It would be Dr. Martin Luther King’s 86th birthday today and I find myself thinking about what he said, and accomplished throughout his life. I started by reading a post I made 3 years ago, linked below. At the time, I was on a bit of a rant about how my state legislated against homosexuals. The good news is that, since then, the Old Dominion has moved into a new place and same sex marriage in VA is alive and well. Of course, it happened because the Supreme Court allowed it as opposed to it happening by choice but, hey, a win is a win. If you want to catch my last post on Dr. King, check it out here.
Today, I’d like to riff on the religion-isms that are currently springing up, and up, and up. To begin, the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting the establishment of religion or impeding the free exercise of religion, along with several other things like speech, press, assembly, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances; it’s a kick ass amendment!
This means that US citizens are allowed to make their own decisions about who or what they worship without fear of the government telling them otherwise. It was one of our country’s founding tenets. So, when I see people talking about “returning our country to the religious place on which it was founded” (because we’ve “lost our way”) I just start shaking my head. It wasn’t founded on that, in fact it was founded on each of us deciding for ourselves. What you really mean is you’d like to take away my right to have my personal religion and accept yours because it’ll make us all act better, or at least the same. Right? Sorry, no dice.
Since we’ve accorded that right to all of our citizens, it would follow that we’re going to treat everyone else on the planet in the same way, at least where the government is involved. Everyone with me, so far? Good.
That means that, as US Citizens, we have to be okay with others having a different religious belief than our own. And here is where things begin to go sideways.
Those Muslims are savages!
I don’t know how many people I’ve heard say something along these lines, up to and including that we should just bomb all these Muslim countries since they all want to be martyrs, anyway! (Seriously, I’ve heard that said more than once.)
If you’ve studied the Quran, you know that its message is peace and love, not unlike the Christian Bible. Are there verses in there about death and jihad? Sure. Taken out of context, they seem incredibly vile and evil. Are there verses in the Bible about death and killing those who don’t believe the same? Yep. (Have you studied the Crusades?) Taken out of context, they seem incredibly vile and evil. In others words, they state things in much the same way as each other. But why? I’m not a religious scholar so I’m going to give you my totally uneducated take on this.
It appears to me that both of these works, the Quran and the Bible, were written at a time when their respective religions were in the formative stages – a very long time ago. In order to get people to join your ranks, strong motivation was needed so they used the best thing they had at the time. Strong language, with strong motivational tools (threats of death, stoning, disfigurement or smoting come to mind) was the methodology a couple millennia ago. But if you pull these individual verses out, both scriptures look suspiciously similar and downright mean spirited.
I was raised in a Christian church and the closest thing I could get to mean spirited teaching was if I didn’t repent, I’d be damned to fire and brimstone throughout eternity. But if repentance was in my heart, all would be love and light and heaven.
But what about those terrorists?
I think they are the extreme right wing side of the Muslim faith, led by some unscrupulous men who are using religion to drive their power and behavior. Are there a lot of them? Apparently, there are enough to make a pretty good sized war. Can they be stopped? I sure hope so; evil should always be stopped and this group is pure evil. Can peace be achieved? Eventually, I think it can. But it’s going to take some work or everyone’s part. I know a fair number of Muslims. Not one of them has threatened me or my family or my country. Do you know why? They aren’t terrorists! They’re human beings who happen to believe in something differently from me.
By the way, extremists exist in every religion. Would you like to be judged as a Christian by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church? I’m going with, no.
That brings me to something that really ticked me off last week.
Rev. Franklin Graham
Shortly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre last week, there were people saying that “Muslims were misunderstood, generally good people” and needed some acceptance around the world. That same week, Duke Unversity announced that they were going to allow a weekly “call to Muslim prayer” on their campus.
Rev. Graham lost his shit on that one.
On his Facebook page he wrote, “As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism.”
First, I must have missed it but when did Christianity become excluded from the public square? Last I checked, it’s still the most common religion with 33% of the world population, although that’s lumping them all together; that’s something they don’t much care for.
Second, Sharia law is followed in a handful of countries and while they do have some pretty strict laws and penalties, I’m pretty sure rape, butchering, and beheading are off the table. (I’m not saying that doesn’t go on, I’m saying it’s not done by the followers of Islam as a matter of course. It’s the extreme faction.)
Third, Duke was promoting and inviting worship for their Muslim students of which they reportedly have around 800. (I’m told they were the first university in the country to have an Imam on staff. That’s a Muslim minister, bubba.) They were inviting people to come, not demanding that they join and promising eternal damnation if they didn’t.
Fourth, Reverend Graham I’m ashamed of your intolerance. In your world, evidently, Baptists are the only members of God’s people allowed to practice their religion. Not only that, but you seem driven to get everyone on that bus because 2 days ago you told Muslims, “that in Jesus Christ’s name they can be forgiven” on the Sean Hannity show. (You know, if they said the same to you about Allah, you’d be outraged.) I suspect that if you asked Jesus, “WWJD?” on this one, he’d be shaking his head, sadly.
If you aren’t part of the solution…..
It’s this kind of intolerant rhetoric, ringing from the mouth of nearly every person with a microphone these days, that helps to proliferate the struggle for peace. In other words, if you’re not adding a solution that everyone can abide by, then you’re part of the problem. Right now, we have far too many problems and not nearly enough solutions. So, stop it! Now. Just stop the fist waving, chest thumping, finger pointing, belief damning and just let everyone be. Take a breath. Understand that we're all just protoplasm on the planet, trying to live. Give each other a hand.
And Dr. King, what would he say?
I don’t know what he’d say today. I only know what he said when he told us about his dream.
…when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics…
Although he didn’t say it then, I suspect that today he’d include Muslims, and atheists, and every other religion because he preached tolerance. He decided to “stick with love because hate is too great a burden.”
So should we all.
Martin Luther King – I Have a Dream Speech – entire text
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!3
Thanks, Dr. King.