Tag Archives: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Race is not the way

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“Once we start paying attention to Jesus’ way, it doesn’t take long for us to realize that following Jesus is radically different from following anyone else.”

| Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “The most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”  We repeat his words as a matter of fact, not as a challenge.  It has been named and noted.  But, rather than shake our heads in agreement, I ask, “What are you going to do about it?”

Don’t just change seats; switch churches.  Get up and follow Jesus somewhere outside of your comfort zone, gated community, tradition, perspective, cultural and personal experience, worship style.  Jesus did it and if we are following Jesus, we should too.  Don’t spend your whole life pointing out the problem.  Don’t just shake your heads; put your heads together.  Figure it out.  Solve it.

Because Jesus doesn’t go the same way everyday, talk to the same people all the time or travel in the same neat circles.  There is nothing routine or traditional about his ministry or his message.  Jesus was not the expected Messiah, the predictable Savior.  Persons did not point to him and say, “I knew it was you!”  Just listen to the people who were around him who asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  And hear his own disciples who questioned if they really knew him, “What kind of man is this?”

Because if you meet Jesus and do not walk away from life as you knew it, then you did not meet Jesus.  If you and I can meet Jesus and return to our regularly scheduled programming, then we may have met Jesus but we do not know him.  Life with Jesus does not consist of a mere introduction but a lifelong conversation to include long walks like those with the disciples on their way to Emmaus.  We need to listen to Jesus until our hearts burn (Luke 24.32).

If we can remain hard- hearted when it comes to race, then we need to have more than “a little talk with Jesus.”

Because isn’t it a sad commentary that Christians in America cannot come together one day a week for an hour or two, that though Christ prayed that we might become one, it is hardest to answer and to embody this prayer on Sunday (John 17.21)?   That we have integrated businesses and schools, hospitals and cemeteries, buses and hotels, lunch counters and restrooms but not sanctuaries?  That praying hands still section themselves off to worship the God who “so loved the world”?  That a space marked sacred still has the signs of segregation hanging above its doors, that our churches secretly or unconsciously signal, “For white people only” or “For colored people only”?

If anything, Sunday should be the one day that we can come together.  Or, is the Holy Spirit not at work or unable to overcome the challenges of our flesh?  What do we walk in if not the Spirit and where are we going if we are not walking in the spirit of truth (Galatians 5.16; John 16.13)?  We cannot claim the creative power of God, the resurrection power of Jesus and the fire power of the Holy Spirit but continue on as if powerless to challenge and change the social realities of race.  What of this new identity in Christ?

During this season of Lent, we are called to give up our carnal cravings, our fleshly feelings in order to shorten the distance between us and Jesus.  Friends, I assure you that race is not the way.  We are no closer to Christ than when we first begun if we put anything before or in front of Christian: black Christian, white Christian, Republican Christian, Democratic Christian, female Christian, male Christian.  Christ is all or nothing at all (Galatians 3.28; Colossians 3.11).  Following Christ is a one way street and it leads to Calvary.  We cannot continue to follow the prescriptions of race and claim we want to go all the way with Jesus.  Because it is a death walk; race and our racialized identities simply cannot survive.

Declining the invitation to hate

Image result for jagmeet singh with hecklerRev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a pastor, civil rights leader and martyr, said this in 1958, “A fifth point concerning nonviolent resistance is that it avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him.”

Jagmeet Singh, a candidate for the New Democratic Party in Canada, was hosting a meet and greet when he was faced with hatred.  Unwarranted but not unwelcomed by Mr. Singh, the heckler was shouted down by participants with the words “courage and love.”  She had misidentified Mr. Singh as a Muslim; he is not.  And even when corrected by an attendee and offered the opportunity to speak to a Muslim, she declined.  She wanted to speak to him because in her words, he was a supporter of Sharia laws and “in bed with the Muslim brotherhood.”  For the record, he is a practicing Sikh.

He reminded the audience, “What do we believe in?  We believe in love and courage.”  He went on to say to the woman, “We welcome you.  We love you. We support you. … We believe in your rights.”  To which, she could offer no full- throated response and eventually left the gathering.

Rather than fight hate with hate, Mr. Singh showed the courage it takes to love in the face of a finger- pointing, misplaced attack and blame.  Misidentified and pre- judged, Mr. Singh would not stoop to her level but raised the conversation above the rhetoric and to ensure that her shouting did not drown out his mission, he repeated it to the crowd: “love and courage.”  He declined the invitation to hate.  He responded in a post yesterday as to why.

He refused to hate her.  And that takes heart and guts.  Because the easiest members to control are the hands, feet and mouth.  We are taught to keep our hands to our selves, to quiet our feet, that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  But, who regulates the heart and soul of a person?  The heart and the will call for a higher sense of personal identity and responsibility for which no human law can govern.  Not only did Mr. Singh rise to the occasion, he rose up to a true expression of himself.

Here’s to love and courage!

The Burden of Hatred

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“I have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

~ The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, we remember the work and witness of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It is terribly unfortunate that we are still marching, protesting, singing, “We shall overcome.”  Another generation has come and we are singing the same song, still holding on to hope, still holding out for change.  He died and we are complacently quoting him.  We will repeat his words but are we willing to sacrifice as he did?  It may take some dying– if only to self.

