MLK Day is not a day for warm or fuzzy remembrances of a man who once gave an inspirational speech; rather, it is a day in remembrance of a man who was tormented, jailed, and ultimately killed for having the audacity to profess and advocate for basic principles of human decency, for an authentic commitment to the Christian values on which America purports to be built, and for a refusal to passively allow injustice to persist. It is a day on which we should all take stock and consider the ways in which we might be failing to live up to the ideals of active resistance in the fight to end systematic oppression.
The Reverend did not condone the color-blind rhetoric we employ today as a means of avoiding discomfort; rather, he embraced the call to be an active participant in the society in which we live, identifying and responding to institutionalized (and therefore persistent) forms of injustice, wherever they are found and without regard for attempts made as a means of veiling underlying prejudices or unequal outcomes trough layers of rhetoric, policy, and government programming.
He remained focused and committed to this goal, undistracted and undeterred by the naysayers and fear-mongers who besmirched his name, resisted his work, and levied hatred against this man who challenged their world order. Yet he did all of this without being afraid to reach across the aisle. This is the fundamental call of the Christian: to be honest and reflective, to not shy away from uncomfortable truths and realities, to be alert and consistent in our engagement of the injustice that is endemic to human society, to respond, to stand with the oppressed, and to do what we can to bring about a more perfect Union as a means of seeing God’s Kingdom come here on earth. We must do this all while surrendering to an all-encompassing Love, the eternal Truth, and the charge of a life lived in self-emptying sacrifice for the good of our neighbors.
The notion that racism, as well as other forms of injustice, has ceased, is not only false but dangerous in its yield to notions that our work is done, that we might rest, that we have no further need to fight such oppression – notions that are antithetical to the call of the Gospel. May each of us take stock today and reflect on the ways we might better participate in bringing this dream, this heavenly vision, to fruition in both our lives and our communities. Amen.
Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man!
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.