Mainline Protestant Channel
In the Spirit of Martin Luther King: Cultivating a Holy Imagination
The words and deeds of Martin Luther King still invite us to have large and noble dreams. He invites us to dream of becoming a nation that is generous to the vulnerable, welcomes strangers, insures the well-being of everyone (even non-citizens) within its borders, and blends the individual and community in a diverse but beautiful harmony of harmonies. King invites us to a dream of national healing in which boarded up businesses become places of innovative thinking, in which rust-belt factories become meccas for "green" experimentation, and run-down schools become temples of the imagination.
The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once described peace as the result of the self-transcendence in which my well-being is identified with the well-being of the whole. In that same spirit, King imagined a fabric of interdependence in which each of us recognizes that her or his well-being depends on the health and success of the neighbor and stranger. We are all in this together: other peoples' children matter and their education should be our priority; other peoples' health matters and accessible health care for everyone should be worthy of our personal sacrifices; other persons' opportunities to live the dreams God has given them matter and should be part of our own dream.
The problem today with American individualism is that it has shrunk to the size of my family and myself rather than grown to embrace the community and the planet. Withered selves cannot save us; we need great souls willing to dream and sacrifice for a greater good, for a dream that awakens our better angels. It is ironic that we are willing to sacrifice our national treasure of young women and men in war, praising them for their ultimate sacrifice, while refusing to make small economic sacrifices for another national treasure, our children, so that they can attend safe schools and receive the health care needed to eventually become full-fledged contributors to the American dream!
So, today, let us dream big. Let us have large and generous personal and national dreams, taking us beyond the known world to uncharted frontiers. Let us have big dreams for our churches, that they be beacons of healing, justice, and transformation. Let us have big dreams for our nation, that we walk hand in hand, that our diversity be a thing of beauty, that we imagine leading the world by justice and not violence, that we build great things and inspire wonder and adventure. Let us dream of becoming a truly beloved community of sisters and brothers united by common dreams.
As King reminds us, "But, the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men (and women)."
In the spirit of Martin Luther King: Tell them the dream. Tell them your dream for America and the world.
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty one books, including Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age. He may be reached at email@example.com for lectures, workshops, and retreats.