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Looking Through the MLK Lens

January 20, 2014


I recently had the opportunity to meet Ewuare Osayande following a message he presented to a group of local Mennonite pastors about investing in racial justice. One of the steps I wanted to take following that time was to read his book, Commemorating King: Speeches Honoring the Civil Rights Movement, and allow space for his and Dr. King’s words to sink inI’m grateful for Osayande’s work, and gladly encourage everyone to visit the above link to purchase a copy of this book. In this short collection of speeches, Osayande highlights a number of Dr. King’s messages and highlights the prophetic wisdom and challenge contained within. He also makes clear connections to our current context in the United States, demonstrating how King’s prophetic message of peace, justice, and reconciliation still needs to be heard and embodied today.

Three major systemic forces which King repeatedly confronted in his life included 1) Racism, 2) Militarism, and 3) Materialism/Poverty. If we are to truly live as followers of Christ, we must develop that prophetic willingness to identify and oppose these oppressive systems and name them for what they are…anti-Christ. We may also need to look inward and see how we might be contributing to these systems which pollute the shalom God desires. And if you’re like me (a privileged, white, male, suburbanite) we might also need some help to understand-or see more clearly-how these systems are at work around us.

We Anabaptists are fond of saying that we interpret scripture by looking through the “lens” of Jesus. Lenses are a tool for correcting vision. They help make our sight clearer. Jesus and his life and teachings are a lens through which the Spirit helps clear our vision that we might demonstrate Good News. We strive to be shaped by Jesus because this faith is not simply something spiritual or for the future but rather something that’s real and for now (Luke 4:16-21). In his message titled, “The Fierce Urgency of Now: The Struggle for Racial Justice Forty Years After King,” Osayande points out another lens which can increase our vision for peace and justice:

Do we have the courage to view our world through the lens King provides? This is the challenge of our time. This is the choice we all must make. Social change does not require a particular gender identification, racial classification or sexual orientation. What it does require is an undying commitment to embody the revolutionary idea of justice for all. (34)

Dr. King was powerfully formed by the way of Jesus. Clearly he looked at everything through the lens of Jesus, and he was able to bring to bear the teachings of Jesus within a context where those three systems of oppression are still deeply rooted. His faithful witness offers a vital lens through which to both expand our vision for justice and understand Jesus’ life and teachings more clearly.

On the news today I learned that a local historian just discovered a recording of a speech King delivered at St. Joe’s, shortly before he was killed. I’m looking forward to listening to this message when it’s available to the public. So one way I will try to apply this “lens” of Dr. King to my life is through more regular reflection on Dr. King’s theology and teachings, in order that I may continue to learn and to live as a witness to Christ. 

One Comment
  1. January 26, 2014 9:06 am

    Hello colleagues, pleasant article and pleasant arguments commented here, I am really enjoying by these.

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