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Friday, January 18, 2013

Martin Luther King

I must confess that I am totally captivated by his speach, "I have a dream".  I've been told that he didn't even write this speech.  I guess I can't prove that he did.  I know history likes to raise questions, especially about prominent citizens who are swimming against the flow.  I've heard (and I confess used) derogatory epithets in reference to Doctor King.  I'm ashamed that I did.

It is a fact that with a flair for drama as only black preaching can bring it, Martin Luther King delivered this message on August 28, 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  In point of fact I lived through the sixties, grieving at the hate, violence and rebellion.  I heard King's speech, and I say it was a turning point in American history.  I applaud it even louder today than the day I first heard it.  

The crafting of the words "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." is wordsmith genius.  It tugs at the core of decency that may still reside in the bosom of everyone who is made in the image of God. 

Granted, the USA is rapidly losing its memory of--even working to jettison--any kind of Christian moorings.  But this appeal has to find harmonic vibs in the most jaded cultural cynic.  In a decade that saw little black Sunday School girls blown up by a hateful coward; that saw men and women clubbed and hauled away from all-white lunch counters, it was the right message at the right time.

And the most commendable feature is that this message was delivered with the restraint of non-violence.  King said, "But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred."

That works with a people that still has a Christian memory, to use a Francis Schaeffer phrase.  It wouldn't have worked in some other cultures.  As Gandhi counted on the sense of decency in the majority of Brits who read the papers, so King counted on the vast majority of American citizens who read about the abuse he took would also react.  He certainly realized that racial warfare is just plain wrong, and would have accomplished ends that were diametrically opposed to his intention.

I'm glad we have a holiday for Martin Luther King.

But I must confess that I am saddened when I mention Martin Luther, and my hearers think I'm referring to Dr. King.

1 comment:

  1. A great tribute, Rol. But I can't help but chuckle at your last sentence.

    I think the second ML was named after the first, though, wasn't he?