“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day out on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state sweltering with the heat and injustice of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King Jr., 28 August 1963
It has been almost 47 years since Martin Luther King Jr. spoke those famous words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It is a statement of stunning commitment and purity of vision. Are we there yet? Well, if we’re not, we sure are a heck of a lot closer.
Do black and white sit down together at the table of brotherhood? Yes. Though, arguably we in the church still have a ways to go before our Sunday services look like the surrounding population of believers.
Is Mississippi an oasis of freedom and justice? I honestly don’t know that much about Mississippi.
Do we judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin? I doubt it is universally true at all times. However, a generation later we have our first black president. This would have been unthinkable in 1963. (Some thought it unthinkable back in 2008.)
In 1938 FDR founded the March of Dimes to fight polio. In 1955, 17 years later, we won – Jonas Salk invented a vaccine. The March of Dimes, having accomplished its mission, folded up shop, closed the office, and went home. Actually, they changed the mission to a broader challenge of birth defects. Now, I have no issues with the March of Dimes. I merely wanted to point out that large organizations such as this rarely dissipate upon victory. They find a new target and press forward.
Even before the election of 2008 there was great hand-wringing amongst “civil rights activists” that an Obama victory did not equate to a realization of “the Dream.” I guess they saw the writing on the wall. McCain was inept at best and Obama was well able to capitalize on a wave of discontent. An African-American being elected as president, by a nation that is 75% white, casts serious doubt on the idea that a black man can’t get ahead because the white man won’t give him a fair shake. At the very least, it ought to dispel the notion that judgments are based solely on skin color. Not possible.
Now we have a conundrum. A hefty civil rights organization, constructed to tear down the last vestiges of racism, may have finally won. What next? Pack up and go home? Al Sharpton has another idea.
“The dream was not to put one black family in the white house, the dream was to make everything equal in everybody’s house” – Al Sharpton, 7 May 2010.
Hmm. Now, I’ve read the speech. I suppose Martin Luther King Jr. may not have conveyed the fullness of the dream in the speech. Perhaps he kept some things back, like making everything equal in everybody’s house. Then again, why, in the keynote speech of the struggle, would you keep such a key element out? I suspect there was no mistake.
It seems Al Sharpton has decided that he will be the judge of when we have reached equality. Should we live up to every standard of “the Dream” – should we live up to our creed, “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” – we would still likely not live in Sharpton’s utopia. No, Al Sharpton has decided to rewrite the dream and shoot for a harder target.
We’ve got enough on our plate striving for reconciliation. Heck, we’re still trying to work that out in the Church – the place where it rightly ought to function best (2 Cor 5:16-19). We certainly don’t need somebody moving the goalposts and landmarks (Deut 19:14, Deut 27:17, Prov 22:28).
Then again, I suspect those who truly strive for the ministry of reconciliation aren’t all that worried about such contrivances.