Cue the quotes. The film highlights in black and white. The images of him preaching, praying and protesting.
Advertise a pulpit swap complete with multicultural depictions of a unity that is staged and captured only in frames. It lasts only for the day, a planned hour and then we go our separate ways.
Plan a community day when we have not behaved like neighbors at any point in America’s colonial and segregationist history. It’s just not what the founders had in mind. Ask those who were here first, first in line and still lost the land and were nearly wiped off the face of the earth.
Let’s face it. We haven’t come together – ever.
Still, it’s that time of year again when we pretend we believe him. We are remembering the dreamer, Martin Luther King Jr., though last year was clear evidence we had fallen asleep at the wheel.
“Jesus take the wheel” before we crash this democracy. “We, the people” don’t know what we are doing. Or our government leaders know exactly what they are doing. Divide and conquer.
I sat and watched in horror as political leaders heard President Trump lie and then chose to deny the truth. This is why I can’t watch the news. I have decided to look away most days.
Is this really happening in real time and at this time in American history? We pat ourselves on the back and say, “We are the greatest country in the world’s history.” So why don’t we know better? Have we learned nothing from history?
King said, “There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.” So, I must deeply, deeply love America. Though I often question the country’s love for him.
Another year, another King holiday, I wonder what more I can say about him. Because when he was alive, the majority of the church in North America didn’t listen to him.
Baptist preacher and gifted orator, he couldn’t have said it any better. His “I have a dream” speech is still considered one of the best in our history. It is memorable and still we behave as if we don’t know what to make of it, as if we cannot interpret it.
So, here’s a quick summary: We are all created equal, all siblings, all God’s next of kin. Still, we remain enemies and were practicing social distancing well before COVID-19.
Yes, we like what King said but his words, we would rather not get too close to them. We say, “Yes” and “Amen,” but then go back to our corners and our corners of the world.
An “amen corner” is not to be confused with those who are actually in your corner when push comes to shove, which then leads to arrest. Who was really with him when the police were behind him or when he was behind bars?
Maya Angelou knew why the caged bird sings but what about this jail bird? “Called everything but a child of God,” still King sang, “We shall overcome.” But we haven’t and when he said it, a bullet stopped him from ever saying it again.
We know he had to say it and that it is God’s will for us. But we don’t really want to live into it.
We like our divisions just the way they are. We would rather tow our color lines, keep our neat social circles and fall behind than step on the heels of Jesus. He is way ahead of us and sends prophets to circle back and get us.
What is it with prophets? Can’t live with them and can’t live without them. Because God keeps talking. “Write this down. Say this now, ‘Thus, says the Lord,’ which is to be interpreted, ‘Tell them what I said.’”
Well, King did, and he wound up dead. So, excuse me if I don’t feel like celebrating.
Because if we are just going to keep segregating and think that “freedom and justice” for all requires only holiday participation, then his dream will remain just that.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles this week for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2021 (Jan. 18).
Minister to empower congregations at the D.C. Baptist Convention. She is a member of the Good Faith Media strategic advisory board.