Today is April 4, 2018. Fifty years ago, in 1968 April 4 was on a Thursday, on that day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was staying in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. That evening Dr. King step out on the balcony near his room, at 6:01 p.m. Central Standard Time a shot rang out and Dr. King was hit in the face. He was rushed to St. Joseph’s hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. Central Standard Time. He had led a movement for justice and equality. He had marched, been arrested and gone to jail for his beliefs, now he had died for them.
I have often thought, what would Dr. King think of the United States that obviously I have no way of truly knowing the answer to, but I think by examining Dr. King’s life I can come up with some answers that are close to where Dr. Kings thinking would be today.
I think Dr. King would be both proud and saddened by what he sees in our country today. He would be proud of all the progress that has been made over the last fifty years. He would be proud to see that people of color and woman have served in some the highest and most powerful offices in our land. In the past 50 years, 2 black men, Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas have served on the Supreme Court. 4-woman Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan have also served on the nations highest court. I think tears would have been in his eyes at the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first black president. I think a smile would come to his face when he saw how people of color were stepping forward in science and medicine. He would beam at the thought of people like Neil deGrasse Tyson one of the nation’s leading astrophysicist, or Dr. Mae Carol Jemison an engineer, physician, and astronaut, who became the first African American woman in space. He would have pride in the gifted hand of Dr. Ben Carson who was one of the nation’s leading neurosurgeon. I think Dr. King would look at the world today smile and say we have come a mighty long way
When Dr. King looked and the racial tension, political division, and the separation of the church I think he would be saddened. I think that he would be saddened by the fact that the the civil rights movement that he led has become less of a movement and more of a business. I think that through his sadness Dr. King would have a message for us, that message would come in three parts. First, I think that he would have a message for the black community, then I think he would have a message for those outside the black community, and finally, I think that he would have a message for the church. In his message to the black community, I think Dr. King would try to get us to be introspective. He would be saddened by the state of the black family. At the time of his death the number of single-parent households in the United States was less than 30%, today it is around 75%. I think that Dr. King would remind us of the importance of the intact family. I think that he would encourage us to strive to be better at building and promoting the family. I think that he would tell us to continue to keep a watchful eye out for injustice, racial prejudice, and discrimination, and call it out when we see it, but he would also tell us to be careful not to overstate the issue because if everything is racist and sexist, then nothing is. Dr. King would tell us to continue to work hard and strive for excellence and to teach the next generation to do the same. He would tell us when we fail don’t make excuses but get up and try even harder. He would tell us if someone says that you cannot do something because of any reason including your race, work had to prove them wrong. I also think that Dr. King would tell us not to be quick to take offense, to assume good intentions until given a reason not to.
To people outside the black community, I think Dr. King would say listen to the experience that black people say that they have and assume that it is valid. The black experience is not your experience it’s different, but it is real. The feeling that a black man feels when being pulled over by a police officer is different than what you experience. The experience and the fears of a black women raising children, especially male children are different, but it is real. Dr. King would encourage you to listen to these experiences and not be dismissive of them. I think that Dr. King would also say that you are not guilty of the sins of your forefathers. I think that he would tell you that even if you are the descendants of former slave owners, their sins are not your sins and you need not carry guilt for them. Finally, I think that Dr. King would acknowledge to you that race relations have come a long way, but there is still a road to be traveled, he would encourage you to be a partner in making what is good even better.
I think Dr. Kings most stern message would be for the church. I think that he would point out that the civil rights movement would never have been as successful as it was without the cooperation of the church. The church must be a primary voice for justice. The Church must be a primary voice of love. The church must attempt to emulate Christ in our daily lives. I think that Dr. King would say that while individual churches have done a good job of being a voice of love and justice and have done there best to emulate Christ. The Church in America as a whole has fallen short. Dr. King was not nonpartisan. He never claimed to be nonpartisan, he had a political ideology, if he were alive today I think that he might say that some people have allowed partisanship and political ideology to become co-equal with their faith. I think Dr. King would warn us against the dangers of partisanship and tribalism. I think that is would remind us of the unity that the church has in Christ. Dr. King would not tell us to be apolitical he would not tell us to be nondenominational, what he would tell us is not to put those thing on the same level as our calling to be united in Christ.
our nation would be better if Dr. King had lived and been able to continue his work. Had he lived and been able to see the events of the rest of the 20th century. Had he been able to see the 21st century I think he would have been excited. I think he would have had a lot of reason to celebrate; I also think that some issues that we have today in the culture, some issues that we have with interpersonal interaction, and the breakdown of the family unit would give him a reason for pause. As we remember the tragic events of April 4 1968 when a man with a dream was killed let’s all come together to make sure that the dream never dies, but that it becomes more and more a reality.