A top lieutenant to Martin Luther King Jr. was sentenced Wednesday in a Virginia court to 15 years in prison for incest for having sex with his teenage daughter.
The Rev. James L. Bevel was a key architect of the 1963 Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, Ala., and other pivotal moments of the civil rights movement. He was convicted after a four-day trial earlier this year in Loudoun County Circuit Court.
I never met Bevel, but I have read about him enough to know that this is a tragedy for all who knew him. Bevel was a gifted prophet who was a major force behind the movement for racial equality. However it often seems that the most gifted are often the most troubled as well, and no one ever could accuse Bevel of walking the straight and narrow road. He was a known womanizer, someone who was accused of taking the command to love our neighbor a bit too literally. I cry knowing that a force for good in the world was also taken over by evil and engaged in inappropriate acts with his own child (he was said to have fathered 16 children). He’s been a troubled man for quite a while, but his leadership was essential to the movement.
what do we do with the marriage of greatness and weakness,
justice and injustice,
love and selfishness.
Bevel was a man who would die for freedom,
but who was trapped in his own brokenness and humanity.
The wounds are deep, for Bevel and his daughters,
not easily healed, and still bleeding.
Only you have the power to bandage and sooth,
to provide solace in the midst of tragedy,
so as Bevel would have expected,
get to work God, for there is a lot to do here.