Have you noticed the contrast between what real life reveals about the importance of religious faith and what secular reporters and historians write about its impact is startling? Could it be that by cutting off all reference to that faith from the public square that we are left with incomplete biographies and shallow causes cut off from their true power source—the inner strength that comes from faith and grounding in God?
As I read and listen to coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr, I’m struck by the absence of references to his faith as a driving force for his nonviolent fight to end segregation and discrimination. There’s talk of tolerance, nonviolence and men like Gandhi and Thoreau who influenced him, but there is little or no mention of Jesus or King’s strong faith which animated his ministry and message. His calling as a Baptist minister and his collections of sermons warrants little more than a sidebar reference. Martin walked his faith; it gave him strength to love and influence his “enemies.” He wasn’t just marching against racial prejudice in America; he was putting his faith in action. We can learn from his nonviolent protest and his heartfelt witness to the power of his Christian faith in driving that protest.
Dr. King reminded us, “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” There would have been no hateful signs or slogans emanating from his marches. He would have been the first to call for courageous civil dialogue to bridge our differences. He would have led us in prayer and action in healing for our divided country.
Martin Luther King expected Christians of all races to make a difference for our country: “The church… is not the master or servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.”
As we launch the blog for www.MakeAmericaCivilAgain.com, we do so not to pick sides in any dispute, but we do call on all sides to show respect to even those they disagree with. By spending a little more time listening and a little less shouting across our divides, we can all contribute to Making America Civil Again. Join us in doing just that.