His birthday was yesterday.
He would have been 85.
And, on Monday, we celebrate the day set aside to honor him.
Since his death in 1968, we have lionized him and rightly so.
His wisdom and words continue to move us and to inspire us.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only the light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
‘I have a dream…”
And while we remember and cherish and hold onto his words, we must also remember how controversial and challenging he was, and how much, when he was alive, some feared and hated him. The Civil Rights Movement was not merely about the words he spoke, but it was about police dogs and fire hoses and bombings and lynchings. It was about taunts and threats and secret FBI investigations. He was assassinated not so much because of what he said, but because of what he was doing and what he stood for. And others who stood with him were also killed or injured or jailed or lost their jobs. And, when he spoke out against the Vietnam War in a sermon at Riverside Church in New York City, he was vilified for his remarks.
I am mindful of this today because, in death, we have tamed Martin Luther King, Jr.
And, if he were alive today I think he would be anything, but tame.
At least that is my hope.
I hope he would be finding some way to turn us around and point us in the direction of peace.
I hope he would be chiding and coaxing and encouraging us to hang on for dear life as we do what we can to bend that long arc of history in the direction of justice.
That is the Martin Luther King, Jr. I want to remember.
The Martin Luther King, Jr., I believe, we need to remember.