Instead, of passing hatred back and forth, it would require that we put down this boulder because it is more than a chip on our shoulders.  It is more hurtful than a pebble in our shoes.  And it only slows us down.

Without it, we could really walk in the shoes of another and make some real progress.  We are remembering his birthday and all we have is a monument to show for it.  We have not followed in his footsteps; instead, we take pictures of his.

We have not come to realize or accept the weight in our shoes.  It is hatred that causes us to drag our feet toward forgiveness and reconciliation.  We would rather carry it, then drop the façade that we are tired, hurting and in need of help.  But, I have resolved that we shall overcome only when we come over to our neighbor’s side– not just when it is convenient or supported by society.  But, when the burden of love crushes that of hatred into pieces so small that nothing of our maneuvering can put it back together, then we shall overcome… ourselves.

 

Tearing Down the ‘White’ Wall of Silence

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There has been much talk about the “blue wall of silence,” that is the expectation, the unwritten rule, the code shared among those who wear blue and carry a badge to protect and cover for their fellow officer.  They have to stick together; it is the police officers against a dangerous world.

They will take care of each other.  The police officers take care of their own.  No different than the gang culture, it simply means, “Don’t snitch.”

It’s not unusual.  No one wants to experience betrayal and everyone wants to believe that there are those that they can depend on.  The problem occurs when having their back requires that you and I turn a blind eye and keep our mouths closed when we see them do something immoral and illegal.  Ironically, instead of speaking out against injustice wherever they see it, some police officers keep silent if it comes from within the ranks.

For these folks, there are borders, restrictions, blue lines that should not be crossed.

There is good silence: contemplative silence, meditative silence, shocked silence, where we find ourselves at a loss for words.  All of this is normal silence.  Then, there is bad silence.  When we are a witness to hurt, harm, danger and even death and we say nothing.  Instead, we excuse, defend, deny, rationalize, justify and demonize the person affected– every single time.  It is not a new phenomenon or a new problem.  The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. openly rebuked his Christian and Jewish brothers who did not speak out and step out in faith with their African American brothers and sisters during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.

I wonder if this same sentiment is true of European Americans, of those socially colored white as a culture.  Is there an unspoken rule, a cultural expectation that persons do not turn on those of their own culture?  I would not be surprised as it would be an expression of white pride, a distortion of appreciation and respect for heritage and history.  To be sure, the same could be said of any other culture who frowns on the airing of dirty laundry.  The difference is the dehumanization, depreciation, devaluing, damaging and even loss of life that happens as a result of keeping quiet.

Pastor Martin Niemoller’s poem “First They Came” is a frightening reminder of the dangerous effects of silence. Still, nothing worthwhile is done without risks.  So, before you speak up, let me offer you these warnings.  Before you open your mouth:

  1. You will have to talk back to yourself, confront yourself, challenge your thinking as it relates to race and its progeny.  What do you really believe?
  2. You will need to deny your deny racialized self, laying down your position of social power due to the privilege of whiteness.  In other words, you will need to turn in your white card.  Who are you really without it?
  3. You will need to reject the lies that have kept you comfortable.  What stereotypes about oppressed groups have aided and abetted your silence?
  4. You will need to accept your responsibility, your complicity in the crimes and cruelties committed against persons that are not socially colored white.  What have you really done?
  5. You will need to release power and control of the outcome, of the land and resources that the social construct of race say are your divine right.  What are you holding onto?

Start answering these questions and the white wall of silence will come tumbling down.

_______________

See also: Jack E. White, “The White Wall of Silence,” Time Magazine, June 6,1999

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” August 1965

 

Crammed

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“Unity has never meant uniformity.”

~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait

It is American to group, to lump together, to form insider and outsider groups. It is essential for the machinery of capitalism to function properly.  Our ongoing arguments keep its gears oiled.

While fiercely declaring our independence and defending our individualism, we live in bulk. We take on more meanings than we understand, can handle or digest.  We are not using all of the words that we take home with us.  But, we pick them up and take them on just in case– because you never know when we might fit this stereotype or need to use this prejudice.

The idea that we have to buy into belonging and membership is the goal.  The social invention of race has always been a matter of economic arrangement, a lie that was good for business.  It maintains the goal of hierarchy through prejudicial ascent.  The products have changed but the arrangement is the same.  But the lie that we need race in order to live and exist in community needs to be discontinued.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is still right.  Our unity is not made possible in the belief that we are all the same.  The hope of the race-less gospel is not homogeneity or the denial of difference, the banishment of reality for some nonexistent “La- La Land.”  In order to get on the same page does not mean that we are saying the same thing but that we understand and can appreciate the other person’s perspective without attempting to change their mind or reduce the importance of their experience.

Instead, the aim of this ministry of reconciliation is to accept our differences, to seat persons for fellowship no matter what of our cultures we bring to the table. And it also means that we leave our low expectations, our poor and unfounded assumptions at home.  There is simply no room for them.  It’s tight enough already without cramming in things for which there is no space or purpose.

And I’m not scooting over.