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Posts Tagged ‘justice’

In putting together my post for MLK Day 2012, I have spent the week pondering the oft-ignored import of it as a national holiday. It is more than an excuse for stores to have more post-Christmas sales or a reason for kids and teachers to enjoy a day off. It is not just a token federal holiday intended to appease the minority voters. In 1983, when President Ronald Reagan signed the national holiday into law, he was acknowledging the important work that Dr. King did in bringing equality to all citizens, a fundamental belief on which this country was built.

Back in January 2009, the day before the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first American president of ‘color’ (or however the heck you state that in a politically correct manner), Mr. Rick Warren, popular minister of the 22,000-member Saddleback Church, gave the keynote address at the annual birthday service for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta.

The whole thought of Rick Warren speaking on Dr. King’s day made me absolutely sick. I support Mr. Warren’s intent to bring God into the national conversation, to make religion a part of everyday lives. I admire his chutzpah in forcing political leaders and celebrities to discuss and confront issues of faith. And I admire a religious leader who calls for Christians worldwide to confront the global problems of AIDS, extreme poverty, climate change and disease in third world countries.

But I do not and cannot support his call for the social, political, and religious exclusion of those he (as a flawed human being, just like the rest of us) deems unworthy. In my own personal formulation of Christian behavior, I cannot condone the messages of intolerance and judgement that seem to be very much a part of his very fundamental Christian beliefs. For all of you fundamentalists out there, put away the poison pens – I just don’t happen to have the same world view as many of those churches. My own personal framework of beliefs is much more liberal, that is all. I would like to think that I will be judged by my Father, not by a human being who runs a superchurch and holds sway with newscasters.

I have written before about my mixed-race marriage, on my stance on gay marriage and about the importance of diversity in our world. Dr. King’s work alone has inspired 3 of my posts, all hoping for a more equal, just world. Obviously, I am very much a student of the lessons that Dr. King taught about equality, justice, and freedom. I have also been struggling with a major crisis of faith since the collapse of my marriage – yes, I am divorced and therefore subject to Rev. Warren’s derision – and have been doing a lot of soul-searching about the meaning of God’s forgiveness and what it means to be a Christian in the modern world.

Jesus himself healed blind men and lepers, kept company with prostitutes, beggars, and thieves. If our Lord was able to treat those people as equals, with the right to be treated respectfully, why can’t we do that? What makes any one human being feel that he is better than anyone else, good enough to judge others?

Would our Lord truly think it appropriate that any church (purportedly operating in His name) run websites, online chat rooms, television interviews and major media campaigns to ostracize these people? This church’s scope of national publicity is astounding – and very upsetting to those of us who happen to believe that God loves all.  Reverend Warren, and many others like him, teach lessons that include the exclusion and vilification of  homosexuality, divorce, abortion, sex outside of marriage, and a variety of other behaviors. I am not arguing that those behaviors are or aren’t morally, Biblically, or ethically wrong – I am arguing that we as human beings and children of God have the right to NOT be publicly ostracized for our actions. As my friend Pastor Drew has told me a number of times, Jesus went to the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, big and small.

In reading back on MLK Day 2009, it turns out that I was not the only one opposed to Revered Warren’s participation in the King’s Center’s events – that day, about 100 protesters with signs reading “No bigotry in MLK’s church” and “We still have a dream” gathered outside of Dr. King’s former pulpit. I think there were much more appropriate selections that could have been made for the keynote address – perhaps one of the thousands of civil rights protesters that had marched in Selma or took their turns as Freedom Riders; perhaps one of the millions of black Americans that have lived in a world much different than their ancestors because of Dr. King’s work; perhaps one of the many celebrities that actually knew Dr. King personally. So many other, better, less offensive choices!  I was so disenchanted with The King’s Center’s choice in speakers in 2009 that I actually put pen to paper and wrote a personal letter to Mr. Dexter Scott King. In thinking about my article on Dr. King for MLK Day this year, I got to thinking about that letter. I want to share it with you now because I still (after 3 years) feel so strongly on the topic – Mr. Dexter Scott King may not have been affected by my words but maybe someone out there in the great internet cosmos might be:

19 January 2009

Dexter Scott King, Chairman

The King Center

449 Auburn Avenue NE

Atlanta, GA 30312

To the honorable Mr. King and the board of directors for the King Center;

I am writing to you today to express my incredible disappointment with the King Center’s choice for Rev. Rick Warren as the keynote speaker for their annual celebration of Dr. King’s birthday in 2009. How unfortunate that a man who actively campaigns against gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose was chosen to commemorate a man who gave his life to protect our rights.

