National Park Service

Image via RNS/Nigel Morris via Creative Commons

In one of his last official acts, President Obama has designated Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and other civil rights landmarks in Birmingham, Ala., as the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.

The designation protects the historic A.G. Gaston Motel in that city, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders had their 1963 campaign headquarters, as well as Kelly Ingram Park, where police turned hoses and dogs on civil rights protesters. And it includes the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where four girls died in 1963, after the Ku Klux Klan detonated 19 sticks of dynamite outside the church basement.

Parks and monuments tell our nation’s stories and shape our collective memory. Our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are where we learn, play, and pray. We treasure these places of beauty that reveal the wonders of our Creator. And today, on the centennial celebration of the National Park Service, we must pass on their spiritual and cultural significance from generation to generation.

Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. do not yet find their stories reflected or protected in our system of national public lands. While there are plenty of sites that honor military leaders or white historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison, there are far fewer sites that honor Native American, African-American, Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, or women’s history.

Lincoln Memorial, Oct. 6, 2013, closed due to government shutdown. Photo: RNS/courtesy Flickr user reivax via Wikimedia Commons

As the government shutdown enters its second week, some religious groups are starting to feel the pinch, and they’re also finding ways to reach out.

More than 90 Catholic, evangelical, and Protestant leaders have signed a statement rebuking “pro-life” lawmakers for the shutdown, saying they are “appalled that elected officials are pursuing an extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families” who won’t receive government benefits.

Starting Wednesday, evangelical, Catholic, and mainline Protestant leaders will hold a daily “Faithful Filibuster” on Capitol Hill with Bible verses on the poor “to remind Congress that its dysfunction hurts struggling families and low-income people.”

Subscribe