Celebrating Presidents and Black History

George Washington could have been a dictator. Instead he chose to be president and to serve a limited term. Thus he set the model for all presidents who followed him, lending a sacredness to the top office of the land. Some who have followed have sullied the office. Others have heightened the awe in which we view this position. Abraham Lincoln is one of our historic heroes. In his day, he listened to and was influenced by Fredrick Douglass, who pushed for civil rights. Freedom, however imperfect, followed. It was a great step in the right direction.

A hundred years later, Martin Luther King, in his push for civil rights, influenced John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Again, freedom was advanced.

I look at the faces of those who stood before MLK when he gave his great speech. And I see these people as, well, people.

I am white. Yet there is a connection with these people. It goes beyond the rainbow branches of my family. It goes beyond my nephew, years ago, regarding the boxes in his college application papers and trying to decide which one to check. White? Black? Chicano? Native American? Asian?…

This quandary of choices is not unusual. There are no stereotypes. The rainbow effect of our unity and blending adds richness, depth, knowledge, beauty.

I look at the faces of those who joined MLK in his march for freedom and think of how these wonderful people can teach all of us to fight peacefully and stubbornly to preserve and enhance our civil rights, our securities and protections, our freedoms. We are all brothers and sisters in this together. We are the tremendous force for good in our country. May we stand together, in peace and in love.

MLK, Champion of Human Rights

It took the peaceful resistance of one human being, Mahatma Gandhi, to inspire democracy in India. Martin Luther King modeled his fight for freedom on Gandhi’s meek but powerful example. By doing so, he touched the hearts of millions who rallied behind his cause. His cause became the cause of a nation of people of all colors and backgrounds, who had one thing in common. Compassion for others, no matter their outward appearance. His example stands today.

As a Christian minister, Reverend King would have found inspiration in Biblical scripture.

The Bible tells us God is love (1 John 4:8) and that even should a sparrow fall, God cares (Matthew 10:29). God wants us to be happy and to treat others as we would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Not everyone follows the Golden Rule, however, and we can be wise enough to recognize them. As Matthew 7:16 says, “You shall recognize them by their fruits.”

How should we respond to such hurtful people? 1 Timothy 6:11 says we should follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness.” If someone so hateful seeks to rule over us should we turn the other cheek, as Jesus says in Matthew 5:39? Well, yes. Turning the other cheek doesn’t mean one surrenders to abuse. By turning the other cheek, you are not fleeing, but you are peacefully resisting.

Reverend King knew he must not despair. He must fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). He must put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17), which includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace and preparation, the shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one, the helmet of salvation against lies, and the sword of the spirit.

Today we honor the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Nobel Peace Prize winner, for reaching out to fulfill his dream, freedom for all his people. What courage it took to lead people into violence against them without being violent in return, to face what seemed overwhelming odds. But it led to a greater victory than could have resulted through violence in return. The courage, the appeal of the downtrodden won the hearts of the compassionate majority who then supported the movement.

His dream has become ours, for all people–regardless of race, religion, gender, or social status. We cry out in defense of democracy, of civil rights, of freedom. We cry out in the manner of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and the Standing Rock Lakota Nation. We are all in this together.

Thank you, Dr. King, for your dream.

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