School children all across the country learn about Dr. King. They hear about his work with on racial justice and poverty, his leadership in the civil rights movement, his writings, and his public speaking. They learn that is a civil rights hero. That he worked with many others to move our nation, to remove laws that allowed and even encouraged injustice and racial bias, to help change the ways we treat each other, and to begin the long hard task of changing how we see each other. They may not learn that he was a Baptist preacher who led a congregation, worked with other faith leaders to promote justice, and was moved by scripture in his work for justice and civil rights. His scripture is our scripture. The vision of a community where there are no divisions based on skin color (or other demographic differences) comes from the teachings of Jesus and the words of the prophets in our own Bible.
People of faith are moved to work in the world by the beliefs we hold, by the teachings of our religious leaders, by the words of our sacred texts, and by our experience of God. As you hear snippets of Dr. King’s famous speeches, or see memes of his great quotes, remember that he also preached to a congregation of people hungry for civil rights, yearning for justice, and eager to live in the light of God’s abundant love for all people.
The work still continues, for racial bias is deeply embedded in our national identity and our history. Black Lives Matter, Colin Kapernick, the 1619 Project, and a myriad of other movements continue Dr. King’s legacy. This Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday reminds us that this “American experiment” is a work in progress, and that we must strive to actually live up to the vision of our founders and the values that our nation claims to champion. May we learn to live the values we claim to hold.
In case you want to listen to some of his speeches or sermons, I’m linking them here. Take a listen and let the words and the passion sweep over you. Let the call for justice touch you, and ask the spirit of the God of all races and places move you to help bring about a world of peace and equality.