Its interesting. This year Martin Luther King Jr. Day really didn’t feel that different from the conversations that were already going on all around us all year long. Just more of the same. It has definitely been a big year for civil right and human dignity. These issues have become buzzwords. They are the “in” thing to talk about. If you are not a bigot, if you care about society, if you are progressive and educated. However, in all the process that has been made in this cultural issue lately, when we compare the overall movement of today to the movement of Martin Luther King Jr., we see one clear difference: the absence of God.
It often happens in popular movements that we follow along with ideas and words without giving a deeper consideration to their meaning and our actual relationship to them. The modern drive for justice and equality uses all the same words that the work of Dr. King brought to the forefront. We talk about equality, dignity, freedom, respect and love. And yet today’s movement is largely devoid of that which gave MLK his true fire.
King’s entire mission and perspective falls apart completely when you pull the Christian foundation out of under it. His mission in the physical world and culture stemmed directly out of his spiritual convictions in the centrality and power of Jesus message of salvation and reconciliation. In his April 4, 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam” he states:
“My calling takes me beyond national allegiances…. I have yet to live up to the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking again the war (Vietnam). Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men…for their children and ours, for black and white for revolutionary or conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? As a faithful minister of this one, can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?”
Secular society is good at borrowing the values forged in other perspectives and adopting them to itself. It has no power to create those values in and of itself. The key issue is that when it borrows them, it removed their connection to the universal principles on which they are built, thus robbing them of their power. What is a secular social justice? Where does it come from? How do we define it? If there is no absolute source of authority and morality in the world, who’s to say how I should treat my neighbor?
At the end of the day, without God, all you have are ideas and suggestions. And at the point of pressure, those suggestions crumble. They don’t carry the power to cause us to rise above our selves, rise above our selfishness and corruption and live for something greater. Jesus, on the other hand, came to do just that. He came to target our corruption at its source: a heart that is alienated from its Maker. He came to pay the price for our rebellion and to restore the unshakable source of dignity and beauty that he himself built into our hearts from the beginning. This is a story that can power a man to stand up against a corrupt society.