April 4, 1968. Fifty years ago, a dreamer died. His “I have a dream” speech remains one of the most memorable to Americans. His life and its witness are unforgettable. Engaging faith and civil disobedience, he turned the world’s understanding of church upside down. Putting his body on the line, he became a martyr for a cause of freedom from the social construct of race, from socioeconomic and political exploitation and oppression, from the militarism of daily life and living.
His words challenged racism as usual, the normalization of hatred and communal terrorism. A Baptist minister, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is a part of the prophetic tradition of the Church, joining the likes of Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi and so many others. A dream challenged in his day is a reality we hope to see in ours. We need more like him— not consultants or experts but dreamers.
Today, we sit down together across cultures and time, sharing sacred space in the spirit of unity. Rev. King’s dream is being fulfilled in us right now. His vision is in our sights.
And if you are not satisfied with the results thus far, if you feel that we have done enough, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. writes in Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
“A final victory is an accumulation of many short-term encounters. To lightly dismiss a success because it does not usher in a complete order of justice is to fail to comprehend the process of full victory. It underestimates the value of confrontation and dissolves the confidence born of partial victory by which new efforts are powered.”
His dream does not simply continue as a hope in our hearts or even a vision for the future. Instead, King’s dream provokes us to not close our eyes but to open our hearts to what is possible and what can be if only we choose to see. And somebody’s got to do it. Somebody’s got to dream.
Happy New Year! Now, before all of confetti is accounted for and removed, before the balloons begin to deflate, returning to their natural state, before you and I lose the momentum of the moment and the newness of this year rubs off, I want to ask you to do something. I know that it will not make the top ten for most resolution lists. Diets and dating are likely competitors. They will fight to the death. Still, while we are aiming to make ourselves new, I thought we could try something new, try to talk to someone new, someone different from ourselves in ways that don’t matter and for which God “pays no mind.” These differences were God’s idea, you know.
I want you to resolve to form new community in places and with people you would not otherwise. This will require not a series of steps but a calculated intention and authentic conviction to break race’s form and segregation’s tradition, to introduce yourself to others, invite persons to share space and time with you and invent new ways of being with persons of different cultures, experiences and languages. You may not lose weight or find the person of your dreams but you will have gained something much fuller and deeper.
“If we wait for some people to become agreeable or attractive before we begin to love them, we will never begin. If we are content to give them a cold, impersonal ‘charity’ that is merely a matter of obligation, we will not trouble to try to understand them or to sympathize with them at all. And in that case, we will not really love them, because love implies an efficacious will not only to do good to others exteriorly but also to find some good in them to which we can respond.”
I don’t think that there are words to cover the ground of 2016, the depth of loss and grief, the seemingly endless reports of violence, a divisive political election and loss of notable famous faces. More than usual or at least in recent memory, there was a desire to be out with the old and to bring in the new. Many of us could not wait for the year to be over. Happy New Year. A declaration, hope traveling on the wings of a prayer, we have made resolutions and cast visions for our future self. We will be better, greater, more than the year before.
We are scratching people off of our lists while creating reading lists. It is a time of reflection and review. Last year, this blog has noted some changes of its own. Reaching countries and walking through the minds of people in South Africa, the Philippines, Germany, Italy, Libya, Turkey, the Netherlands, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, the Czech Republic, Russia, Argentina and so many others. Bringing in increased daily traffic through promotion on social media, I aim to create content that not only speaks to the moment but anchors our convictions as God’s race-less children.
While I love all that I write, I have my favorite posts and according to the statistics, so do you. One of your favorites is not even a blog post but a page, “Defining Race- less,” which speaks to the importance of this message. I am grateful for another year to unpack and explore the meaning of the race-less gospel of Jesus Christ with you.
Here are the top reads of 2016:
Black Disadvantage: Unpacking the Obvious Baggage of Blackness
The Benefits of Racism
It’s not a multicultural church if…
It’s not a multicultural church if… (Pt. 2)
Now You’re Thinking
Camara Jones talks about race and racism using allegories
The Benefit of a Name
Howard Thurman’s I will light candles this Christmas
An Advent Prayer: God is with all of us
From Christmas lists to New Year’s resolutions, we have numbered our hopes of making others and ourselves happy. But, there is but one resolve for the Christian, the Great commandment. Matthew records, “When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22.34-40). We can hang our lists on this too.
Happy New Year! Thanks for your support of the work and witness of the race-less gospel of Jesus Christ as we continue to make this one resolution our reality.