Tonight, our nation sits in shock. Some sit before their television screens speechless. Others are moved in a wave of emotions to the streets of Ferguson, D.C., Chicago, New York, and many other cities across out nation, expressing their confusion and pain to our nation and our world. Others, like me, sit at our computers, wondering what, if anything we can do in this moment to be a voice of justice in the midst of such a chaotic situation.
Tonight, on my way home from a movie, a friend asked me what, if anything I would post on my blog about Ferguson. I quickly responded, “Nothing. I have nothing of value to say. Nobody needs another privileged white voice adding their commentary to the situation in Ferguson.”
And I still believe that in this moment, the best thing I can do is to listen, and not to speak. To observe and to learn. To pray for the Brown family, Ferguson, and the rest of our nation on this most restless of nights.
And yet, here I sit at midnight in my office in downtown Washington D.C. typing a post about Ferguson. Why?
Earlier this morning, I spent a couple of hours sitting in the old musty pews of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and standing solemnly before the tomb of Martin Luther King Jr., reflecting on the impact and influence of one mans commitment to love, equality, justice, and the Gospel. I stood before his tomb, thanking God for the life and sacrifice of one of the greatest disciples of Christ in recent history. I sat in Ebenezer Baptist, listening intently to recordings of Kings various sermons, provoked by his admonition to stand up for justice in love.
As I walked down the empty streets of D.C. this evening, thinking about the situation in Ferguson, I was reminded of the message and legacy of Dr. King. I was reminded of the deep burning I felt in my spirit as I listened to him preach a message of hope with every fiber of his being. I was reminded of the magnitude of Dr. King’s sacrifice to make our country a more just and righteous place. And I was reminded of just how truly great his impact was on our world.
As I thought about these things, I began to feel something shift in my spirit. I began to move from a posture of despair to a position of hope.
If there is anything our nation can take away anything from Dr. King’s life and legacy to apply to the courts verdict tonight it is this:
There is still hope.
Yes, we may have a lot of work left to do. Many people will continue to battle injustice and oppression. Many will remain complacent in the face of the mass injustice that stands before us. But in the midst of it all, there is still hope.
We have a reason to press on.
Justice will prevail.
And ultimately, in the end, love will triumph.
Though we may not be able to see that through the dense fog that surrounds us this evening. We must not lose sight of hope.
So tonight, instead of me adding anymore unnecessary commentary to the situation in Ferguson, I want to share some the most powerful and prophetic words of Dr. King. I believe that these words and this message contain the power to heal the brokenness of our nation. And it is my prayers that if we all can stop, listen, and heed Dr. Kings call and vision for our nation, a brighter day does indeed lie on our horizon.
“Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested story plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: “A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.” This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together – black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.
This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response which is little more than emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the First Epistle of Saint John:
Let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone
that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His
love is perfected in us.
Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. As Arnold Toynbee says: “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.” We can no longer afford to worship the God of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. Love is the key to the solution of the problems of the world.
Let me close by saying that I have the personal faith that mankind will somehow rise up to the occasion and give new directions to an age drifting rapidly to its doom. In spite of the tensions and uncertainties of this period something profoundly meaningful is taking place. Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away, and out of the womb of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. Doors of opportunity are gradually being opened to those at the bottom of society. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are developing a new sense of “some-bodiness” and carving a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of despair.
“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” Here and there an individual or group dares to love, and rises to the majestic heights of moral maturity. So in a real sense this is a great time to be alive. Therefore, I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that those who pioneer in the struggle for peace and freedom will still face uncomfortable jail terms, painful threats of death; they will still be battered by the storms of persecution, leading them to the nagging feeling that they can no longer bear such a heavy burden, and the temptation of wanting to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. Granted that we face a world crisis which leaves us standing so often amid the surging murmur of life’s restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. It can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark confused world the kingdom of God may yet reign in the hearts of men.”
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Prize Lecture
May the words of Dr. King breathe hope into the weary soul of the people of Ferguson and of our nation tonight.