Sunday, January 20, 2013

"I Have a Dream" -- and the More Glorious Reality

Below, I have posted in italics Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.;s "I have a dream" speech. As a Reverend, it appears all too often that he has neglected, or never even knew about, the New Covenant of grace, in which God promises to be a god to every one of us because in Christ all our sins are forgiven, and never again will our sins be remembered.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

What about the American Revolution?

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

Sorry to burst this bubble, but Abraham Lincoln invoked the Emancipation Proclamation to appease European interests who were geared toward supporting the Southern States. The Proclamation is still a noteworthy statement, however, since the first President in US History recognized the freedom of black men and women.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

Segregation and discrimination are evil things. It has been government, whether at the federal level or the local level, which made segregation and discrimination possible. Is the "Negro" truly poor? If he seeks his respect from man, then indeed he will be poor. But if he rests in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, lo and behold the spiritual blessings from within will work their way out. Booker T. Washington did not wait for Washington to play fair. He set about doing good and healing many blacks who had been impoverished and denied access to better opportunities. He did not play 'the white man's game', but he did not try to change the rules, since the wicked hearts of men cannot be changed.

Thomas Sowell's surprising studies have outlined that "persecuted" minorities actually thrive in discriminatory societies! The grace of God has indeed appeared to all men, and those who suffer at the hands of man will find that the gifts of righteousness and abundance of grace are there for the taking in Christ.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Framers of the Constitution did not honor all men as created equal. The defining expansions of "man" has included women and men and women of "color". What is man? He is defined by the spirit, not by his color, not by his culture, not by his character. He is either dead in Adam, or he is alive in Christ.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

The assumption that the state, or the country, owes on group of people is offensive and dangerous. Governments are instituted among men to protect the rights of men. No one should treat this expectation as a promise, but the conditions of a contract.

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

Men are not God's children until they receive the spirit of adoption. This fraught division of men, that we are born into a dead flesh desiring life and rest, but this rest is the real promise, which we receive through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

Equality of opportunity, equality of results, or equality of confusion? Equality has created more problems  than it has solved. Right and wrong cannot manifest in a world which prizes equality, for truth necessarily implies that other ideas, other stances are not only wrong, but discouraged. Furthermore, imposing equality necessitates and abridgment of freedom. Instead of fighting for ones' rights, the sleights of men will be sleight indeed in the face of God's superabounding grace.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

"My people": how condescending can you get? Does he own them? Does he speak for all of them? I do agree that a desire for freedom should not make anyone bitter of hateful, but the freedom that man needs will not be found in Washington, the state capital, or even the city hall:

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8: 32)

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

I wonder if Dr. King ever read the following psalm:

"The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." (Psalm 110: 1)

As Jesus is, so are we in this world (1 John 4: 17), and in the deepest persecution, His death at the Cross, the grace of God was revealed to the world, and He was glorified as the First born of many, the First born from the dead. It's  one thing to fight for our rights, but it is far more glorious indeed to rest in our righteousness and let God the Father fight our battles for us!

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

"We, we, we, we", a corporate form of "I, I, I". "We can never be satisfied." Absolutely, no one should rejoice in iniquity, not one bit. Every one of us should commend the entire Southern Baptist Christian League, but let us remember that the focus is Christ, not the "Christian", nor the Southern Baptist, nor any other human league.

"Robbed of their selfhood" This is wrong! No one, not one person, can take your respect away, and thus for that reason men and women can rise up and say "enough!"

We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. -- This is a great statement.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Freedom starts from within: Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John 2) Even the German thinker Hegel admitted that before there is any revolution, there must be a reformation, a change from within which knows and believes that man is meant to be free, not meant to be enslaved. This truth comes not through protests or intellectual achievement, but is a self-evident truth from God.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. 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 that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8: 36)

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