This Sunday, April 7, 2013, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, I am scheduled to be at Sugar Loaf (NY) United Methodist Church. The Scriptures are Acts 5: 27 – 32, Revelation 1: 4 – 8, and John 20: 19 -31. The message is now entitled “Do You Have See To Believe?” Services are at 11 and you are welcome to attend.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on this date in 1968. Today, some forty-five years later I wonder if the dream that he spoke of, the dream of equality died that day as well.
We know that the night before Dr. King spoke of seeing the Promised Land; he also spoke, rather prophetically, of not making it with the rest of us. I tend to believe that he believed that he would die because of his actions, though I don’t believe he thought he would die the next day.
There were those in 1968 who did not like what Dr. King was saying about civil rights and his stand against the Viet Nam war. And I am sure that his expansion of the civil rights movement to include the poor and lower social classes of this country were not going to set well with those in power and those for whom economic slavery, whatever form it may take, was essentially to their wealth and status.
We were a country at war in 1968 in southeast Asia that was beginning to look like a quagmire. But we were also a country at war internally with divisions based on economic status and race becoming more and more apparent.
Now, some forty-five years later, we are still a country at war in southeast Asia and while there is talk of the war coming to an end, we are finding new ways to continue the fight. The only difference between then and now is that we sent our sons off to war in 1968; in 2013, we send our sons and daughters off to war. But whether it was our sons or our daughters, when they came home then and when they come home today, we still don’t care what happened to them and we cast them aside.
The reason that Dr. King came to Memphis in 1968 was economic, to support the garbage workers in the struggle for better pay and working conditions. Today, the gap between the rich and the poor is perhaps even greater than it was back then and it does not appear as if it will ever decrease. We are not moving towards a place and time of equality but one of inequality and forced servanthood.
Some people said that the one thing that saved 1968 from being a totally bad and terrible year was the Apollo mission around the moon on Christmas Eve. And perhaps, for one brief moment, it did offer a ray of sunshine and hope.
But while we would send some twenty-one men to the moon and twelve would walk on the moon, we no longer visit our neighbor in the sky and we have no plans to do so. Those of us who were in high school in 1968 were the beneficiaries of a radical change in science and math education, a change that quickly ended when the cost of war and greed became more than inquiry and discovery.
I look at our schools today and see nothing more than factories, factories designed to turn out workers who do not and cannot think independently. I see very little creativity in our schools today and I don’t see much change. If there is no creativity in the schools today, there cannot be much hope for tomorrow.
I have written about it before but don’t tell me that this generation of students is the most technologically advanced generation. They may have the technical tools but they really don’t know how to use them for much more that character-limited sentences. There are possibilities beyond description in the smart phones of today but the basic rule of technology still applies – no computing device (phone, computer, or otherwise) is ever smarter than the person using it.
Our students may be able to answer countless and myriad questions of educational trivia designed to show how much they know. But being able to answer a question about the past is no guarantee that we can create a future.
We saw in the churches of 1968 a moral force, a force that would make the Gospel message of Jesus Christ true and real for all mankind. Today, most people probably don’t even know what the Gospel message was or that it was everyone. The message of the church today is one in which the rich are God’s chosen few and the poor are condemned to sin and slavery. While Jesus could and did enter the Temple, I don’t think that many churches today would welcome Him, His message, or those who followed Him.
We had an opportunity forty-five years ago to make a dream a reality. It may be that we still can make it real today. But we will have to change the way we see society and make the gaps between people smaller, not bigger.
We will need to change the way we see education, not as a process that makes our children mindless robots but the creative and innovative individuals God meant them to be.
We will need to change the way we see our churches, not as sanctuaries for the rich to hide from the poor and needy on Sunday but as places of hope, hope for all that God’s Kingdom is for all.
A man was killed forty-five years ago today and with him a dream probably died. We can take the time to day to make sure that the dream did not die; it will require work and it will not be easy. But the longer we wait, the harder it will be.