Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin  Luther King’s assassination in Memphis, TN.  Unitarian Universalists had a special relationship with King’s civil rights movement.  Over 200 Unitarian Universalist clergy answered his call to come to Selma to protest the voting registration policies.  During that call Unitarian Universalists lost Rev. James Reeb to a fatal beating.  These were dangerous times and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was able to engender hope and freedom for all of America. 

There are two things that happen when a man like Martin Luther King is killed.  Either he is placed high on a pedestal or his detractors inflate his failings.   Both are true regarding this man.  His work with civil rights has elevated him on a pedestal for many making him untouchable and his legacy as unrepeatable by any other person. His admirers have called him an American Saint (even though Baptists do not canonize people) and Prophet.  His detractors inflate his flaws–his womanizing and his alleged plagiarizing on his doctoral thesis.   The truth is that this man, this human being, was both saint and sinner.   He led a people to the mountain tops.  He made some mis-judgments along the way.  

The lesson is this…  We all have the potential to do wonderful and great things to help right society’s wrongs.  We all have the potential to make errors in judgment and behave poorly as a result.   One does not discount the other.  As humans we can accomplish great and wonderful things regardless of our human failings. We can do things that create suffering and still have moments of grace where good things happen through us.  Humanity is neither 100% good nor 100% evil.  We are a mixture of both. 

To place a person on a pedestal of 100% good is to deny our own potential of doing great things to improve society.  To place a person in the other direction is to deny our own potential to do things that create suffering.  We potentially will do  both and have probably done both in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. 

 Let’s honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King for the human he was.  A man who strove to help set a people free in the land of the free.  Who sought to make things right and reduce the suffering of so many individuals and families.  A  man who also  brought suffering to his own family because of his own human inclinations.  Because Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was human, we too can strive to help set people free in this land of the free.    May we continue his legacy by seeking the path of non-violence in all of our deliberations and actions. 

Rev. Fred L Hammond

Published in: on April 4, 2008 at 4:00 pm  Comments Off on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King  
%d bloggers like this: