Daily Archives: January 20, 2014
The nation will mark the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday (Jan. 20) with speeches, prayers and volunteer service.
But for decades, retired United Methodist Bishop Woodie W. White has marked the holiday in a more personal way: He writes a “birthday letter” to the civil rights leader who was killed in 1968.
“It was a way to get kind of a year’s assessment on what the nation was accomplishing and not accomplishing in the area of race,” said White, a bishop-in-residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology for the last decade.
[Michael] Gilbreath (a CT editor at large) hearkens back to the 1963 Birmingham civil rights campaign, to the world of Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and other heroic Christian leaders. Today, we idolize these figures for leading a beleaguered people to the Promised Land. But as Birmingham Revolution makes clear, the civil rights movement was no slam dunk. Uncertainty, scarce resources, and outside hostility could have ground its progress to a halt.
The Birmingham campaign was pivotal. On the heels of defeat in Albany, Georgia, victory in Birmingham restored the movement’s momentum. Failure could have crippled it, by drying up funding, discrediting the nonviolent method, and validating fears that the leaders were””take your pick””extremists, rabble-rousers, too Christian, not Christian enough, too Southern, or insufficiently urban.
How””amid the noise and ambiguity, the internal struggles and self-doubts, the bone-deep weariness and constant fear of death””did the Birmingham leaders maintain their focus? And how might their example instruct the church today? Gilbreath gives four answers.
National Religious Freedom Day, being marked today in the United States, reminds us that freedom of religion or belief is a pivotal human right, central to this country’s history and heritage. It is also recognized as such by the United Nations and other international bodies. Yet the issue frequently sparks debates that too often generate more heat than light.
That the mere mention of religious freedom triggers such powerful emotions, in the United States and overseas, helps explain why this critical right has not been accorded the centrality and respect it deserves, especially as a component of U.S. foreign policy. But whatever the reason, the United States must still look closely at the issue ”“ and why it is key to successful U.S. foreign policy.
In the past three weeks, Charlton Fisher went from wanting to die to wanting desperately to live.
From his bed at Forbes Hospice, Mr. Fisher, a maintenance worker from Jamaica whose heart is nearly nonfunctional, made a dying wish — to see his wife, Marion, and daughters, Ashley, 11, and Asha-kay, 3, one last time.
The anticipation of their visit from Jamaica and Saturday night’s reunion has revived Mr. Fisher. Where on Dec. 31, his first day in hospice care, his skin was gray and he was unable to stand up or talk without sacrificing too much energy, on Sunday he was walking around, slow and weak, but improved.
That’s not the typical trajectory of a hospice patient.
In America’s poorest ghettos, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s portrait is one of the most popular subjects of public art. These images, which I have been documenting since 1977, regularly appear on the walls of the liquor stores, auto-repair shops, fast-food restaurants, mom-and-pop stores and public housing projects of Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and many other cities across the country. The majority are the work of amateur artists. Though Dr. King is usually front and center, he is often accompanied by other inspirational figures: Nelson Mandela, John Paul II, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Pancho Villa. He is often accompanied by his famous phrase, “I have a dream” ”“ a reminder that in many of the communities where these murals exist, the gulf between hope and reality remains far too wide. — Camilo JosÃ© Vergara
Americans err if we believe that it’s only a black responsibility to right the social wrongs of racial inequality. It’s a white responsibility, too ”” and a Christian responsibility. Why Christians? It’s not that other faiths can’t do their part as well, but Christians ”” by sheer number and religious tradition ”” could be our best hope.
History shows that the teachings of Christianity hold an undeniable power to inspire positive social movements and call Americans to conscience, as they did during King’s time. Many Christians will be the first to tell you they should be held to a higher standard ”” because their religion insists on it.
Let’s improve educational and economic opportunities for African-Americans. Let’s acknowledge and root out the racism that mocks the American ideal. Let’s reject the harmful message of the prosperity gospel and reclaim the best of the nation’s black church tradition, with Christians ”” white as well as black ”” leading the charge for the dispossessed.
As the distinguished columnist Roger Cohen recently reminded, it is on the matter of race where one finds the greatest gulf between American behavior and American ideals. Will history find the same gap between Christian behavior and Christian ideals?
At 87, the Rev. C.T. Vivian can still recall the moment, decades after the height of the civil rights movement.
As he stood to conclude a meeting in his Atlanta home, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. joined his activist colleagues in song, his eyes closed, rocking back and forth on his heels.
“There is a balm in Gilead,” they sang, “to make the wounded whole.”
As [Ralph] Abernathy tells it”“and I believe he is right”“he and King were first of all Christians, then Southerners, and then blacks living under an oppressive segregationist regime. King of course came from the black bourgeoisie of Atlanta in which his father, “Daddy King,” had succeeded in establishing himself as a king. Abernathy came from much more modest circumstances, but he was proud of his heritage and, as he writes, wanted nothing more than that whites would address his father as Mr. Abernathy. He and Martin loved the South, and envisioned its coming into its own once the sin of segregation had been expunged.
“Years later,” Abernathy writes that, “after the civil rights movement had peaked and I had taken over [after Martin’s death] as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” he met with Governor George Wallace. “Governor Wallace, by then restricted to a wheel chair after having been paralyzed by a would-be assassin’s bullet, shook hands with me and welcomed me to the State of Alabama. I smiled, realizing that he had forgotten all about Montgomery and Birmingham, and particularly Selma. ”˜This is not my first visit,’ I said. ”˜I was born in Alabama”“in Marengo County.’ ”˜Good,’ said Governor Wallace, ”˜then welcome back.’ I really believe he meant it. In his later years he had become one of the greatest friends the blacks had ever had in Montgomery. Where once he had stood in the doorway and barred federal marshals from entering, he now made certain that our people were first in line for jobs, new schools, and other benefits of state government.” Abernathy concludes, “It was a time for reconciliations.”
Read it all (my emphasis).
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
You can find the full text here.
I find it always is really worth the time to listen and read and ponder it all–KSH.
Almighty God, who by the hand of Moses thy servant didst lead thy people out of slavery, and didst make them free at last: Grant that thy Church, following the example of thy prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of thy love, and may strive to secure for all thy children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Almighty God, who didst call Fabian to be a faithful pastor and servant of thy people, and to lay down his life in witness to thy Son: Grant that we, strengthened by his example and aided by his prayers, may in times of trial and persecution remain steadfast in faith and endurance, for the sake of him who laid down his life for us all, Jesus Christ our Savior; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Almighty God, the giver of strength and joy: Change, we beseech thee, our bondage into liberty, and the poverty of our nature into the riches of thy grace; that by the transformation of our lives thy glory may be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
–Church of South India
Make me to know thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me, for thou art the God of my salvation; for thee I wait all the day long.