Author Frederick Buechner once said "To lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually."
Tomorrow, many will have a holiday. It’s in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.. And, I for one, am glad we honor his life and accomplishments. I don’t want to lose sight of his story.
The life and work of Martin Luther King paved the way for much of what we enjoy right now. Every time I see a group of young women play high school or college sports I am very thankful. I grew up in a time when young women didn’t have access. As I sit with co-workers at Breakthrough around a leadership table I’m thankful that there are not just white faces looking back at me. When we toured the Martin Luther King Center a few years ago in Atlanta I had to chuckle. Our guide was a white man. And he was blind. He wouldn’t have had that job unless others stood their ground and demanded equal access to opportunity. Martin Luther King would have been smiling and proud.
These things are the good result of what civil rights workers called ‘the struggle’. The struggle for opportunity. The struggle for access. The struggle for color blindness. The struggle to see all people as having worth. The struggle to help the spiritually and morally blind to see again. The struggle to wrestle power from those who abuse power. And it was done, not for the hope that someday, a national holiday would be proclaimed and schools would be closed. No it was done with the hope that America could live into its belief that all men and women are created equal. That they are children of God.
King and the civil rights community believed that every person deserved to be free, to be treated as persons not things, and to be valued as full members of the kingdom of God. And in order for that to happen people like us would form a ‘beloved community’ where diversity is embraced, where the content of one’s character is more important than skin color; where love, justice, and peace emerge as the preeminent norms for all relationships; and where institutional power is humanized by moral values so that justice reigns.
That struggle is not complete.
There are great divides still in our world. In big and small ways we find people at odds. Sometimes it’s economic divides, sometimes geographic, sometimes ethnic, sometimes sexual and still there are racial divides. We cannot sit comfortably, in our world, when we know the world is a mess for others. And I think God wants us to walk into the midst of those messes by standing against injustice and by changing the world through one act of love after another.
The civil rights movement was a turning point in the life of America. It opened doors, clarified mission, and called an entire nation to reconsider what it means to be the home of the brave and the land of the free. It would be a shame if we lost the meaning of this story for in many respects the ‘struggle’ continues. May we choose to be part of it.