Today, I am grading student papers about Ava Duvernay’s film Selma, Black Lives Matter, and the “Take a Knee” controversy.

My students get it better than many in the church of my evangelical upbringing did, where I so often heard, in response to African American protests, “Look at how loud and unruly they’re being.”

The sufferings of African Americans were, in my evangelical circles of the late ’70s and early ’80s, a subject for the occasional brow-furrowing. We were more likely to be spurred into action by an invitation to support missionaries in Africa, where our colored “neighbors” would remain far away, their needs something we could address at our convenience rather than something that was knocking on our doors or finding their way into our mostly white neighborhoods and pretty-much all-white churches and schools.

And we liked our art like we liked our protests — so innocuous and unchallenging that we could carry on untroubled by the ugly evidence of sin, by the idea that anything we were doing might be contributing to injustice, by the idea that anything costly or painful might be required of us to help the neighbors outside our front doors. (It was easier to toss money to faraway countries, like throwing pain-relief tablets into the ocean, and saying “I’ve done something.”)

The cracking of my own heart’s shell of ignorance and laziness, my slow awakening to my own responsibilities on these matters, is a fairly recent thing and it has only just begun. I’ve begun to see how, in my fear and shame, I was part — am still part — of the force causing the most disruption in God’s order, while the protestors are those bringing evidence of the Kingdom of God. I’m still prone to error and to inaction. So it’s best if I just hand the mic to my superior, my mentor, my teacher. Martin Luther King Jr. saw right through us, and he described our willful ignorance so well here, in Letter from a Birmingham Jail.