Although I personally do not condone abortion, I firmly believe that all humans have the right to choose what is medically best for their body. And while I cannot say that I have done scholarly research on Dr. King’s spiritual and political beliefs on matrimony, I would like to believe that he would have supported any human’s civil right to enjoy the equal opportunity to be legally married. Fifty years ago, I myself would have been in a marriage that was considered socially and legally inappropriate – I am a white woman married to a black man. I owe Dr. King a personal debt of gratitude for the efforts that allowed me to publicly declare my love for whomever I choose. How then, in Dr. King’s  honor, can the King Center overlook one man’s actions to block the civil rights of any human being and select him as their keynote speaker?

Does Mr. Warren not realize the incredible hypocrisy it took to stand on the pulpit of Dr. King’s church and speak about Dr. King’s struggle for equality – and then return to his activities to prevent equalities for entire populations of American citizens?

I am disappointed in the King Center for having made this choice. With so many notable and active people in America struggling for racial, social, ethnic, educational, and economic equality, I believe there were many others who would have and could have made a more effective and less divisive impact. I suggest you take the time to listen to Colin Powell’s speech that he gave in Minnesota yesterday – what a truly remarkable tribute that was!

On this most auspicious occasion, as we stand on the eve of inaugurating our first United States President of color, what a true shame that the keynote speaker for the King Center was one who regularly preaches exclusion and intolerance under the cloak of fundamentalist morality!

I have a very deep and very sincere respect for Dr. and Mrs. King and the legacies that they have left behind. I can only hope that their hard work will continue through the efforts of the King Center. Thank you for what you do to keep the King memory alive.

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As I have grown older and witnessed the vast inequities in our world, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has become a hero of mine, the voice in my subconscious always urging love, tolerance, peace, nonviolence, and diversity. I have written before on the inspiration that Dr. King has given me in my personal life but today I write about the inspiration that I pray every day he will give to all corners of our society.

On the great day in which he delivered the famous “I Have A Dream” speech, he was speaking specifically on the topic of the racial crisis facing this country. But when Dr. King speaks of rights, promisory notes, and dreams of equality, he was not only talking about equality for black and white but also men and women, gay and straight, rich and poor, young and old, Christian and Muslim. His words painted a canvas of freedom and justice – and almost 50 years later, while we have made amazing progress, that painting is still unfinished.

I am always amazed when I hear Dr. King speak of his hope for a world where blacks and whites can eat together at the same table. Considering that I was married to a black man (and I’m so white, I’m neon), the world has come a long way! In Dr. King’s time, in some areas of the country, I would have been arrested (or worse!) for being with a black man – nowadays it’s not so uncommon and certainly not prosecutable. So many of my friends are of different colors, ethnicities, and backgrounds that it makes the violent and disciminatory realities of Dr. King’s world seem unbelievable. Our world is so much more diverse and tolerant than I’m sure anyone of that era could have ever imagined. And yet, even the most idealistic and naive amongst us can see that there is still progress to be made. There are still inequalities in this world to be solved, injustices to be made right, and discrimination to be overcome.

I, too, have a dream that someday this world will be full of people who treat each other with love, kindness, and fairness. I have a dream that someday physical attributes will not be the ruler by which people are measured – that someday, we will consider ‘pretty’ to be in someone’s soul. I have a dream that skin color, economic status, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation will not be factors in how we judge people – that we will love them regardless of these factors and be influenced only by ‘the contents of their characters’. Dr. King has taught me a lot about the kind of person I want to be and I am sure that I will continue to learn from his words and his actions.

So, I invite you all, on today of all days, to take some time out of your life to view the video of this great orator from August 28, 1963 – and maybe say a prayer for peace and equality and love in the world.

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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