03 September 2014

The High Plane of Dignity and Discipline

On August 28th, 1963, (note: the internet has several sources listing this as 1962, which is wrong.  My apologies for not double-checking) in front of the Lincoln Memorial, the singularly most-important speech on race in the history of this country was given by a man who would die for his convictions.   It was a speech of 881 words, and anyone can read it out loud in about seven and a half minutes.  Think about the kind of simple and power truth that must be to be that brief yet that historically-significant.  In that speech, the right context of history is set, and the right vision for the future is set for all people because of its theology.

Before I say anything about race at this blog (I'm still on hiatus), I think it would be good for anyone asking the writers at this blog what we think about "theology and race" to review those words and take them to heart.

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.

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 beckoning 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.

But one hundred years later the Negro is still 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 comers of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.

We all have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. 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 change racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice ring out for all of God's children.

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted citizenship rights.

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.

And the marvelous new militarism which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers have evidenced by their presence here today that they have come to realize that their destiny is part of our destiny.

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 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 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 plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and before the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the mount 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 genuine discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together; to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom forever, knowing that we will be free one day.

And I say to you today my friends, 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 mighty Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only there; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in 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 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're free at last!"


Kent McDonald said...

Amen and let it be so.

Kent McDonald said...

Those who riot and loot as well as those who discriminate unjustly should all reread Dr. King's words.

David O'Donnell said...

All this talk about racism is fine and good and necessary, but let me know when you include the Deaf (cultured), oral Deaf, and hard-of-hearing people (the least privileged and most downtrodden people on earth), fully integrated with the Hearing in your church.

You tell me when you make every effort to include them fully in your group or church. Tell me when you make every effort to train them in the gospel, exhort, correct, and equip them.

Tell me when you allow yourself to be taught by a Deaf pastor and submit to his leadership. Tell me when you will be willing to hire a Deaf pastor in your church because he is qualified to preach the word. Tell me when you allow a Deaf elder or deacon in your church when they are qualified.

Tell me when you go the extra mile and know their dreams, their fears, and their burdens. Tell me when you stop making a deaf person into a hearing person. Tell me when you stop pretending that the deaf are lower functioning people. Tell me when you stop just nodding your head and smile and just wave your hand to another deaf person and say that you know him/her. Tell me when you sit with a deaf person and have a conversation with them, no matter how hard it was to communicate. Tell me when you stop feeling awkward being around the Deaf, oral Deaf, and hard-of-hearing people because they cannot hear or talk as well and perhaps sign to you.

Tell me when you see them as equal heirs of grace under the same Master and eternally loved by Him. Our Sovereign God pours out His mercy and gives them the same grace that the Hearing has received and enables them to see the same gospel that the Hearing hears and believe in His Son as the Hearing believes.

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matthew 15:22-28 NIV)

I thank God that we have received the crumbs that the Hearing people have scattered in our direction. His words never return void!

Brad Mason said...

Mr. O'Donnell, as I continue to seriously ponder this, what is meant by "Deaf (cultured)"?

Alex Philip said...

"All of God's children... Protestants and Catholics." Really? "If anyone says that the godless are justified by faith alone . . . let him be anathema" (Trent, VI, canon 9).

David O'Donnell said...

To Brad (and thanks for asking!)

Deaf (cultured) are the Deaf people who use sign language as their primary language. The whole culture is shaped by the sign language itself with all the complexities of the written and spoken languages.

Deaf oral are Deaf people who integrate themselves with the Hearing through speech involving the mouth. Most Oral Deaf do not sign.

Hard-of-Hearing people are yet another group that are neither Deaf nor Hearing. Those people are in such wide spectrum--some hear well and some don't. They face unique problems since Hearing people assume that they can hear because they wear hearing aids because they assume that hearing aids are corrective like glasses. Hearing aids only boost the sound to the level the person can hear at whatever decibels, and even then it gets infinitely more complicated because sound is not just loudness, but frequencies as well. The variability of hearing the different frequencies (high and low) are as individual as the individual themselves. Deaf people assume that Hard-of-hearing people can hear as well, and often will ask them to interpret!

