Marching in Synch with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

 

 

mlkdaymarchDenise and I attended the Springfield NAACP Martin Luther King Jr March and Celebration this morning.  The marchers gathered in the MediaCom Ice Park beforehand.  Making our way through the crowd I saw Steve Pokin a friend and reporter for the Springfield News-Leader.  I respect Steve so much and thoroughly enjoy his columns.

I stopped to say “Hello” and then saw that Steve had in his hands the tools of his trade: a pad and pen.  Merging friendship and work together, Steve, asked, “And why are you here?”  

I was caught off guard… After linking a few disjointed thoughts together, I shouted out to Denise who was talking to someone else, “Hey, Niese, look who’s here!  Steve Pokin.  He has something to ask you.”  

As we marched through downtown Springfield I thought more about Steve’s question:  “Why am I here?” 

I’m here because Dr. King and I have something in common.   Dr. King wrote about his early life, “I grew up in the church.  My father is a preacher, my grandfather was a preacher, my great-grandfather was a preacher, my only brother is a preacher, my daddy’s brother is a preacher.  So I didn’t have a choice.”  

I too grew up in church.  My father, both grand-fathers, one great-grandfather, three uncles were preachers.   Preaching/Pastoring felt a bit like a family-business.  

I love his pastor’s heart.  I love that his drive toward social justice came from the spirit of Christ.  He heard Jesus say to him, “Stand up for justice.  Stand up for truth.  And lo, I will be with  you until the end of the world.”  

*  I’m here to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and to publicly align myself with his ideals – Love over hate.  In a sermon delivered to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, November 17, 1957, Dr. King expressed the heart of the movement in these words, ““To our most bitter opponents, we say, ‘Do to us what you will and we will continue to love you…Throw us in jail and we shall love you.  Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall love you…We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.’”

“We must meet hate with love” were his words then.  I want them to be my words now.

I’m here to express solidarity with others in the march.   I want to align myself with them as well.  In a sermon deliverd in 1954, Dr. King directed his words toward whites, “I have seen many white people who sincerely oppose segregation and discrimination.  But they never took a real stand against it because of fear of standing alone.”  

Denise and I weren’t alone this morning.  We stood and marched with a diverse group of people – diverse in color, income, religion – but united in love and the desire for justice.  

”The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruely by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people,” Martin Luther King, Jr.  

I am not saying I am good and others are bad.  I am saying I do not want to be guilty of oppression, cruelty or silence.  I was there because I want to be:

  • A good person.
  • A vocal person. 

The official march came to an end about hour later…but Denise and I want to continue the march.  I’m reminded of a hymn we sang in the Baptist church of our childhoods, 

Come ye that love the Lord, and let your joys be known.

Join in a song with sweet accord, Join in a song with sweet accord.

We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion

We’re marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God. 

Then let our songs abound and every tear be dry.

We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground.

To fairer worlds on high, to fairer worlds on high.

We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion

We’re marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God.

We had joined people, in song, in sweet accord this morning.  Together we will continue to march to create a fairer world, a beautiful city of God, of shalom, fulfilling Jesus’ prayer that: 

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven.”  

Happy MLK JR Day

stick-with-love

I so appreciate what  Martin Luther King Jr. did…

… and the way in which he did it – through “enemy love.”

In June 1956 (the month and year of my birth), a federal district court ruled bus segregation unconstitutional; the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling in November 1956.  It just blows my mind that it took our court system to right such a wrong as racial segregation.

The Montgomery Improvement Association sent the following letter outlining how people should conduct themselves on the newly integrated city bus system.

bus-letter

Sound familiar?  Have you ever read or heard anything like that?  Go back and read it again.

Quite the contrast to what we see and hear today.

Let’s continue the work.
Let’s continue in the spirit in which the work was done.

 

Martin Luther King Jr., Slavery, the Bible, and Us

Image

Today is the day we have set aside to give national recognition and much deserved  honor to Martin Luther King Jr.

The battle for civil rights was fought on many fronts.

Dr. King appealed to us as Americans, taking us back to our founding documents which declare  the “self-evident truths that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”  Politically, Americans had to choose between being an American as defined by the Constitution and Declaration of Independence or being racist.

The civil rights movement was a spiritual movement.  Dr. King was also Rev. King. On this point, the matter gets more complicated.  You wouldn’t think so.  To our minds, slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, racism, prejudice just don’t fit with the Christian life.    It was not always so.

Growing up in Little Rock, I am well aware of the stain of a segregation mentality. Growing up a Southern Baptist, I was not aware until sitting in a Baptist History class in a Southern Baptist college that the founding of the SBC was all about slavery.  Foreshadowing the Civil War, white Baptists in the South separated from their northern counterparts on May 10, 1845, and formed the Southern Baptist Convention  in order to defend the South’s practice of and dependency on slavery.

Slavery was biblical.  Abolition, therefore, was sinful.

On January 27, 1861, Ebenezer Warren, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Macon, Georgia, delivered a sermon in which he said, “Slavery forms a vital element of the Divine Revelation to man.  Its institution, regulation, and perpetuity, constitute a part of many of the books of the Bible…The public mind needs enlightening from the sacred teachings of inspiration on this subject…It is necessary for ministers of the gospel…to teach slavery from the pulpit, as it was taught by the holy men of old, who spake as moved by the Holy Spirit…Both Christianity and slavery are from heaven; both are blessings to humanity; both are to be perpetuated to the end of time …. Because Slavery is right; and because the condition of the slaves affords them all those privileges which would prove substantial blessings to them; and, too, because their Maker has decreed their bondage, and has given them, as a race, capacities and aspirations suited alone to this condition of life ….”

Wow.  Such a view, a view which its holder claims to be grounded in Scripture, staggers my mind. But he wasn’t alone.

All you history buffs may know Mark A. Noll.  He authored, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.
Great read.
Eye-opening.
Instructive for us in regard to Bible interpretation and application.  The book is a case study in hermeneutics.

It seems that pro-slavery pastors and Christians appealed to specific Scripture verses in support of their position, while anti-slavery pastors and Christians appealed to the general Biblical principles of justice, mercy, and love to support theirs.

Henry Van Dyke, Presbyterian pastor in Brooklyn, wasn’t comfortable with the abolitionists hermeneutics.  Noll quotes him as saying, “When the abolitionists tell me that slave holding is sin, in the simplicity of my faith in the Holy Scriptures, I point him to this sacred record, and tell him, in all candor, as my text does, that his teaching blasphemes the name of God and His doctrine.”

The problem was, the pro-slavery folks had a lot going for them in the way of proof-texts (Exodus 21:20-21; Deuteronomy 20:10-11; 1 Corinthians 7:20,21; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 6:1 to name a few).

The same verses and interpretation used to support slavery were used to support segregation a century after emancipation.

What then was the Biblical basis for Rev. King’s call to unity and equality?
What’s the Biblical basis for us making the same call?

The same basis used by the abolitionist…

Noll says that the abolitionists appealed to the “broad sweep of Scripture” moving away “from the Bible’s ‘letter‘ of sanction for slavery to its ‘spirit‘ of universal liberation.”  In 1861, abolitionist Gerrit Smith said, “The religion taught by Jesus is not a letter but a life.”

Do you see the dilemma?

Noll’s book is not just a look at history.  It’s a look at ourselves and how we use the Bible.