Reflections on MLK Day
Today, in the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy of work on behalf of the forgotten, the minimized, and the marginalized, take a little time to reflect on his message and on the state of your community, our nation and world. What can we celebrate? What bright shoots of beloved community have appeared around you? Where has hope taken hold and love led to justice? Where is the hard work of reconciliation ongoing? And where does evil still lurk or pose uninhibited? Where does division and violence plague our streets and families? How do we remain alienated from one another and who is being oppressed? In what ways must you take on the role of prophet and speak truth to power on behalf of those who are voiceless? Who can you empower to raise their own voice? How do these prophetic words critique your own life? Do you need to sacrifice something, to redistribute your own unequal stash of power?
The following are some of my favorite MLK quotes, a few of which you probably haven't heard before. Read them slowly. Don't assume that they confirm what you already think. Let them challenge you in a new way as they are doing for me as I am typing them out. And, finally, open yourself to the incredible love that King announced, the love of God that fills you up until you can't help but spill it out all over your neighbor...
"Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority....In spite of this prevailing tendency to conform, we as Christians have a mandate to be nonconformists. The Apostle Paul, who knew the inner realities of the Christian faith, counseled, "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." We are called to be people of conviction, not conformity; of moral nobility, no social respectability. We are commanded to live differently and according to a higher loyalty." *
"But the real reason that we must use our resources to outlaw poverty goes beyond material concerns to the quality of our mind and spirit. Deeply woven into the fiber of our religious tradition is the conviction that men are made in the image of God and that they are of infinite metaphysical value. If we accept this as a profound moral fact, we cannot be content to see men hungry, to see them victimized with ill health, when we have the means to help them. In the final analysis, the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied together. They entered the same mysterious gateway of human birth, into the same adventure of mortal life." **
"In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be." *
"We must avoid extreme optimism--the notion that we have come a long way and have nothing to do but await the inevitable. We must also avoid extreme pessimism--the notion that we have come nowhere and can do nothing to alter our lives. We must say realistically that we have come a long way, but still have a long way to go. We must realize that change does not roll in on wheels of inevitability, but comes through struggle." ***
"What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love. There is nothing essentially wrong with power. The problem is that in America power is unequally distributed." **
"The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state and never its tool. if the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority." *
"We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity.... We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. This may well be mankind's last chance to choose between chaos and community." **
"Above all, we must be reminded anew that God is at work in his universe. He is not outside the world looking on with a sort of cold indifference. Here on all the roads of life, he is striving in our striving. Like an ever-loving Father, he is working through history for the salvation of his children. As we struggle to defeat the forces of evil, the God of the universe struggles with us. Evil dies on the seashore, not merely because of man's endless struggle against it, but because of God's power to defeat it." *
*Strength to Love
**Where Do We Go From Here?
***first address as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, Holt Street Baptist Church, Dec 5, 1955