how we remember.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, readers. Today we remember the April day in 1968 on which the minister and Civil Rights leader was shot in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, way before “his time.” More importantly, we also remember the life he lived. King spent much of his life fighting for equality and fair recognition for minorities in America, dreaming of a better way. He preached peace. He motivated and raised up a grassroots movement of blacks and whites who believed in King’s dream (and many of whom paid the ultimate price — death).

If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, I think we’re on the right track — King’s life was reminiscent of another revolutionary who lived for a “different way” and stirred a movement. This revolutionary, who walked the earth and began his movement roughly 2,000 years ago, also was killed for what he stood for (at an early age, like King). Of course, the revolutionary 2,000 years ago was Jesus Christ, and his importance to those who followed him (including King, a devout disciple) was certainly more profound than Civil Rights or non-violence. Christ’s legacy remains as one who gives hope for a different way of living, and his death paved a way for the reconciliation of the entire cosmos to God.

What if we just remembered the death of Martin Luther King, Jr? What if we only pondered the circumstances surrounding the assassination, the subsequent investigation, and the reactions of the black community? What if we forgot or failed to mention the life of King? Don’t we often do this with Jesus?

I was surprised to be convicted of this in Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting By In America, because author Barbara Eherenreich is an athiest. She writes about getting off work one Saturday evening and deciding to attend a local Gospel Revival for “entertainment.” Here are some of her reflections:

The preaching goes on, interrupted with dutiful “amens.” It would be nice if someone would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for a hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth. I would like to stay around for the speaking in tongues, should it occur, but the misquitoes, worked into a frenzy by all this talk of His blood, are launching a full-scale attack. I get up to leave, timing my exit for when the preacher’s metronomic head movements have him looking the other way, and walk out to search for my car, half expecting to find Jesus out there in the dark, gagged and tethered to a tent pole.

Tough to read. But it’s often true, though, isn’t it?

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