I took my kids to watch Selma today. Every year on MLK Day I purposefully talk with the kids about Martin Luther King Jr. I set out to rescue the day from the “just another day off school” it could easily become. Selma helped me do that in a big way today. But I didn’t just take them because today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I took my boys to see Selma movie for a four reasons:
1) I want to be purposeful about talking to my kids about history and social and moral issues. History is what they’re living and history is what they’ll learn from and repeat or change. And the social and moral issues of life will confront them unless they move to the Alaskan wilderness alone or hide in the basement playing video games for the rest of their lives. I pray neither of those options will hold any draw for them. The truth is, even though most of us don’t live in either extreme it’s easy to hide from social and moral issues. I don’t want my kids to hide. I want them to shine.
2) My boys are about as white as white gets. Blonde. Blue-eyed. Freckled-faced and have never been called a racial derogatory term in their lives. They have no idea what it feels like to have a “people” who’s history is full of not-too-distant slavery and segregation. They have no idea what it feels like to live in an era when segregation was commonplace. Neither do I for that matter.
3) Dr. King demonstrated the kind of gutsy submission I want my boys to have in life. I want them to be characterized as a Christian should be: as a submissive person. Submissive as Christ was. Submissive to authority. Respectful of those in leadership. Obedient to the law. Yet, like Christ, I want them to be willing to suffer when they have to stand up and against unjust laws. In a interview on Meet The Press after the march from Selma to Montgomery Dr. King was asked how he could justify going against a law that forbade him from marching when he himself proclaimed to be a peaceful, non-violent protester. King’s response is spot on:
There are two types of laws. One is a just law. One is an unjust law. I think we all have moral obligation to obey just laws. On the other hand, I think we have a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. I think the distinction here is that when one breaks a law that his conscience tells him is unjust, he must do it openly, he must do it cheerfully, he must do it lovingly, he must do it civilly, not uncivilly, and he must do it with a willingness to accept the penalty. And any man that breaks a law that his conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty, by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community on the injustice of the law, is at that moment expressing the highest respect for law.
Oh that we as Christians, even me and my sons, would be so changed by the goodness and grace of God and the excellence of his ways that we would be model citizens and when we must break a law that our conscience tells us is unjust, we would do so openly and cheerfully and lovingly and civilly and willing to accept the penalty and thereby express the highest respect for the law.
4) Martin Luther King Jr.’s mission and stand is a powerful and inspiring way to point my boys to Christ.
Dr. King’s stance against the moral evil of racial bigotry and segregation, and for the moral good of all human beings to freely live in their society, share equal access to that society’s economy, politics and social aspects as people created in the image of God no matter the color of their skin is important and life changing because it’s right! There is a right and there is a wrong. There is evil and there is good. There is sin and their is righteousness. God through Christ showed us what righteousness is. We human beings demonstrate over and over again what sin is. Out of our hearts comes all kinds of evil.
Forcing people with dark skin to eat in a different part of a restaurant, go to a different school, drink from a different sink; beating peaceful demonstrators for respectfully standing against legislated evil; preventing black people from voting… and the many more evils that were accepted as right by our society is deplorable. It should never be. But even when that evil is eradicated from the planet other evils persist. The killing of the unborn. Human trafficking. Child pornography. Violent and oppressive governments. Child abuse. Domestic violence. And the list could go on and on. All these are evils that have come out of the human heart. Dr. King pointed us to the One who’s glory is the only cure for it: Christ.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches were prophetic and jarring. He often quoted from the Bible in his speeches. One from Amos really struck me in the movie today, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” It’s righteous, God’s righteousness, Christ’s righteousness that will make things right. In our lives individually now, as much as can be this side of His kingdom come. And one day, on that great and glorious day, fully when we see him face to face!
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. His glory is not merely racial equality and it is not less than racial equality. It is massive. It is transforming. It is the right we long for. And He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. All that evil. All that has poured out of our hearts for generations and has done horror upon horror to each other and this world and ultimately has spoken enormous slander of God’s name whom we bear as creatures made in his image. His wrath is coming against all that evil that we have done. And there is only one place to escape His wrath- His Son.
Christ did ultimately what King was a small shadow of. King suffered the evils of men to stand for what was right. Christ suffered the evils of men and the wrath of a righteous God against all those evils (to which men have held dear) to save us and make us right.
The hope for the black man and the white man, the Chinese woman and the Arabian woman, the African child and the Iranian child is the One who created them and died to redeem them all. Only His Kingdom come and His will be done will bring the ultimate of what Dr. King sought. Freedom.