Tag Archives: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

The Most Segregated Hour

“It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King’s words are often employed when there is talk of Christ’s Church and its lack of cultural diversity in worship. It is said as a matter of fact and there is no sense that the persons who employ it also find it appalling. No, it is simply repeated, expressed without a challenge to our poor Christian witness and without a plan to change it. That race and its progeny do much to undue our declarations of the unconditional love and acceptance of God is never mentioned. It seems that it remains for “Christian America” a necessary hypocrisy.

I have heard persons say that it is because we worship differently, that it is because of cultural preferences and understandings of what this looks and sounds like.  But, to reduce the reason for the absence of diversity in American churches to worship style is too easy, too simple a conclusion.  And it’s an excuse not a reason.  The manner in which we celebrate God is not what separates us.  God has already told us how we are to worship: “in spirit and in truth” (John 4.24).  It is a posture not a particular practice that God desires and this should determine the manner in which we worship– if God is the focus of the Sunday morning service.

But, most often, this is not the case.  Our time spent with God is determined by our schedules, our social comforts and sinful, self- serving conclusions.  We treat Christ’s Church no differently than our homes, schools and local municipalities.  We know the way that persons are to live and who we want to live with us– even in the house of God.  How we continue to believe that we are worshipping “in spirit and in truth” while maintaining the racialized desires of our heart in God’s holy temple is a question worthy of discussion.

The truth is that eleven o’clock remains the most segregated hour because we don’t want to change the clock.   We are reliving history.  But, we would do much to relieve ourselves of its burdens if the Church in America would honestly and adequately address its complicity in the crimes of race (and this request is not one-sided).  We must confess the sins of race and seek forgiveness from God and our neighbor.  It will remain the most segregated hour so long as we do not see this as a judgment against us, the change as a part of the cost of discipleship and a priority of our faith.

Death by Silence

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Saturday, October 16, 2011, thousands gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  for the dedication ceremony of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.   Like many children, one of the first persons that I learned about when being taught African American history in school was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Though we began with American slavery, the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement, it seems that his name stuck out and that we stayed on the story of the Civil Rights Movement longer.  Perhaps, it is better said that the story stayed with me. 

He is remembered as the leader of the Civil Rights Movment, for sit-ins, boycotts and marches.  But, he is also remembered for his sermons, letters and speeches.  Dr. King was as a great orator, a courageous dreamer.  In fact, the “I Have a Dream” speech is listed as the greatest speech of the 20th century.  He was for me and so many others, a modern- day Moses, leading the children of America away from the turbulent history of racism and slavery toward the promised land and future of reconciliation and peace.  And though he will not get there with us, as he informed us during his delivery of the message now titled “I’ve been to the mountaintop,” delivered on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, I am encouraged this morning to keep looking up and to keep speaking this truth.

It has been said that silence is deadly but I would argue that we can also die silently.  What we knowingly prevent ourselves from saying and consequently, accepting can serve as one of the many little deaths of self that occur when living a racialized life.  With the acceptance and repetition of stereotypes, the practice of prejudice and self- segregation, we lose more of our voice, more of our unique presence.  We allow race to turn down the volume of our lives and in some instances, mute our very existence.  Persons say, “Speak truth to power” or “Speak the truth in love”; both of  which are directed toward others.  Today, I would challenge you to speak the truth to yourself as an expression of love and power.  Don’t just accept the constant attacks of race on your character and personhoood.  Don’t just sit back and say nothing to stop it. Talk and live.

Dr. King died but not quietly.  Even death could not prevent him from speaking; instead, it amplified his voice and enabled his message, which is but an expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to be shared with others.  His life will never end because he spoke about the things that matter.  He spoke the truth.  So, what are you saying?