MLK’s dream still alive 50 years after his death

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Martin Luther King was assassinated 50 years ago today outside his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee.
In our age with all of the politics and spin, and counterspin, I find it sad to admit that I feel like I don’t really know anything about this man.
Obviously I know he was the most prolific leader during the Civil Rights Movement. That he gave one of the greatest speeches in American history (his “I have a dream” speech is right up there with the Gettysburg Address).
I know that he was murdered. I know that he’s one of the most significant men of the 20th century.
I think that part of why I feel like I don’t really know much about the man, is that I think we see the good things he stood for, and we like to see those things in ourselves and what we believe. It’s for that reason, I believe, that people from both of our major political parties find things that Dr. King said and reason that he would have been on their side, had he lived.
The dream still lives 
Martin Luther King clearly articulated the America that he envisioned.

It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

-“I have a dream” speech

There are many different opinions today of if that dream has been realized.
We are a nation that is deeply divided.
Has his dream been realized?
If you believe that it has, when was it?
I think we can look back 50 years, 60, 70, 100 yeas ago and see times where that dream most certainly was not a reality for every American.
Today, we still live in the fallout of the sins of past generations. And as a result, there are generations of minorities who were intentionally enslaved, and then intentionally marginalized and discimriated against. But the subsequent generations have also been born into disadvantaged situations. And it becomes a vicious cycle. If someone is born into poverty, they will also have a lower quality of education, live in areas with higher crime rates, and be more likely to have run ins with the law.
I believe in the American dream. I believe people can overcome if they work hard and use their talents and abilities to achieve their goals. But I also believe that if someone starts out from a lower position, it’s harder to overcome the obstacles. It’s not impossible, it’s just more of a challenge.

I’m certainly not the authority on society’s ills. But I don’t think we can kick back, look at Dr. King’s dream and say it has been fully realized. Because there is still work to do. I wasn’t alive 50 years ago. I think it’s fair to say that much progress has been made.

But just because things aren’t as bad as they used to be doesn’t mean they’re as good as they need to be.

It’s easier to not do something than to do it. It’s easier to not care than to be challenged. I know I personally have much to learn.

It’s easy to act like there aren’t still racial issues. But if we deny that there are, when so many in the black community feel that there are, aren’t we essentially confirming that there are in fact issues?

Racism and prejudice are ugly ideas. I think it can be tempting to want to deny them, or explain them away. I think this is a mistake. The first step is admitting our society still has a problem.

If two people are married, and one says, “We need to talk, we’ve had some issues, and I’ve been really hurt by some of these things.” And the other person says, “No we don’t, we’re fine,” which of the two do you think is more in touch with reality?

Every African American I know thinks there are still racial problems in our society. Again, it can be tempting to want to downplay that. But I can’t be condescending to an entire race of people and think they’ve just all got it wrong. I haven’t walked in their shoes and lived their experiences.

I try to listen, but I can do it better. I try to pray for people and for our nation, but I need to do it more often. I try to know people who are different than me (not just along racial lines).

The Bible is clear about the sinfulness of our world. And one of the biggest ways how humanity sins is in finding ways to oppress those who are different.

What are you doing to help make the dream a reality?

Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.



Categories: Christian living, Church, Commentary, Culture, Gospel, History, Politics

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