What Happens to a King Deferred?
During the Spring of 2018, my wife and I paid a visit to the National Mall in Washington, DC. My spouse, a native-born German immigrant, was enthusiastic about paying a visit to the Capitol of her newly adopted country. Although my mother’s side of the family hailed from the Maryland-DC area, I hadn’t been there for some time. We took in such venues as the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the Washington Monument, the various War memorials, and walked outside the Supreme Court, White House, and the US. Capitol Building. Also, we took a tour of the Library of Congress, where a family member is employed as a librarian.
We set aside three days to explore the African American History, the Native American, Natural History, and the Smithsonian’s Art and Science Museums. In the final days of our sojourn, the Museum of the Bible, located two blocks off the National Mall, was a must-see for both of us. Later that same day, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial capped off the vacation.
As we meandered around Martin Luther King Jr.'s stone statue, which is bordered by murals containing select quotations from his life and work, I was both delighted and puzzled. Now, don’t get me wrong. There was nothing wrong with this tribute to one of the most well-known figures of the Twentieth Century, who did so much to confront racial segregation and, more importantly, help this nation live up to its creed as articulated in the Constitution. The ambiance of the memorial was quite amiable, emotionally soothing, and more than benign.
However, there was a glaring weakness in the memorial’s depiction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Little, or nothing is present to give visitors the impression that King was a man of God. He was a Christian minister who led a movement against the ugly specter of Jim Crow culture, pervasive in many states and cities of this nation. The struggle for Civil Rights under Dr. King was a Christian/Religious inspired undertaking. But there was little written on any of the murals to indicate that the struggle for Civil Rights had a strong Christian Catechetic, which served as its life-blood. The glaring omission of any reference to God was not only shocking but a treacherous, if not a totally duplicitous negation of the legacy and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. He was an ordained and practicing Christian minister.
I understand that a select panel of academics, literary and historical literati, decided what quotes would don the murals. How was it plausible to have a memorial to a deeply religious man and not even once have a reference to God or the Christian foundation that guided and gave strength to the movement. Dr. King made his faith in God, and the teachings of Christ, an essential part of his life and message. The heart of the movement was rooted in the church and drew its strength from the timeless truths proclaimed in the Bible. To site one of Dr. King’s favorite biblical quotes from the letters of Paul the Apostle,“In Christ, there is neither Jew, nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28
Once again, if I were a visitor to the memorial, who had no prior knowledge of Dr. King, it would be easy to conclude that this site was dedicated to an accomplished individual. A secular community organizer or social reformer inspired many to confront the sickness of racial discrimination, but hardly religious or God-centered. Even a cursory review of Dr. King’s writings and public speeches are replete with the religion-centered ethos that was the struggle for Civil Rights during the 1950s and 60s.
One must ask, how is it even conceivable to have a monument dedicated to a religious leader such as Dr. King and conveniently forget the God-centered nature of his fight for Civil Rights? The answer lies in the decades-old assault by the cultural left, Progressives, and various constituencies, who exhibit a less than cordial relationship with anything Christian to remove and erode all faith and God expressions from the public square. In the name of the badly interpreted and mythical “separation of Church and state” (a phrase that does not appear in the Constitution), leftist academics, many Progressive Democrats, some atheists and a small, but very loud cacophony of individuals have led the fight to make heretical any expression of “Christianity’ in public square. The first amendment clearly states, "that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion,” such as the Church of England. It in no way made anathema the show of Christian symbols in the public square.
The clamor from Liberal Progressives and the cultural left (many of which have far too much time on their hands) is that including references to God would offend other people of different faith-statements. The same non-sense drives the cultural left movement to ban Christmas symbols, crosses, and other Christian paraphernalia. They conveniently forget that the first amendment of the Constitution assured freedom of religious expression, “not the right never to be offended by any religious symbols." The recalcitrance on the part of individuals and groups to remove God from the public square is just another manifestation of the victim culture that has proliferated like cancer in American society over the past fifty years. People have been socially engineered to feel offended when in early times Christian religious symbols in the public square did not become a referendum on a “creeping Christian theocracy”. Our colleges, secondary and elementary institutions, along with Progressive Liberal Democrats, have been at the forefront of making sure everyone is a victim. The secular hermeneutics of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion spearheaded by Multiculturalism since the 1970s, which is little more than tribalism and cultural balkanization (hidden behind the face of congeniality), is the progenitor of this all-pervasive victim culture.
We have been encouraged by the cultural elite and too many in the political class to roost in our little hyphenated enclaves, waiting to be offended by God knows what. Radical gender feminists, Blacks, Latinos, segments of the LGBTQ community, and even newly arrived immigrants (legal and illegal) learned quickly how to play the victim card. Searching out new ways to be “offended” is an ever-expanding cottage industry, perfected by Progressives within the Democratic political class. Unfortunately, controlled opposition Republicans do little to challenge the victim culture.
Except for that “mean-old, racist-sexist-Islamophobic-anti-science-climate denying-anti-immigrant-white nationalist,” named Donald Trump, very few public figures have the character nor intestinal fortitude to confront this spreading gibberish. In the victim culture, “Isms” abound.
To reiterate, not to include any substantial reference to God and the Christology of Dr. King is more than a betrayal of his life and legacy. It is a slap in this nation's face, our Constitution, which has its roots in Judaic Christian history and philosophy.
[Patrick is a retired University Library Director. He is graduate of Canisius College and the University of Washington where he earned Masters Degrees in Religious Studies Education, Urban Anthropology and Library and Information Science. Mr. Hall has also completed additional course work at the University of Buffalo, Seattle University and St. John Fishers College of Rochester New York. He has published in several national publications such as Commonweal, America, Conservative Review, Headway, National Catholic Reporter, and American Libraries. He has published in the peer reviewed publications, Journal of Academic Librarianship and the Internet Reference Services Quarterly. From 1997 until his retirement in January 2014 he served on the Advisory Board of Urban Library Journal, a CUNY Publication.]
Growing up (white) in the Civil Rights era, I saw and heard his words often. He (and Mother Teresa) have been my heroes. I will never forget the evening newsclip when King addressed the dinner audience in Memphis his last night on earth. With a wife and small children, he acknowledged the audience's concern for his safety (there had been threats). But he stated "I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. I may not get there with you, but I've seen the promised land." The next morning's news: King Assassinated.
In 1983 psychotherapist M. Scott Peck wrote a book The People of the Lie, the Hope for Healing Human Evil, calling the scientific community to study evil. In his concluding pages he said that evil comes essentially from people who lie to themselves. (Like Eve believing the serpent's lies.). The first step in overcoming evil, is self-purification (getting the log out of our own eye). Then the "light of God" can shine through. There will be 3 reactions to the light. 1. Some already on their way toward the light will be encouraged to move more quickly. 2. Some undecided, may decide for the light. 3. Those who hate the light will attack it (as in King's case). Peck says that evil can be overcome only by love, but there is no one method. In the end it is a mystery. What is required is a willing victim, a sacrificial lamb - allowing one's own soul to become the battleground. Even, if it is fatal, that doesn't mean evil triumphed. His concluding sentence: "When that happens, there is a slight shift in the balance of power in the world." When I read that last sentence, my immediate thought was "What if M.L. King, Jr. had not been willing to be the sacrificial lamb? He just wanted to do God's will regardless of the consequences. Where would this country be today, if he had not been willing to please God rather than men?
Yes, I agree that no mention of God's influence on King's statue is a serious omission. His obedience to God moved this nation in the right direction. Unfortunately, this critical omission in today's world has caused this nation to reverse and move down the broad path that leads to destruction.