Monday, January 18, 2010


As I have pointed out in recent posts, I am deep into volume three of Branch's, America in the King Years. Last week I had graduate students in ministry here for an intensive course. Most of them were not yet born when King led the civil rights movement. I can't imagine that. I don't who I would be apart from those very vivid and formative memories.

I was only eight when King died, but I was a precocious political observer. I remember being crushed when I polled every member of the congregation I attended in anticipation of the general election in '68. I was crushed because Nixon carried my congregation. How could reasonable persons not see that Humphrey or even McCarthy was a better choice than Nixon? I went to a McCarthy rally at Mac Court in Eugene earlier that year, and got to ask the candidate a question from the audience about the Viet Nam war. Later, I would meet Wayne Morse, the senator from Oregon, who was the earliest and most outspoken critic of the war. I was fascinated by national politics.

So, MLK was huge for me and his death was devastating. I came from a very pro-civil rights family and those commitments made a deep impression as we lived in Eastland, Texas in 1966-67. Racial politics surrounded our family and my Father was known for crossing boundaries in a racially divided community. King's death was a cause for deep grief in our family.

So, a day that honors King is very gratifying to me. This is more than just civil rights for me. It's a practical outworking of a theology of the cross, of the power of suffering love. The truth of the Christian story rests on movements like these for me, that God's real and powerful response to the hurt and suffering of the world is not to answer violence with violence, but to absorb it in active love.

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