Honoring Dr. King: Changed Attitudes not Cheap Platitudes

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“Failure is not failing to reach your dreams—failure is not having a dream. Failure is not setting a goal and missing it—failure is not having a goal. Failure is not falling down—failure is refusing to get back up” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The man definitely had it…a dream.  A dream of a different world where humans wouldn’t just coexist but have true community.  It was a world with shared lives, hopes, journeys, experiences, joys, sorrows…  Some thought it a fantasy, others resorted to brutality, but yet others sought to make it reality.

As I survey our broken nation in 2013, less than an a couple hours after our first black president entered his second term, I see that we haven’t traveled far enough in 50 years.  Words like dignity, equality, humility, and liberty are still either mystical or mythical.

  • 1/5 people will go to bed hungry tonight
  • The recession of 2008 has added 1.5 million to the already 3.5 million homeless people
  • 40% of the homeless are under 16, 1/3 are veterans
  • Of the courageous 750,000 veterans of the Iraqi and Afghan Wars, 1/5  suffer from PTSD, 180,000 are injured, 250,000 are unemployed, 10,000 are on the streets
  • Dozens of laws that are more discriminatory towards certain segments of the population than others
  • The battle for marriage equality continues to rage in statehouse after statehouse
  • 55 million American citizens have been brutally murdered by the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
  • Pay “equity” still needs substantial improvement
  • Racism still continues to tear apart our cities

While millions are quoting Dr. King and other social and philosophical revolutionaries on Facebook statuses and Tweets, the fact is, while there has been far reaching progress in civil rights and equality, Dr. King’s Dream is in many ways still a dream and simple oratorical brilliance.  The roots of prejudice can be traced way beyond the first riots in the mid-20th century – they were more than prevalent during the birth pangs of the United States.

“…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”  These are the immortal words penned in the summer of 1776.  It was a declaration of separation and independence from the tyranny of the British Crown.  Shortly after achieving victory over General Cornwalis, the former English colonies gathered together to determine America’s future.  237 years later these words are also a dream unrealized, completely anyway.  While they may be self-evident on paper, many are still blinded to it.  While we may have been created equally, we are far from egalitarian.  The unalienable rights are too often out of reach to many because of the pride and selfishness of the few.

The Convention of 1787 brought into existence the first drafts of our U.S. Constitution, the very fabric of our law system, including the Bill of Rights which guarantees the most basic freedoms of our citizens.  For this document to pass, a series of compromises were required.  Educated, affluent, and “godly” men came together to represent the interests of their regions, many of which were in regards to slavery.  Slaves were not regarded as people but as property.  The census of 1790 boasted an American population of 4 million people but close to a million were slaves.  Though many were opposed to slavery, they compromised believing that their labor was necessary to build the country.

Many of our founding fathers made bold statements against slavery but were in actuality slave owners themselves.  So as Christian leaders cry out for us to return to the roots of our nation, let’s open our eyes to the fact that in many ways, we never left them.  Our roots aren’t as godly as we deem them to be.  While we attempt to tap into the minds of our Constitution’s framers, be careful…we might not like what we see.  It would require the 14th Amendment to guarantee Equal Protection Under the Law for all people and remove highly discriminatory statements like “other persons” (slaves) as three-fifths persons for the purposes of apportionment.

It’s going to take more than constantly replaying powerful quotes.  The end to injustice will require more than political pandering, petty bickering, empty rhetoric, and endless obfuscation.  We are going to need a powerful move of God’s Spirit in the White House, the courthouse, the schoolhouse, the church house, and even my house.  Change must take place in the hearts of God’s people as they humbly seek Him, repenting of sin and wickedness.  Racism in the Church must be abolished, services must be diverse, women in ministry must be celebrated, reconciliation must be abundant.  Then maybe we will see true transformation in society.

I believe there is a time when Dr. King’s dream will be realized fully.  It won’t happen through human effort, though we must continue to strive to be better.  The Bible describes the future in Isaiah 11 as a time when “He will defend the poor and the exploited. He will rule against the wicked and destroy them with the breath of his mouth.  He will be clothed with fairness and truth.  In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard and the goat will be at peace. Calves and yearlings will be safe among lions, and a little child will lead them all.  The cattle will graze among bears. Cubs and calves will lie down together. And lions will eat grass as the livestock do.  Babies will crawl safely among poisonous snakes. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes and pull it out unharmed.  Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain. And as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the LORD.”  Former enemies and adversaries will dwell together in perfect harmony and peace.  It will be unlike any other time in history.

God promises a place where “He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4).  There will be no more black or white, rich or poor, accepted or rejected, majority or minority, recognized or marginalized.

Thank you Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for your valor, sacrifice, perseverance, faithfulness, and the legacy of your DREAM.

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