians for Acting Like Citizens

By John Zmirak Published on April 20, 2023

Laurie Higgins offered a measured but necessary rebuke here at The Stream to David French’s Easter screed for the leftist, Church-bashing New York Times. French compared Trump supporters and election integrity protestors to the violent bandit Barabbas. And to the mob that screamed for Barabbas, but howled to crucify Jesus.

As Higgins pointed out, this wasn’t the most winsome, pastoral attitude for French to strike toward his fellow Christians on our holiest feast day, over a disagreement on presidential politics. Faction über Alles isn’t a good look for Christians. In fact it’s the kind of worldly attitude which NeverTrump moralists routinely attribute to populists, among our many scarlet sins.

The Will to Power vs. the Will to Justice

Higgins made excellent points, but she skipped lightly over one issue which strikes me as crucial, of much greater importance than French himself, his faction, or the quarrels to which they cling. French denounced the “Christian will to power,” and condemned as Barabbas fans conservative believers who seek such power via democratic politics.

In stark contrast, French claims, stood the marchers of the Civil Rights Movement, who modeled themselves on Jesus and (like Him) scorned earthly thrones. They didn’t seek power, but “justice.” French cites Rep. John Lewis as an example of such unworldly, non-violent witness.

A Fetish in a Cargo Cult

There are two responses possible to French’s claims. The first, most common one, is to nod complacently and refuse to think them through. He whispered the magic spell, invoked the one cause held sacred beyond all reflection, and pronounced the secret shibboleth. The … Civil. Rights. Movement. At this point shudders of awe should be running down all our spines, and we should be kicking off our shoes on such sacred ground.

Cracker, please! That movement was indeed morally justified, and the last great moment of unified Christian moral witness in America.

Saying all that is different from making the movement a fetish in a politicized cargo cult. For decades, politicians of both parties treated Rep. Lewis as a kind of living saint because of his courageous civil rights work — even as he promoted the mass abortion of black babies and the enfeeblement of black Americans by the welfare state.

The New, Woke Gospel of the Antichrist

Nor should we act like progressive Christians and embrace every political “liberation” movement that came along and grabbed its mantle — from women’s liberation to gay liberation and now transgenderism, soon to be followed (4,3,2,1) by liberation for “Minor-Attracted Persons.” That’s “pedophiles” to you and me.

If you don’t think that’s coming, just speak to a Groomer near you — at your local school library’s drag queen story hour. (Telling, isn’t it, that French has called such groomer events “one of the blessings of liberty”?)

The Truth About the Civil Rights Movement

Here’s a second response, which doesn’t entail embracing the Woke cult’s exciting new gospel of Antichrist: To tell the truth about the Civil Rights Movement, which is that it was … (sacrilege alert!) a political movement, like any other. Like the pro-life movement, or the gun rights movement, or the movement to protect little kids from groomers.

No, it wasn’t a spiritual crusade, different in kind and more pristine than say, the abolitionist movement or the anti-Communist movement. It was a quest for political power in pursuit of a vision of what is Good, using legal, non-violent, democratic means.

“Non-Violence” Is Just a Tactic

French tries to make of the Civil Rights embrace of non-violence some radical imitation of Christ. Maybe it was for some, but first and foremost it was a brilliant political tactic. It showed up the brutality and unfairness of a segregated society for the sympathetic reporters and TV crews of sympathetic national media. Newspapers and TV networks highlighted the violence, which shocked a nation deeply imbued with Christian moral sentiments, disgracing the South and its system. 

The non-violence tactic often fails. It’s useless when media are unsympathetic to a political movement’s cause. Operation Rescue was every bit as non-violent as the Civil Rights Movement. But when police beat old ladies with batons and dislocated the shoulders of teens at abortion clinics (this happened to some of my friends) news editors wouldn’t broadcast it. I used to circulate battered video tapes of police violence against pro-lifers. None ever showed on TV. 

Likewise the savage violence employed by the Capitol Police against unarmed, peaceful January 6 protestors was hidden from the light of day. A hostile media managed to paint the victims of January 6 as “insurrectionists,” who deserved to be maced, beaten, or even shot dead like Ashli Babbitt. David French plays a part in that effort, still repeating those hollow falsehoods, like a pro-segregation reporter based in Birmingham, Alabama in 1960. 

For some of that hidden footage of thuggish police behavior, see Julie Kelly’s coverage here. The videos are embedded. WARNING: The police violence here is disturbing.

Are You Planning to Repeal the Civil Rights Act?

Civil Rights marchers didn’t employ non-violence merely to change people’s minds and hearts, but to change the law — to make one type of activity which some Americans favored (racial discrimination) illegal, punishable via the violent coercive force of the State. Just like murder, robbery, and fraud.

If you want to deny that the Civil Rights Movement was a political effort aimed at wielding political power, ask yourself this: Why did all its leaders favor the Civil Rights Act, and the construction of a massive federal bureaucracy aimed at enforcing such anti-discrimination laws in housing, employment, education, and voting rights? If they were engaged in an apolitical quest for spiritual uplift, they wouldn’t have gotten the coercive power of the State involved, any more than Billy Graham’s “crusades” sought to actually conquer the Holy Land.

Here’s a neat way to test French’s claim. If the Civil Rights Movement wasn’t political, then the Civil Rights Act was a mistake, a gross misreading of the intent of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lewis. We ought to apologize to their families and repeal it.

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Something tells me that isn’t right, and that they wouldn’t be on board.

So David French’s grand, moralizing dichotomy collapses like a sandcastle at its first brush with the facts. There’s nothing left of his “Barabbas” charge against fellow Christians for trying to pursue justice in the public square, to act by democratic means to direct Caesar’s sword. Nothing left except his unwise advice and hollow moralism.

Meanwhile, dozens of non-violent January 6 protestors are still being savagely persecuted by the State — after thousands of violent BLM and Antifa rioters walked free. That’s Anarcho-Tyranny in action: Anarchy for me, Tyranny for Thee. Maybe French should obey Jesus’ injunction and visit the J6 dissidents in prison. He might realize that they are the real heirs of the legitimate Civil Rights Movement.


John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”

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