When we think back about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and his word and legacy, it is impossible not to reflect on the “I Have a Dream” speech. However, his memory and prophetic voice go beyond this one speech and still resonate loudly today.
Dr. King spoke truth to power and advocated for justice and equality. He provided real-time analysis of the oppressed and marginalized plight for all country inhabitants. In particular, he spoke and wrote in impassioned ways regarding the needs of African descendants while also addressing native people, immigrant women, and all workers. At the same time, he spoke out against the US government for not living up to the ideals of its founding documents but rather practicing systematic oppression, inequality, and intolerance.
Unfortunately, as a community of faith, we have not always supported these messages during Dr. King’s lifetime or today. We want to reclaim King’s notice, yet we still struggle to reach his dream to be a place of healing and represent the full ethnic diversity of the country in our congregations. As a community of faith, we can do it today; the church has an important calling to be a welcoming place and advocate for those who need it most; we do not need to wait for more to make this happen.
The “I have a dream” message still speaks to all of us. While we see:
- The struggle of many families living in poverty and are essential workers in the Covid era.
- The pain of young African descendants in the United States that have been and continue to be systematically targeted arrested, and often killed by government authorities.
- The continued destruction of Native lands and contamination by large corporations.
- The suffering and pain of hundreds of migrant families on the southern border.
As we live through a global pandemic that has taken millions’ lives, what would Dr. King say or write? The pandemic has made the injustices and inequality even more visible throughout society. As a segment of people still does not believe in vaccines, many people are at risk of creating a health crisis.
I imagine that Dr. King would urge us collaborative reflection and actions for greater solidarity across all to ensure that we can make it through this challenging time.
At this crucial moment in history, the church must reflect and find its purpose in the context of society, the Gospel, and a mission to live out the total values of Jesus Christ.
Dr. King then and today admonishes us to view the Gospel in the most fundamental sense and consider the church’s role to be Love in Action, Justice in Action, Equality in Action, in an ethnically diverse, multilingual, and inclusive community is a dream that can be made true. May God help us to be a real Christian community today!
Psychologist and Public Theologian. Yenny Delgado is a native descendant, and has a deep appreciation of her cultural roots. Yenny has worked with social movements and local churches for over a decade, advocating for improved gender equality and ending racism in the Church. She is a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church USA and founder of PUBLICA (www.publicatheology.org). Currently, she is a doctoral student in Science of Religion at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.