Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King Day

Today we marked the impact of Martin Luther King in our nation's history. With the Haiti earthquake dominating the news, the remembrance seemed to be passed over by the nation's media.

For me, I came face to face with the legacy of Dr. King while visiting the "birthplace" of sorts of the Civil Rights movement. Traveling with my cross country team to Montgomery and Birmingham Alabama back in 2007 enlivened my imagination to the impact one man, moved by truth, can have on a society. That man lived and died just as I was coming to be, but we live in a society distinctly different because of what he did.

I've been working my way through Taylor Branch's trilogy on the King years. (I'm two books in, close to 2000 pages read, and making the last tome the goal of 2010 ... it's a 1000+ pages alone!) Reading his history, which is almost too detailed at times, I've come to realize the complexity of King and the multi-dimensionality of the man and the movement.

Though he sought political and social change -- and got it -- what I think King never lost sight of was that racism, while being politically and socially charged, was (and is) really a "heart issue." It was no coincidence that the Civil Rights movement began in churches, it's power emanated from faith.

At times, King challenged the local church to get their act straightened out. Addressing the all-too-often practice of the church not practicing what it preaches, he railed, "It seems that I can hear the almighty God say, "stop preaching your loud sermons and whooping your irrelevant mess in my face for your hands are full of tar. For the people that I sent you to serve are in need, and you are doing nothing but being concerned about yourself." Seems that I can hear God saying that it's time to rise up now and make it clear that the evils of the universe must be removed. And that God isn't going to do all of it by himself. The church that overlooks this is a dangerously irrelevant church."

Powerful words for the 1960's ... and today. May I be the first to love with "Agape Love" (as King often spoke about) and think of others increasingly more than myself.

Here's an image I took back in 2007 of one of the pews inside Dexter Ave. Baptist Church, the church where King first started back in the 1950's.

I wonder, was it there then? What stories could it tell?

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