Taming Our Savagery, 40 Years Later
The Question: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 40 years ago. What are your memories of that day? What impact did it have on you? How is King relevant to you and to us today?
I was born in 1973 five years after the tragic April 4, 1968, assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a modern Moses. My acquaintance with Dr. King is through the lens of reading his books, taking courses on King in college, seminary, and Ph.D work. I began to know King as a child watching documentaries like "Eyes on The Prize" or movies in history class. Still as I grew King's legacy shaped me more than I imagined as a pastor, thinker, and leader in my community.
In high school I received an award for speaking about King and multiculturalism. I still remember it was called "E Pluribus Unum." King's embracing of non-violent passive resistance, his confrontation of Jim Crow segregation, his concern for people in poverty, and his critique of militarism revealed a unique organic intellectual that the church and world should not just admire but emulate. King dared to prophetically challenge the United States in order to "redeem the Soul of America" from its bigotry and violence.
When King was shot outside room 306 of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, the U.S. collective psyche was confronted with the tragic reality that prophets of peace often die at the hands of violent men, powers, and institutions. Still, the challenge of King's leadership is to embrace the road of nonviolence in a world that slays its prophets. The impact of King's legacy is that he was a young man under 40 who dared to believe the world can be changed. Tragically, violence is the way some still respond to truth-telling and prophetic denunciation.
There are many who fail to comprehend the totality of the prophetic message of Dr. King, namely that the challenges of racism, rampant militarism, and poverty are an effront to the "beloved community." Still, King' s enduring legacy remains that there should always be prophetic communities who provide an alternative message and action to those ideologies that alienate, oppress, and dehumanize. In the words of Bobby Kennedy on that evening, as he borrowed from Greek literature attributed to Aeschylus (although this phrase is not in any of his writings) King worked, lived, and died "to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world." Can we do any less?
April 5, 2008; 9:23 AM ET
Save & Share:
Previous: Martin Luther King -- A Fatal Blow to Idealism | Next: King, Weeping Word-Master and Master Stage-Manager
Posted by: Garyd | April 5, 2008 5:57 PM
Report Offensive Comment
The comments to this entry are closed.