Friday, April 6, 2018
This week’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death brought great pause for thought – thinking about many things but particularly giving thanks for the extraordinary leader he was, and for the enduring wisdom he poured into this world in his too short years. I was also thinking about a 4 minute speech about him that I wrote and delivered somewhere in my Grade 8 year. I’ve been thinking how that research spurred a lifetime of respect and admiration, even though I’m certain in those early years of study I really didn’t understand the import of Dr. King’s teaching, preaching, or faithful resistance. I’m sure I don’t yet.
With impeccable timing, all of the above unfolded the same day that the most recent edition of The Observer arrived in our family mailbox. I know Canada Post didn’t know, but I was very grateful to end the 50th anniversary day with excerpts from a 1962 interview. If you have a subscription, you will know already that in just two pages, we are given beautiful, humbling glimpses of Dr. King’s strength and faith. Even in short segments, we can hear and see his articulate way with language for any occasion or subject, and his core belief in the necessity of non-violent resistance against all injustice.
One of the things that strikes me most about the excerpts is that there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of fear. Granted, the interview took place over 6 years before his assassination, and the intensity of threats may not have accelerated to the degree he knew at the edge of his death – but from his earliest moments in the public eye, Dr. King was a target for hate-filled, ignorance-fuelled venom. It’s hard to imagine that none of those threats ever landed without tangible emotional impact. He was also a spouse, a father, a beloved friend and confidante who had decades left before him and them. What is clear, however, is that his spiritual confidence gave him all that he needed to persist in proclamation about proclamation; about the fundamental wrongs perpetrated against civil rights, not to mention the core of the Gospel, and our fundamental obligation to right those wrongs. For all that he may have feared, he does not seem to have feared letting go of fears that curtailed his life’s calling.
Far be it from me to make summary guesses of what was felt or not by Dr. King. For all that he said and did, and did not say and did not do, he remains an historical figure whose life ended before mine began. True, I can say the same thing about Jesus, albeit with a different understanding of identity and relationship. I can also say that while we do not share much on the surface, I look to their living and their dying, for wisdom on how to be in my own. As far as I am from the eminence of Dr. King, as he said that for himself from Jesus, I am convinced that God draws all of their stories in to a collective place with all of ours; weaving us into an indescribably radiant human tapestry where we see each other for who we really are – fears and loves and all between – that we might move together to a place where fear lives no more.
With love to you all,
“We say to white people who hurt us,
“We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.
…But be ye assured we will wear your defenses down and we will win freedom,
and it will be not just for ourselves,
but for you as well.”
(The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as quoted in The Observer; April 2018, 27)