I really like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I know we’re taught to like him all throughout public school, but he’s one of those people who I imagine I’d still like even if the curriculum didn’t overflow with praise.
And I get weirdly nostalgic around his holiday because the world is so full of people who try to imitate him instead of realizing that his greatness relied chiefly upon him imitating Christ. To explain, for most of my life I’ve been a student of history and I believe that too often we study acts that make a character in isolation from what forms that character in the first place. For example, Martin Luther King was a minister which means he was familiar with ideas of heaven and the Christian teaching of loving thy neighbor because all are equal in the eyes of God. He was also a Baptist, which I know means he read his Bible. And in the Bible Jesus literally overcomes the world not by dominating it as he could have done, but by choosing heaven over it every single moment of His life even unto death.
I bring this up not because I have some overarching narrative agenda that I’m trying to brainwash you with, but because so many movements that attempt to imitate Martin Luther King Jr. come up woefully short and I would argue that the main reason for that is the misunderstanding of Dr. King himself. Because I would also argue that Dr. King didn’t set out to simply win political rights from a government or garner the adulation of the world. I truly think that he believed that when he died and went to heaven and saw a white person standing next to him he would not be looking not at his superior but at his brother. I believe he recognized this mysterious Divine reality and held on to this truth in his heart throughout his life, and that it was this vision that motivated him.
And I think Dr. King was so determined because he knew that the only thing that can truly overcome the world is the only thing that can truly overcome the nature of man, love. Perfect love. Love in the face of hatred. Love in the face of adversity. Love that provides dignity in scenes that are undignified and makes all mankind brothers and sisters. And it was Dr. King’s witness to that love that is at the heart of the true Civil Rights Movement, and all civil rights movements throughout history. Because the world does not grant civil rights. The world deals in power, wealth, domination, and servitude. It is love that grants peace, freedom, and the universal brotherhood that comes from being not just citizens of earth, but citizens of heaven. And it is the world’s recognition of that immutable reality that truly changes it for the better, because it is in that act of concession that the world becomes a little more like the heavens, and when we see that happen we remember who we are.
And modern protestors, if they even deserve that title, want the glory without the guts. They take the shell of what is good, while missing the center. They self-importantly champion those the world loves and oppress those whom the world hates. They champion feelings over reason, relativism over absolute truth, and spirituality over religion. They champion not universal love and brotherhood, but a sterile equality, simplifying Dr. King’s message that God creates us equal and His love renders us brothers and sisters to instead say just that Dr. King had a dream that all people should have equal rights under the law, and this does the man a gross disservice. It maximizes a part of his mission at the expense of the whole and turns him from a champion of the heavens to a champion of the times, from a victor who overcame the power of the world to a victim who successfully managed to get a little power back from the system.
And I think he deserves to be remembered not for what he gained, but for the inspiring example of love that he so freely and equally gave away.
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.