MLK Day has never been so relevant, or brought up issues closer to America’s heart, than on the anniversary of its celebration this year in 2017. Anymore, the words Trump, Black Lives Matter, gun-control, police, rights, and women are trigger words for everyday conversation to turn into heated debates about politics and socioeconomics. And on some level, I think that’s good. Never in my admittedly brief life have people been so open to talking about these sensitive subjects and voicing their beliefs than right now. We as a society, as citizens of the same world, need to recognize that if no one speaks up, nothing will change. No one will have any reason to suspect that anything is wrong.
When I was younger, my mom and I would often stop for dinner on the way home after my soccer games. I would sigh as we pulled into Baja Fresh or any sandwich place, and my mom would turn to me, frustrated. She would always tell me, “How am I supposed to know what you want if you don’t say anything? I’m not a mind reader.” The woman had a point.
Edmund Burke once said that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” How could we assume that racism, “officially” dead for approximately fifty years, was gone for good? We don’t talk about it, that’s how. I once heard someone say that the universal topics to avoid in conversation were politics and religion. Seems reasonable if you’re trying to keep your dinner party running smoothly. But did MLK stay quiet about these taboo topics? Did Jesus? Would he if he were here right now? I don’t think so.
How then, should we speak?
Dr. King is looked to as somewhat of a patron saint to today’s Americans (94% see him as a positive figure), and while I cannot support all of his words and actions, there is no denying that as a leader, as an orator, he was immensely effective. Why did so many people show up in Washington on a hot August day in 1963? The dream.
He said, “I have a dream!” I have a dream. He didn’t say “I have a plan”, or “this is what needs to change.” He was focused on himself and what he could do, not what the government needed to do for him. MLK gave voice to the dream that millions of Americans shared, and his beliefs resonated with them. Simon Sinek spoke about MLK in his 2009 Ted Talk as an example for a business model of all things. It’s a simple marketing philosophy, he says. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
So voice your beliefs. Be informed. Refuse to keep silent. Show love. Words have power and you have a voice that needs to be heard.
And how does Christianity figure into this? In an effort to keep this post from being any more scattered than it already is, I’ll just leave you with this quote from C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters, in which a demon gives advice to his protege Wormwood on how to break down Christians.
“Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster. On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even to social justice. The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience.”