The Common Good
July-August 1998

McCrackin's Witness

by Kyle Childress | July-August 1998

I READ IN the recent issue of the death of Maurice ("Mac") McCrackin. Your
words and memories sparked my own ("Hearts & Minds," by Jim Wallis,
March-April 1998).

I READ IN the recent issue of the death of Maurice ("Mac") McCrackin. Your words and memories sparked my own ("Hearts & Minds," by Jim Wallis, March-April 1998). He was an amazing man who in my brief encounter with him made an important impression upon me.

I remember the Peace Pentecost of which Wallis wrote—Mac’s quiet refusal to cooperate with the authorities and how they quickly separated him from the rest of us. When we were in the holding cells in the basement of the courthouse, a couple of marshals dragged Mac into the cell, twisting his fingers and thumbs backward trying to force him to cooperate and punishing him at the same time. Mac was crying and telling them to stop but never giving in.

We were all loaded on buses and taken to the D.C. jail under the intimidating care of the U.S. Marshal Service and then crowded into more holding cells just inside the jail, waiting to be officially fingerprinted and processed. Just down from me were several guys shooting up last-minute drugs. We waited and waited. Finally, the front door opened with the two marshals dragging in Mac. Still they were bending his fingers and thumbs, still he was crying for them to stop, still he would not cooperate. They dragged him to the fingerprint table and when he would not voluntarily put his fingers on the ink stamp-pad, they forced his fingers onto the pad by further twisting and bending them.

At the same time, the holding cells had erupted with cries and shouts from the other prisoners. The guys near me, who had been so intense on their drugs, were jumping up and down screaming at the marshals and yelling for Mac not to give in to them. One fellow climbed up on the bars shouting, "Hey man! Don’t give in! Don’t let them break you!" He jumped back down onto the floor near me and said, "Hey man, who is that old guy, anyway? He’s something." I told him that he was arrested for protesting the U.S. support of terrorists in Central America and that he was a preacher who had spent his life fighting for peace and justice. The fellow looked back through the bars at Mac and said, "He’s a real man."

I will never forget what he said about Mac and what it means for the church. There I was, a middle-class white preacher having a conversation with a young African-American from a very different kind of life on the streets of D.C. What could I say to him? What could the American middle-class church say to him? Nothing. But Mac could say plenty. In fact, he had already said plenty.

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