Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr

Loving the Dream

Dr. KingFirst a confession: I’m really good at loving people…in theory. I’ve been taught how to look empathetic, how to mimic body language and at least look like I’m paying attention. I know what you’re supposed to do or say when someone is hurting.

On paper I’m pretty good at loving people.

I’ve read lots of books about loving God and loving neighbors, and I’ve given lots of thought about how to help other people love other people.

In fact, the only problem for me when it comes to loving people, is the actual people.

I also come from a generation is very cause driven. Most of the people around my age are passionate about good causes and making a dent in the universe. I think Dr. King is partially responsible for that.

Ever since I heard the story of the civil rights movement in the 60’s I’ve been drawn to the kind of ministry and churches that are working for a more Just world. I’ve read and heard a lot of Dr. King’s sermons.

I love the dream.

But all of this is not enough. Because loving the dream is much different than Dr. King’s dream of loving.

Just a few months before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. preached a sermon at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church:

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize; that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards; that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.

Now I love that Dr. King said don’t tell everyone about my Nobel Prize, or my hundreds of other awards. Because in saying that, he has in fact told them about it.

I love this because I can see myself doing something like that. (Not winning the Noble prize, just the subtle bragging.)

I love it because it makes Dr. King more human, it makes me see him more as a person. Which is the beauty of his point.

I read a survey a few years ago, that said 6% of white people in America, think that racism is still a problem. To help put that in perspective, consider this: 12% of people think Elvis may or may not be dead.

But 93% of African American people think that racism is still a problem. And, at least in the world that I grew up in, and know today, they are right. Maybe not racism the way we might think of it. Not many people I know call each other names out loud, but it’s the more insipid kind.

It’s the kind that comes that involves loving ideas more than the people that are behind them.

A couple of years ago, I started testing myself. I started looking at my calendar and cell phone to see who I was regularly interacting with. I wanted to ask myself the hard question of who am I spending my time with…really. Am I spending time with people who are only like me?   Am I living the dream? Or just loving it?

Because no idea is more important than loving people. That’s What Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to tell his church.

You can’t love the dream. You can love people.

That is the dream.

So Thank you Dr. King for trying to love someone.

More Than Civil

So this video was filmed right in the middle of the African-Americans starting to do sit-in’s on southern eating establishments. They were breaking several unjust laws, and forcing the issues of racial prejudice and injustice back into the forefront of the American white people. African Americans were being arrested right and left, and so Dr. King, as the leader of this national strategy, was brought onto the Meet the Press show to give the rationale behind this movement.

He was 31 years old.

Which is convicting in itself for me. That just happens to be my age. By the time Dr. King had lived as long as I had, he had a command of national issues, a passion for justice, and a strategy that was starting to pick up steam. I’m realizing I just might play too much Xbox.

But here in this video, Dr. King is taking quite a bit of flack, he’s being asked some hard questions by some white reporters who seem to be feeling some anxiety associated with the spirit of that age (not to mention some poor fashion sense). And Dr. King never loses his calm, he never responds belittling or with anger. Heck, he never even mentions that thing that the woman reporter is trying to pass off as a hat.

Now there is a couple of observations in here for us. For all the reporters logic, and sense, they seemed to be unaware that they were speaking squarely with the voice of the status quo. Their imaginations had been captured by the spirit of the age, and they could not see it. It’s always a danger that when God sends a prophet people won’t be able to even consider the possibility that they could be wrong and he or she could be right. We build monuments and bridges for Dr. King today, but in his day, in many of the circles that celebrate him today, he was considered as favorably as a turd in a punchbowl. There is a real danger of not doing a fearless self-inventory when we hear someone who disagrees with us, or calls us to something beyond what we currently think

The second thing that stands out about Dr. King in this video is how he treated these people, and how he responded to the face of some pretty insidious seeming questions. He was extremely civil. In our day, these kinds of conversations would have been filled with graphics, sound bytes taken out of context, and lots of yelling and red-faced name calling. It makes for some great entertainments, and some horrible people.

But that wasn’t what Dr. King’s dream was. Continue reading More Than Civil

Living the Dream

So this past November, Leslie and I took our family to see the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. The Museum is filled with a history of the civil rights struggle from the emancipation of slavery, to the well-organized boycotts and sit-in’s of the 50’s and 60’s. And it ends in the actual hotel room where Dr. King was assassinated.

It is a Thin Space between Heaven and Earth.

In this museum, you can see the actual bus that Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on. You can see the leather portfolio that Arthur Shores smuggled Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” out with. You can even see the gun that ended Dr. King’s life.

But across the street from the museum, you will see something else. There is a single protestor. Her name is Jacqueline Smith, and she has protested the museum without fail for the last 15 years. Since the museum was opened she has vocally spoken out to anyone who will listen.

Now, before you get the wrong idea, you need to know that Jacqueline Smith is an African-American who is all for Dr. King’s dream, and by no means is trying to desecrate his memory or his mission. But she knows what a lot of us don’t. She knows that when they first started the museum in 1987, the powers in charge had to clear out a lot of apartments to make space for the memorial. The problem was that these apartments were government housing. A lot of low income people lived there, and now they were out.

In order to honor a man who dedicated his life fighting for the underpriviledged, we kicked out the very people his life was oriented around helping.

Or at least that was Jacqueline Smith’s position. Continue reading Living the Dream