Sunday, January 20, 2019

Martin Luther King and #MeToo

"Remember- if I am stopped, this movement is not stopped because God is with the movement."

Martin Luther King, Jr. did not just "cast himself" as a man of God - He WAS a Baptist minister at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

No, he did not always preach in a church, but his speeches bore the unmistakeable cadence of a Baptist preacher.

King's roots in Baptist culture ran deep, so deep that he counted Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson as an inspiration AND a friend. Often, when King was on the road, he would call Mahalia just to hear her sing.

It was Mahalia Jackson who prompted Martin Luther King to the heights of preaching, during the 1963 March on Washington. King had written a well-thought out and logical speech. But when King stumbled a bit over a complex sentence, Mahalia Jackson called out, "Tell them about the area, Martin!"

It was then that King improvised, crying out, "Go back to Mississippi . . to Alabama . . to South Carolina. . to Georgia. . to Louisiana. . to the slums and ghettos. . "

We would not have Martin Luther King, Jr. in all his greatness without Mahalia Jackson, and without the Baptist church.

Yet - almost lost to history is the personal story of Martin Luther King, Jr.    King cast himself as a family man, with a beautiful wife and four children. But there was a darker side.

The FBI considered King equal to a Communist for his beliefs. The FBI surveilled him and recorded tapes of King having intimate relations with women who were not his wife. Then, the FBI would call his wife at home, and play the tapes over the phone.

There are even whispers that King was abusive to some of the women he was with.

We long for our heroes to be perfect. I know I DO. But I don't know any human being who is perfect.

In this day of #MeToo, I wonder, would the long tendrils of social media dig up the dirt on Martin Luther King, if he were alive today? Would the newest rights movement - #MeToo- chew up and toss out Martin Luther King?

As a woman who has had my full share of #MeToo moments, I can never accept, condone, excuse or forget what some men have done to women.

And yet - I cannot foresee nor accept a world without Martin Luther King.

As a Christian, I live with the power of Forgiveness. Martin Luther King, himself, said- "Forgiveness does NOT mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. . There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us."

As a Christian, I remember the story of David and Bathsheba.  King David is relaxing on the roof of his home, while his army is off fighting in other nations, when he spies the beautiful Bathsheba. Despite knowing that Bathsheba is already married, he sleeps with her. Then he commands his military chief to put her husband on the front lines, so that the husband is killed in battle. David is well aware of the depths of his evil sin.

And yet, King David goes on to be the root and ancestor of Jesus Himself.

There are other stories in Christian lore of, for example, the author of the hymn Amazing Grace, John Newton. Newton was an evil slave trader, who went on the become a minister, and the author of this beloved hymn. He underwent a complete conversion, which allowed him to change history.

In his book, "Just Mercy", Bryan Stevenson asks, 'Can a man be summed up entirely by the worst thing he has ever done?'

Christianity recognizes fully our Sin. It also recognizes the power of Redemption. Forgiveness never accepts the Sin, but forgiveness does mean a process of working THROUGH the Sin and coming out the other side.

I once went to my pastor because of the weight of the abuses that had been heaped upon me as a child. I was living a kind of Spiritual Death. It was as if the abuses inhabited me like a dark Spirit that would not leave. I asked my pastor, "Is there anything that is unforgivable?" To my utter surprise, he said, "No! Because Jesus forgave absolutely everyone, even his crucifiers."

Suddenly, I saw my chief abuser as a complete human being. Nothing could even condone what he had done. But I saw my abuser as a man hounded by torment, a pain that caused him to carry out unspeakable things. He became far more than the embodiment of the Sin itself. He became all too raw and human.

As I contemplated this, the burden lifted from me. A friend told me that I looked ten years younger.

IF a person commits a terrible Sin . . IF he recognizes his Sin and is willing to atone for it - CAN we ever allow him that redemption, and the possibility to accomplish all that is good in the world ?

This is the challenge of Christianity. Without that process of atonement and redemption, how many good people will we sacrifice at the altar of eternal Unforgiveness?

How many Martin Luther King's and John Newton's will we never even know about?

[Related Postings: "The Need For Martin Luther King", 1/16/13; "Martin Luther King's Dream", 1/15/14; "Martin Luther King", 1/17/11; "Martin Luther King - The Man", 1/14/18; "The Enduring Wisdom of Martin Luther King", 1/8/17; "What would Martin Luther King Say?", 1/14/16]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2019. All Rights Reserved.

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