I knew better than to go to bed at 8:30 last night but falling asleep my chair was giving me a neck ache. So I’ve been wide awake since 3 am, mostly reading A Testament of Hope, a collection of Martin Luther King writings, speeches and sermons.
Over coffee last week the wisest of men guided me to these primary texts after listening to my fumbling angst over national events and personal conversations on race. He was so very patient with me and kind beyond measure. Here are some of my notes:
~ Christian love is the regulating ideal of the civil rights movement. Non-violent resistance is the technique.
~ Equal rights is not the goal of the movement. Restoration of the beloved community is the goal.
~ Agape (love) does not recognize value but rather, creates it. Agape imparts value by loving. Human beings are valuable because God loves us. God does not love us because we are valuable. King’s application - agape is willing to go to any necessary length to restore community.
~ As early as 1956, King wrote of ‘tragic militarism.’
~ From a sermon in 1956, “If physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children from a permanent life of psychological death, then nothing could be more Christian.”
~ The danger of violence is its futility. It solves no social problems; it merely creates new and more complicated ones.
~ Eventually, somebody somewhere has got to have morality enough and sense enough to cut off the chain of hate.
For a person who claims such admiration of him, I’ve read embarrassingly few of his own words. I know more about him than I know him, his heart and mind, his preaching. Barely more than a third grader learns in February I expect. Not nearly enough to address the calamity and grief of recent weeks. From these few hours reading, I gather Reverend King wouldn’t be surprised by it all. He wrote that the struggle for freedom on the part of oppressed people has grown slowly and will not end suddenly. Except that he wrote that 57 years ago which leaves me wondering what timeline he envisioned, what he might say now, about Ferguson, Missouri or Staten Island, New York or Bloomington, Indiana. Not about the events themselves so much as how we handle them, how we talk about them.
I’ve also just finished a non-primary text about Reverend King called Death of A King, by Tavis Smiley. I recommend it, maybe even before going to Reverend King’s own writings. It has me reading with eyes focused and ears tuned not only to race, but poverty and militarism - what King considered the three-legged monster with the power to destroy the soul of America.
“Gee whiz, Pastor Annette. It’s Christmas time! Can’t you write about something happy?” go the voices in my head. In fact, I tell them, it’s still Advent for a little longer, when we recall our need of Christ to save us from ourselves, from the mess we’ve made of things. Our failure to love and our fear. The propulsion of violence.
God help us.
Come fix the chaos we cannot -
the chaos of our own hearts and minds -
that we may find the peace and courage to fix the world around us.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
~ peace & prayers, pastor annette