Honoring Dr. King Jr.

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In his famous sermon entitled, "Silence is Betrayal," at The Riverside Church in New York City, one year before his assassination, Dr. King spoke out against the inherent danger of trying to end conflict with war, the racism of that war, the spending of our national budget for war instead of against poverty and the high price being paid by the soldiers who were mostly Black and Hispanic or poor.

WITNESS FOR JUSTICE



What  would  Dr.  King  think  of the world today had he lived?  What would he have to say?  What causes would he be speaking out for or against?

Many  ask  that question every year as we approach his January 15 birthday. The  truth  is  we  will  never know because no human being stands still in time,  but  we all grow and mature just by living.  For example, by reading Dr. King's sermons and writings in the last five years of his life, we know that  he  prioritized  economic  justice  issues and working for peace in a world of war.  These became his priorities, just as racial justice had been his prime motivator in the early days of his ministry.

What  would  Dr.  King  have  to  say  about the terrible toll of the tsunami  throughout the nations of the Indian Ocean?  I think he would have spoken  a  word  of  consolation  to  the  people  of  those nations and an assurance  of  the  love of God, especially for those who had lost not only family,  but  all  possessions.  But I also think he would have challenged those  of  us  who  live  so  comfortably in America to understand that our sharing  with  the  world  cannot  come  only  during  times  of crisis and catastrophe.   I  think  he  would  have  used  this  opportunity  to help Americans  understand  that our federal government's foreign aid (excluding military  spending) and our private charitable gifts combined equal only 21 cents  per day, per person - far less than our European counterparts. 

Many Americans falsely believe that our federal government foreign aid is 25% of our  national budget.  Instead, it is less than one quarter of one percent. I  think  Dr.  King  would  say we, the richest nation in the world, can do better. What  would Dr. King say about the on-going war in Iraq?  I have said many times that I believe Dr. King would have spoken out forcefully against going into that war and would have continued to voice his opposition to the war,  just  as  he did in the Viet Nam War.  In his famous sermon entitled, "Silence  is  Betrayal," at The Riverside Church in New York City, one year before his assassination, Dr. King spoke out against the inherent danger of trying  to  end  conflict with war, the racism of that war, the spending of our  national  budget for war instead of against poverty and the high price being paid by the soldiers who were mostly Black and Hispanic or poor.

Recently  there have been some African American clergy who have tried to expropriate Dr. King in their fight against same sex marriage, some even beginning  a  march  at  his  graveside.   I don't profess to know what Dr. King's position on same sex marriage would have been, but I do believe that Dr.  King  would  have supported the full humanity and the inclusion of all children  of  God  in our society.  Just as he supported Bayard Rustin, the labor  unionist  and  gay  man  who  was  the  genius  behind  the March on Washington  and  many  of  the  strategies  of the civil rights movement, I believe Dr. King would have reached out to the glbt community.

Whatever  Dr.  King might have said about the issues of today, I know that  he  would  have urged each and every American to work for justice and peace  in  our nation and the world.  This year, as we celebrate Dr. King's birthday,  let's all find a concrete way to work for such a world.  Write a letter  to  your Congresspersons and Senators about the genocide in Darfur, work  in  Habitat  for Humanity building projects, make sure your church is using  fair  trade coffee, tutor a child in need or teach an adult to read. If we want a world of peace with justice, then we must work for it.  I know Dr. King would approve of that.

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