I confess that when I was young many adults in my little world held MLK in deep suspicion. He was not considered a great man by them. I often heard statements like, “Once the FBI files on MLK are opened, the world will really see what he was like. And they won’t be celebrating him so much.” I confess that I believe this was rooted in racism.
I confess that I have never suffered for anything the way MLK suffered for those who were pushed to the margins of society because of the color of their skin. I confess that I have no idea what it must have been like to continue to speak out boldly in the face of so much violence. I cannot imagine having to get up every single day knowing that people were plotting my death – that today could be the day that I am finally killed.
I confess that I cannot imagine holding to nonviolence in the face of so much violence.
I confess that racism still lives in our city of Kansas City. The richest neighborhoods are nearly all white. The poorest neighborhoods – where drugs, violence, crime, and lack of opportunity are so prevalent – are nearly all black.
I confess that whole neighborhoods in urban KCMO, and the neighborhood my friends at The Hope Center live and work in, are dealing with what can only be described as complete and total social breakdown. I confess that there is no way I would ever allow this to be the case in my own neighborhood. I would not stand for the violence, failing schools, economic breakdown, lack of opportunity, drugs, poverty, crime… parts of my city are on fire right now, and I am not doing nearly enough to help.
I confess that I don’t think things in the heart of our city will change until Christians from the suburbs begin to bear witness to the violence, lobby for better schools, create economic opportunity, take on the yoke of poverty onto our own backs and protest it at the top of our lungs.
I confess that MLK day is one of the most difficult days of the year for me personally. It’s the one day that I cannot escape the fact that I do not live with enough courage; that I live in a city still infected with racism, and yet I do almost nothing about it. I confess that my unwillingness to speak out, show up, get involved, use my voice, to use my imagination, give my resources… it makes me complicit in the injustice.
I confess that today I am praying for Chris and Tammy Jehle and The Hope Center Staff. For my friends Nate Jackson, Kelli Johnson, Matt Farmer, the Belts & the Garrs… you all have more courage than I do. Your presence in the heart of our city is bringing hope. I confess that I believe you are pushing back the darkness. I confess that you are teaching me what it means to be a Christian. I confess that you, and others like you, are the true heirs of the ministry of Dr. King.
I post this – my favorite clip of Dr. King speaking – in your honor today. He meant so much to so many, it was cruel to take him away.