The Rev. Louis Wilson, who grew up in the Chicago area, rioted as a teenager during the protests around the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Now he serves as a pastor of New Song Community Church, a Presbyterian Church of America congregation about two blocks from where Freddie Gray arrest site. He spoke to The Post on whether Baltimore’s religious leaders have influence and how Christians can navigate the tension between justice and peace. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you tell me about the influence that the religious community has in Baltimore?
I don’t think we have the influence that we think we do or that we had historically as an African American community. Someone might contest that. I remember a time that if the church had stood up and said peace, that’s what the community would have done. In that sense, we have not done justice towards reaching our young men in the last 20 years, so we don’t have authority over them.
Overall, the church in America doesn’t have the influence it had 20 years ago or 10 years ago. In that sense, it’s no different than any other community. The church has done a poor job in reaching people.
Who do you think has the potential to create change?
A lot of people who are getting attention don’t live here, and their churches aren’t here. When a lot of meetings are called, I can count on my hand people who live here who have invested their life in the community.
I think we need to reclaim the “moral high ground” in our community. Once the verdict is in and the media is gone, the people who are here will still have to deal with the problems. Later this week, we will host a small group to start an enduring community, a civic and community partnership that strives to have workable, sustainable solutions to address the issues of Baltimore.
We need an ongoing effort to be proactive before these events occur to frame a relationship. There has been negligence. There also needs to be a transformation in those systems and in our community. It takes respect and relationships. That’s basic marriage counseling. When you have mutual respect, you have relationships that lead to restoration. You have to have all three of those — respect, relationships and restoration — working together.
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