The way we honor Martin Luther King Day, around here, is we post his words, usually the text of his letter from Birmingham Jail.
My own experience with MLK is pretty limited. I didn’t grow up in those times and I’m not black or southern. Sure, we sung a haunting jody about MLK in boot camp, but that’s it.
On the other hand, in the Romney campaign when we kept trying to work out our place in America, we kept bringing up MLK. Mormonism, like black America, is one of the distinctly American ethnicities that found itself without a full place at the table. See Romney’s faith speech and one of my favorite posts, suggestions from around the Bloggernacle on what the faith speech should say. MLK is a synecdoche for an important part of the American story, a part that applies to us also, and to many others.
Here’s part of my own suggestion:
In the beginning of our American history, the Pilgrims came to these shores fleeing religious persecution in Europe. They felt that God had guided them here. They vowed that they would try to be worthy of his purposes. They vowed to make America a shining city on a hill, an example to the whole world.
For all our history we Americans have fought to be that shining city on the hill. In the words of our pledge of allegiance, we have fought to provide liberty and justice for all.
We Americans have not always succeeded. But when we have, I sincerely believe that we succeeded because—again quoting from our pledge of allegiance—we recognized that we were one nation under God.
Long ago in the Declaration of Independence we acknowledged that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and now we live in a country where those rights are respected.”
Our first President, George Washington, asked all Americans to give thanks to God for our blessings. We still do that every Thanksgiving. And now we are richly blessed with freedom and happiness and strength and prosperity. D
uring the terrible times of the Civil War, our President Abraham Lincoln, promised that no matter what happened we would see God’s justice in the outcome. And now we are one people once again and have put those terrible divisions behind us.
The Reverend Martin Luther King and other southern preachers, and civil rights workers of Jewish and other faiths, showed us the sins of racism and discrimination we were committing. And now we have faced those sins and done much to repent of them.
Today let us honor the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. His sins were his own, his virtues and his accomplishments are America’s and the ages’. The oppressed have helped to redeem the oppressor.