As we prepare to commemorate the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, we are hearing about is another man whose last name is King.
The recent news cycle has concentrated on report remarks by Iowa representative Steve King.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Steve King asked. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
There is much work still to be done in America to get us to the promised land Dr. King spoke of in his speeches.
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When our elected leaders utter hate speech, whether it is at the local level or on the national stage, it sends a distinct message that we have a long way to go before hate and bigotry will no longer exist in America or in the world.
The problem with some national holidays is that people sometimes view it as simply another day off. Let’s be honest. How many people are really going to attend MLK commemorative events? How many students will march at Hilton Head High School on Monday? How many faculty will show up to set an example for their students? How many parents will show up with their kids to march for a cause that repudiates the kind of twisted sentiments of a congressman who still can’t figure out how America has progressed over the last fifty-eight years?
The local Martin Luther King committee consists of a group of dedicated and devoted citizens trying to bring Dr. King’s message to all Americans. I hope the Interfaith Service at Christ Lutheran Church — as well as the rest of the events throughout the weekend culminating with Monday’s march and program at the high school — will draw a crowd.
Dr. King often said he was not only concerned about the bigots of his day. He also wanted good people everywhere not to remain silent in the face of hate speech. Dr King was all about leading America from its darkness of prejudice about skin color into the light of joining together to create a society based upon the “content of character.” He was a man who comforted those afflicted by violence and afflicted the comfortable about their silence.
In that sense, he represented the best example of what the Biblical prophets were trying to teach thousands of years ago. Their goal was to take us from ignorance to truth. It is a difficult thing to read the prophets because they make us face very hard truths about how we have fallen short of following the god-like behavior which God expects from us.
As Isaiah said:
“An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master’s feeding trough, but, Israel does not know, My people do not understand.”
What don’t we understand?
Those who hate others because of race and who lift it up and use race as a Golden Calf do not understand.
Those who sit back uninvolved and pay no heed, who don’t stand up for the goodness of humanity and who remain apathetic or disinterested and give credence to racism do not understand, either.
The prophets existed to shake us up so we might realize that if we care about God and want our society to be God-fearing, each of us has a role to play to set an example for the young who will inherit this great land.
What will we bequeath to them?
Or our commitment to justice?
I know it is a long shot to pray that Rep. King might one day understand the error of his speech and see how hurtful his remarks are to Americans. It is easy to write someone like this man off, to ignore and forget about him.
Yet, religion is all about the hope that people can change.
Rep. King needs to engage in a process of repentance. God will forgive the truly repentant who recognize their transgression and understand how their words hurt others and then dedicate themselves to God-like behavior.
As Jeremiah wrote:
“If you turn back, I will take you back, and you will stand before Me. Even if you are a self indulgent fool, if you turn towards honor, you shall be my Mouthpiece.”
Never give up on the hope that we can change.
Can we this year show up in our community MLK activities to stand up for those Biblical teachings and proclaim the values that the prophets taught long ago and that are still critical to our survival and prosperity today?