It is appropriate today – amidst our own divisions and strife – as we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., to remind ourselves of his words that helped our country through some of its most divisive moments in our history:
“… Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political, and economic change
… so often we have problems with power. But there is nothing wrong with power if power is used correctly
You see, what happened is that some of our philosophers got off base. And one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites, polar opposites, so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love. It was this misinterpretation….
Now what has happened is that we’ve had it wrong and mixed up in our country…..
I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence, you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.
And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love… I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear….
And I must confess, my friends that the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will still be rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment…
Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. Let us realize that William Cullen Bryant is right: “Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again.” Let us go out realizing that the Bible is right: “Be not deceived. God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” This is our hope for the future, and with this faith we will be able to sing in some not-too-distant tomorrow, with a cosmic past tense, “We have overcome! We have overcome! Deep in my heart, I did believe we would overcome.”
A year later, many American cities were on fire, King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, and tenuous places of frustration seemed to abound. On Christmas Eve of that same year, though, the crew of Apollo 8 (the first to circle the moon) read from the book of Genesis as the Earth came back into view.
It will be that hope that I will wrap myself in as we enter 2022. While acknowledging our capacity to repeat the past, America has always found ways to continue to bend the arc of history towards justice. However, as any historian will acknowledge, that may not always be so.
With that predicament in mind, I will listen to the words of our leaders carefully to find those who express love and communicates the hope that we shall overcome. Who remind us of Benjamin Franklin’s prediction, that we have been given a Republic, “if you can keep it,” because I know America’s enemies are rooting against us. Those real enemies are not here at home, but in communist, fascist, and authoritarian models of government who do not know that strength and love bound together cannot be broken.
We are the greatest country ever seen, on the face of this Earth. Let us show our gratitude toward one another, friend and enemy alike, and to Washington, Lincoln, Louisa May Alcott, Dr. King, and countless others who understood that love – strong, patient, enduring and steadfast – is the foundational cornerstone of this country. Let us listen to those who understand that:
“We build on foundations we did not lay. We warm ourselves by fires we did not light, We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant. We drink from wells we did not dig, and we profit from persons we did not know.”
This is as it should be. Together we are more than any oner person could be. Together we can build across the generations. Together we can renew our hope and faith in the life that is yet to unfold.
Together we can heed the call to a ministry of care and justice. We are ever bound in community. May it always be so.”
- Rev. Peter Raible
Happy Birthday Dr. King. Thank you for your strength, wisdom, and your ultimate sacrifice may it be the model that guides us in the year ahead.