I was conceived a year after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee.
I never met the man. I never skipped school to hear him speak as many advocates and activists the generation before me did.
Yet, when I stood in that hotel room in Memphis where he had his last meal, now the home of the National Civil Rights Museum, I cried.
Or more accurately I wept, as I listened to the last speech he gave. It was a prophetic speech. He knew God was calling him home.
Dr. King was the leader of a non-violent movement.
Like Jesus, Dr. King stood up for the poor, he stood up against war. He stood up against greed.
Today his words still have power. They are still relevant moral, spiritual directives.
“Darkness cannot drive our darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
“God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty.“
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
“The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’”
“For evil to succeed, all it needs is for good men to do nothing.”
We’re seeing more and more of this evil these days. We see it in the eyes of the young man who stood aggressively in the face of the Native American elder as he peacefully sang a prayer song. And in the eyes of the mob of young white men who surrounded him and made white supremacist hand gestures.
Our country’s values our under attack.
Dr. King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Are we going to allow white supremacy and fascism to flourish? Or are we going to stand up for democracy, equal opportunity, equality and diversity?
Today as we remember Dr. King let us not stand by silently. Let us take our righteous anger and channel it into education and action.
Let these injustices fuel our efforts to put an end to the propaganda that fuels the flames of hatred and division against our neighbor. If we are to end the violence we see outside of us, we must turn within and address the violence within our own hearts. This is the Christ-like energy that Dr. King embodied and exemplified and ultimately died for.
We can honor him today by treating everyone today as we would a guest in our home. We can treat our neighbor as we ourselves would want to be treated with dignity and respect.