Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr Day. Some marched while others simply enjoyed a holiday. The fine folks in Biloxi declared it “Great Americans Day” in a slight to the Civil Rights leader who laid down his life. The great tragedy is that we are still divided in this Country. As Dr. King himself declared, this is “no time for gradualism.” I think the same can be said today.
In the time since the shootings of last summer, we have gradually slipped into normalcy. We are gradually returning to “business as usual” as we distance ourselves from racial stereotypes about immigrants entering our country. We gradually take exception to the idea that we have racial biases, prompting us to make headway into knowing one another, loving one another and getting at the root of these divisions.
When we cannot pause and reflect deeply on the sacrifice, courage, and heroic risk that leads to cultural change we participate in the numb, stasis of apathy. We must tell the stories of Wilberforce, Luther, Gandhi, Mandela, and King and remind ourselves what truly living looks like: doing good and being generous, fighting the good fight, and taking hold of “the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:19)
Our children should know of the brutalities of Jim Crow and the legacy that underlies the tensions, and they should be enlisted in the fight. At the end of the day we are either culturally- centered or Christ-centered. If we are culturally-centered, the folkways of our upbringing guide and shape our thoughts and beliefs and may even have a dash of religion and evangelicalism thrown in. But, if we are Christ-centered, we stand for freedom, we believe all are created in the image of God, and we live out care, concern, and ultimately loving our neighbors.
Dr. King is the greatest example in the American Experience of someone risking his life to demand we Love our Neighbor as ourselves.