Monday, January 17, 2011
Too Much Silence
Today, of course, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday. And while we could (and probably always will) debate the merits of Dr. King getting a federal holiday in his honor, there can be little debate, if any, regarding the merits of his contribution to American betterment. Dr. King was a catalyst for incredible change.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about today is my reluctance to herald Dr. King as a truly great American. In case you don’t know me personally, I write from a white, conservative, Republican-leaning, evangelical, fundamental Christian perspective. And as much as I appreciate Dr. King’s work in the area of civil rights, his personal failures dampen my enthusiasm to embrace his life whole-heartedly. There seems to be credible evidence of his immoral sexuality, drinking, Marxism and Hinduism. I won’t go into all of these things but they seem to have been a part of his later life.
But I was awakened to some of my hypocrisy today when I thought of George Washington. Back to my first paragraph. If George Washington doesn’t get a day in his honor, why should Martin Luther King? So I’ve been thinking some about Washington and King. George Washington was a really good guy in my book—not perfect—but good. Washington’s big moral deficiency was that he was a slave holder. And ‘moral deficiency’ is way too benign. Slavery is repugnant; it’s an outrage and a horrendous sin against God.
So I have some questions for myself. Why am I hesitant to extol the greatness of King because of his adulteries but not hesitant to extol the greatness of Washington in light of his enslavement of other humans? Could it be that I have discriminatory qualities? Can I overlook Washington’s sin because it was more distant than King’s? Can I overlook Washington’s sin because it seems more bound to his culture than does King’s? Hmm. Some things for me to think about today.
Anyway, I do know two things. First, God does incredible works through imperfect people. And second, while King had many imperfections, his heart had been captured by Jesus who directed his mind and his life to this great quest of greater equality for black persons in America. His life is worthy of remembering. His memory is worthy of honor.
P.S. I’ve blogged in the past regarding two things.
First, that Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is one of the finest pieces of American literature. You should read it. Second, Dr. King’s statement: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” is one of his finest, and one of my favorite all-time American quotes. We need to stop the silence.