Posts Tagged ‘The Other Side magazine’

Martin Luther King Jr. on a pedestal

January 16, 2012

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the reign of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Heavenly Parent.  Matthew 7:21

It is tempting to depict Martin Luther King, Jr., as a saint, or even as a Christ figure.  The parallels, after all, are striking: a fiery young leader preaches a liberating vision for human community.  He stirs up controversy, confronts the powerful, unsettles the status quo.  He stands with those on the social margins, affirming their dignity.  His eloquent words envision a future that seems impossible, yet stirs the deepest longings of our hearts.  But he is slain, brutally, unjustly, . . .

As with many modern-day prophets—Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, countless lesser-known sisters and brothers—King models for us away of discipleship.  Yet our rush toward canonization is a disservice, both to Brother Martin and to ourselves.

He was a faithful, struggling child of God, bearing, like all of us, his wounds and flaws.

More importantly, sainthood is often our mechanism for domesticating prophets and letting ourselves off the hook.  We elevate and idealize our heroes, effectively diminishing the challenge of their witness.   As Dorothy Day herself put it: “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.”

via Beware of Saints.

Dee Dee Risher wrote this when she was co-editor of The Other Side, a Christian magazine devoted to racial equality.  As she pointed out, when you put someone such as Dr. King on a pedestal, it is easy to find excuses for not following his teaching.  Who among us is a perfect person?

We observe Dr. King’s birthday as a national holiday, but we don’t grapple with his ideas about nonviolence and social justice.