What Hearing people try to do is "correct" those who are Deaf and make them "normal" through cochlear implant surgeries, digital hearing aids, etc. They are never and never will be corrective despite what the medical doctors and scientists say. Just look at the ears and the parts--infinitely complex. Those "good intentions" are fraught with problems and heartaches since the person will never be Hearing. There are little or no acceptance among the Hearing that a Deaf person is made by God for a reason and all for His glory.

Frank Turk said...

Alex Philip -

The Apostle Paul says you are wrong in Acts 17:28-29. At the very least, he is saying that there are at least 2 ways to understand what it means to be a child of God, and you have overlooked one of them.

Please reconsider it.

REM said...

With Alex's comment now aside, does it not beg the question that King (like many) played hard and fast with the terminology "God's Children" when he should have said "image bearers"? Yes, I know we all use the term in a generic fashion and I am sure the substitute here wouldn't have moved the crowd...While I love the speech, I read John 8:39-44 and just cannot see Jesus applying that phraseology in universal fashion. Is that a legit concern or am I a bean counting Jerry Bridges wannabe?

Frank Turk said...

REM --

Not everybody is a reformed wonk.

Here's what Calvin says about it:

Now, that I may return unto this sentence which I have in hand, it is not to be doubted but that Aratus spake of Jupiter; neither doth Paul, in applying that unto the true God, which he spake unskillfully of his Jupiter, wrest it unto a contrary sense. For because men have naturally some perseverance of God, they draw true principles from that fountain. And though so soon as they begin to think upon God, they vanish away in wicked inventions, and so pure seed doth degenerate into corruptions; yet the first general knowledge of God doth nevertheless remain still in them. After this sort, no man of a sound mind can doubt to apply that unto the true God which we read in Virgil touching the reigned and false joy, that All things are full of joy. Yea, when Virgil meant to express the power of God, through error he put in a wrong name.

As touching the meaning of the words, it may be that Aratus did imagine that there was some parcel of the divinity in men’s minds, as the Manichees did say, that the souls of men are of the nature of God. So when Virgil saith concerning the world, The Spirit doth nourish within, and the mind being dispersed through all the joints, doth move your whole huge weight, he doth rather play the philosopher, and subtilely dispute after the manner of Plato, than purely mean that the world is supported by the secret inspiration of God. But this invention ought not to have hindered Paul from retaining a true maxim, though it were corrupt with men’s fables, that men are the generation of God, because by the excellency of nature they resemble some divine thing. This is that which the Scripture teacheth, that we are created after the image and similitude of God, (Genesis 1:27.) The same Scripture teacheth also, in many places, that we be made the sons of God by faith and free adoption when we are engrafted into the body of Christ, and being regenerate by the Spirit, we begin to be new creatures, (Galatians 3:26.) But as it giveth the same Spirit divers names because of his manifold graces, so no marvel if the word sons be diversely taken. All mortal men are called sons in general, because they draw near to God in mind and understanding; but because the image of God is almost blotted out in them, so that there appear scarce any slender lines, [lineaments,] this name is by good right restrained unto the faithful, who having the Spirit of adoption given them, resemble their heavenly Father in the light of reason, in righteousness and holiness.

Alex Philip said...

Thanks Frank! I had been approaching the privilege of being a "child of God" from the lens of John 1:12. Thanks for showing me another angle. As for not everyone being a "reformed wonk" I admit I had to look that term up. My dictionary defines the term "wonk" as a derogatory comment for a person who spends too much time studying a particular subject. Seems that when it comes to doctrinal matters, the Apostle Paul's instructions to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16 might be an encouragement to Timothy to be a doctrinal wonk! Maybe we need more wonks?

Frank Turk said...

Alex - Paul does not want Timothy to be a wonk. the aim of his charge (in his own words) is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. I mean: you have to take the man at his word when he is this explicit.