april 4th (short version)

I often hear people reference and quote Martin Luther King Jr. using his name as I just wrote it. I also hear people use the variations MLK and Dr. Martin Luther King or just Dr. King. I rarely see the use of his other title whether spoken or written, the more formal title of The Reverend Doctor. I find this curious as King was by his own accounts, as I have come to understand it, first and foremost a Christian minister and considered his civil rights work to be largely the result of his larger Christian ministry, influenced first and foremost by the Biblical teachings of Jesus. This aspect of King is often omitted or downplayed when discussing him as a civil rights leader. Perhaps the exclusion or overshadowing of his title as Reverend and as such, his faith, shouldn’t shock me as there seems to be a deliberate push away from all that religious “gobbly gook” in favor for a more “logical” and “reasoned” scientific approach to the universe around us. While I won’t tell anyone else how to think or what to believe by way of faith and spirituality, this tendency to stray away from the religious “hocus pocus” does bother me a wee bit.

I haven’t figured it out myself but I am concerned that without some sort of heavy contemplation and discussion on these topics at every level of society, that our society is in for a turbulent ride. I think most of us can agree that the current environment in which we are living is in a precarious situation. The hate I see daily on social media is real, and sadly it is spewing from many of my friends, family and acquaintances. And before anyone jumps to pat them self on the back and think it’s not me, it’s the other guy, I would ask that we take a moment and consider with as much discernment and presence of mind as possible just what it is we are putting out into the world. The hateful speech and attitudes towards each other, no matter how well intentioned, isn’t coming from only one political party or one social ideology, it is spewing from all fronts. Phrases like the all too common “How can anyone think like that?” is a sure sign of disconnect from understanding our fellow human beings.

The things that are missing from all of these rants, the things that no matter how much someone chants for their cause or how loud one barks for their view to not only be heard but to win, seems to me, as an outsider, to be empathy, compassion and an understanding and willingness to listen to the other side with genuine concern for not just their views but for them as human beings. Without a God telling us what is right or wrong, this reliance on empathy and compassion, this need to listen to the other and to understand them is even more crucial than anyone might think because it is possibly the last barricade holding back total chaos where humanity is concerned.

The Rev. King did believe in God, in a moral law and commandments that should be adhered to under the authority of God, one of those commandments being “Love thy Neighbor as Thyself.” I think we all would do a little better in our lives if we had that motto at the heart of everything we posted online and in every attitude we choose to adopt where others are concerned, belief in God or no belief in God.

For all of the beauty this world has to offer, it’s easy to get sucked into the loop of hatred. We can argue that the world needs changing and we can argue that we know the best way to change it and we can find those who agree with us so we can argue even louder than the next person or group that thinks differently. But perhaps, its best for everyone if we take a step back and take a few contemplative breaths and look at ourselves and our actions, attitudes and words. To borrow an idea from that book of hocus pocus… before we go looking for those specs of dust in each others eyes, perhaps we should work on the planks in our own. I know I have an entire tree to cut down myself.

I want to end this brief article by quoting a man who was tragically and senselessly gunned down today, April 4th, in 1968. I don’t quote him because he was perfect, he wasn’t, nor do I believe in everything he believed in, I don’t. Nor do I hold him to any saintly moral standard out of reach by myself or anyone else regardless of our religious or spiritual beliefs. I quote him because I believe that he truly attempted to live and preach love, compassion and empathy for his fellow human beings, even those who hated him the most.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
– The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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