The Radical Way of Love - a Tribute to Dr. King

On this weekend when we celebrate the birth, the life, and the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. may it be more than just a time to relax and enjoy time off from school and work. May this day be more than a moment to reflect fondly on a life of a historical figure who impacted our culture greatly. May this be a day when we reflect on where we were, where we are, and where it is that we need to go. May this be a time when we hear the message of Dr. King and consider how it is that we might embody it. May this be a moment when we honor his life not with nostalgic thoughts but with sacrificial action. 

There has been progress made in civil rights since the time of Dr. King. Laws have been passed, policies have been enacted, and hearts have been transformed through the hard work and deep devotion of those who have committed their lives to the fight for equality for all. However, today one does not have to look far to see the painful evidence that there is so much work left to be done. Perhaps that is one of the most important lessons to be learned from the work and message of revolutionary prophetic leaders like Dr. King: there is always more work to be done. I confess that I feel as though I am only beginning to understand my role in this work as well as my complicity in the systems that have not only delayed progress but have perpetuated the status quo. I have made many mistakes and am confident that I will make more. But one things is for certain, I will not sit idly by. I join my resolve with that of those who have served as my teachers and mentors along the way and with the lives and witness of those who have long been in the struggle. May we all come together to continue the fight and to advance the cause.

And may we commit ourselves to the radical methods of Dr. King. He spoke of his commitments most powerfully in a speech to the Montgomery Improvement Association in December of 1955.  On the opening night of the institute Dr. King adapted a passage from Mahatma Gandhi: an Interpretation, when he said,
We must say…“Do to us what you will.  Threaten our children, and we will still love you.  Come into our homes at the midnight hours of life and take us out on some desolate highway and beat us and leave us there, and we will still love you.  Run all around the country and send your literature, and say that we aren’t worthy of integration, that we are too immoral, that we are too low, that we are too degraded, yet we will still love you.  Bomb our homes and go by our churches early in the morning and bomb them if you please, and we will still love you.  But we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer.  And in winning the victory, we will not only win our freedom, we will so appeal to your heart and your conscience, that we will win you in the process.  And our victory will be a double victory.  We will win our freedom, and we will win the individuals who have been the perpetrators of the evil system that existed so long.”  This is the thing that we must say; this is the thing that we must do.  If we do this, we will be able to bring into being, by the grace of God, this new world (“Some Things We Must Do” 328).

There is perhaps nothing more relevant to us today than this is call to match our often weak deeds to the fervency with which we hold tightly to our creeds. It is not enough for us to claim that we believe in love and forgiveness. If we are to have a voice of influence in our time, then the manner in which we flesh out our beliefs and teachings must be as exuberant and peculiar as our claims and words. This incredibly difficult path is the one which we, those committed to change, are called to walk. 

I have become convinced and convicted that the way to true transformation is for us to commit ourselves to the doctrine of love without regard to the consequences. There is no time for us to sit back and consider if it is practical. Of course it is not practical. It is truly radical. Dr. King had it right – love, the radical love of the crucified Christ and the martyred prophets throughout history, is the way through this mess that we have made. In the face of evil, adversity and systematized privilege, we must courageously stand arm and arm with the world’s outcasts, cast offs, marginalized, demonized, and untouchables and say, “We cannot live according to the laws and systems that perpetuate hatred, prejudice, disadvantage and white privilege. Do to us as you may, but we will love you anyway.” This is not a time to cower in fear. We are called to be more than an annoying bullhorn bellowing moral imperatives at a world that has long since ceased to listen. We must find the courage to love.

May this day mark a new beginning to our commitments and to our resolve. Thank you, Dr. King. 


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