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Reflecting on Dr. King 2010

Jan 18, 2010 — Categories:

I grew up a white Christian girl in the segregated South. I remember the beginning of integration of our schools in junior high and of my local United Methodist Church.

I grew up a white Christian girl in the segregated South. I remember the beginning of integration of our schools in junior high and of my local United Methodist Church.

But I now realize that neither my parents, teachers or pastors nor my peer group had the context or consciousness to comprehend what Dr. King was preaching and doing. And yet, we did it. And by “we,” I mean the whole community. We slowly moved forward, learning something new at every turn, stumbling, looking back, but moving forward.

I realize that my appreciation of Dr. King’s leadership grows now that I do have both context and consciousness to comprehend and appreciate the enormity of what he did. This past October, while I was working in Oslo, Norway, I went to an exhibit at the Nobel Peace Museum right after the announcement that President Obama was to receive the 2009 Peace Prize. The exhibit was titled, “From King to Obama: I Have a Dream -- This is Our Time.”

It was a remarkable exhibit because the analysis drew a direct line between the history of Dr. King and the Presidency of Obama. There was film and text from Dr. King that I had never seen before. What amazed me was that the Norwegians, with their view from outside the chaos of U.S. politics, understand what this all means in ways that most of us lose sight of here in the U.S.

What I know is that the world today and my life in the U.S. is far different from the world I grew up in. Thanks be to God. I know that I am a beneficiary of the changes brought about by thousands of people determined to fulfill Dr. King’s dream.

As I have grown and changed and learned many lessons, I have been blessed to participate in making changes, in standing for justice, in refusing to accept the way things are as the way they have to be.

As we face yet another decade of challenge in our own country, with deep divisions fanned by fearmongers and extremists, I know that it is easy to be tempted by impatience. “How long, O Lord?” And impatience can fuel our efforts to press forward, “If not now, when?”

But as I approach 60 years of age, I also counsel patience but not passivity. The enemies of justice are formidable. Yet Dr. King reminds us: “The moral arc of history bends at the elbow of justice.” This is also the teaching of our great faith traditions. And we are reminded in Christian scripture: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So our job is to press forward every day, making our contribution that insures that history moves forward, not backward.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

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