“I have a dream that my four 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.”
This sentence spoken by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been quoted countless times as expressing one of America’s bedrock values, it’s language almost sounding like a constitutional amendment on equality. Yet, what does it really mean?
Rev. King is saying that the sincere attitude of one’s heart, expressed through distinctively noble and loving actions, should be more important in our judgment of a person, than their ethnicity or racial distinction. His was a perspective gained from the Church. The son and grandson of preachers, King was raised in prominent Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. A graduate of Crozer Seminary and Boston University in theology, Dr. King struggled with the realities of injustice, the role of the Black Church and the potential for a revolution of social change.
Dr. King formed his thinking around the work of Walter Rauschenbusch and the vision of the Kingdom of God on earth. During these early years of study, King also attended a lecture on the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. He learned that Gandhi had forged “Soul Force” or Satyagraha—the force of love and truth combined—into a powerful means of social change in India. The moral force of nonviolence, combined with King’s Christian understanding of God’s love, formed the practical application he used in social activism against injustice.
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s, came out of the Black Church. Virtually every march/demonstration began in a prayer meeting under the roof of a local church.
The only organization that Dr. King ever officially established was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957. Basic decisions made by the Founders at this early meeting were nonviolent, mass action as the cornerstone of strategy. It was not a political organization but a Christian social gospel movement. It was built largely on men who believed in the “immortal declaration” that:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Dr. King and the men who established the SCLC, were most fond of quoting the above charter alongside the biblical passage, from the Prophet Amos, chapter 5, verse 24, “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Why this passage? I believe that Dr. King’s vision was founded upon a Christian movement built on the foundation of righteousness and justice. He understood that you really don’t have justice without righteousness and you don’t have true righteousness without justice. In our current atmosphere of violence and death, leading to constant anarchy, we are seeing the face of another god.
The Kingdom of God is always intertwined with righteousness and justice. Let us pray for love to prevail. God loves all people regardless of color, religion or ethnicity. He is at work in our midst to bring a true Kingdom of God movement, culminating in that great vision in John’s Apocalypse, “After this I looked and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the Throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes.” (Revelation 7:9). God loves every race and every nation and He desires for all who will come, to enter into His Kingdom.
Let us daily pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s my prayer.
That’s also the prayer of my dear brothers and friends, Henry Allen, the President of the Pikes Peak SCLC and Gabe Valle, the Pastor of Thy Kingdom Come Church in Colorado Springs. Watch our video from several weeks ago:
Praying and believing,
Steve Holt M.A., D.D.