Monday, January 19, 2009

mlk jr.

today marks the celebration of the birthday of martin luther king jr., a man who was certainly flawed, but who also sought racial, social, and economic justice and equality with such passion and commitment that his life was taken. mlk jr. was a preacher who followed and lived by the teachings of jesus, just as i try to do. some of those teachings seem easy enough, "do unto others as they do unto you", while others challenge our individual lives and existing social structures on a fundamental level.
there are a lot of speeches that king gave that make me tear up or feel warm and fuzzy with hope. this following excerpt, however, is a little bit tougher to hear, as it pushes me to think of ways that we continue to need rebirth and structural change if we really want to achieve king's vision of social, racial, and economic equality. i don't have any answers. to be honest, true change in our country and even in my neighborhood just seems overwhelming and impossible. there has been change, but huge issues of inequality still exist; all i have to do i walk down my street, by the check cashing spot down the way, or past my local school, to be reminded of these inequalities. but i hope that we are moving in that direction, with hope, resolution, faith, and vision.

a few of king's words:

"And if you will let me be a preacher just a little bit. One day [applause], one night, a juror came to Jesus and he wanted to know what he could do to be saved. Jesus didn’t get bogged down on the kind of isolated approach of what you shouldn’t do. Jesus didn’t say, “Now Nicodemus, you must stop lying.” He didn’t say, “Nicodemus, now you must not commit adultery.” He didn’t say, “Now Nicodemus, you must stop cheating if you are doing that.” He didn’t say, “Nicodemus, you must stop drinking liquor if you are doing that excessively.” He said something altogether different, because Jesus realized something basic: that if a man will lie, he will steal. And if a man will steal, he will kill. So instead of just getting bogged down on one thing, Jesus looked at him and said, “Nicodemus, you must be born again.”

In other words, “Your whole structure must be changed.” A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will “thingify” them and make them things. And therefore, they will exploit them and poor people generally economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and it will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together.

What I’m saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, “America, you must be born again!”…."

may we have the courage to keep looking at the flaws in our society's structure as well as the courage to address them.

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