Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said he agreed with Dante that “the hottest places in hell” are reserved for those who, in a time of moral crisis, stay silent. Fifty years after his speech at the March on Washington, so much has changed and too much has not. In remembering King's life and work, the focus will rightfully so be on how he and his fellow civil-rights activists laid themselves down as a bridge for thousands to move from being three-fifths of a human, to people who were "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Martin Luther King, Jr. was, however, bigger than racial injustice and there is far too much in our country that remains unjust.
Since Dr. King was a member of the clergy, let's put it in these terms: God is clear. It is not enough to confess wrongdoing, we must also repent and sin no more. To truly honor the men and women of the Civil Rights movement, we must admit we have fallen short on the "sin no more" part of the trifecta.
We fell short of the dream when we allowed the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to be made in China. This $120 million symbol of justice and peace was made in a nation that is a symbol of neither, by people who have neither. Ultimately, the truncated quote on the side of the monument had to be repaired by some of the millions of American craftsmen who were unemployed. As Dr. King said, "All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."
We have fallen short by threatening shut down a government that is responsible for millions of warriors, diplomats, and humanitarians in harm’s way. Presumably, Dr. King would hate debt just as God does (Psalm 22:7), but both would also judge harshly the Congress that is willing to incur debt and then refuse to pay the debtor (Psalm 37:21). As Dr. King said, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish as fools."
And we certainly fell short when we stood by and watched as hate-filled Americans spat on men who once marched for civil rights. When we continue to allow propaganda machines that hurl heinous comparisons between their fellow Americans and Hitler to call themselves “news media,” we have turned our back on true and just discourse. Or, in the words of Dr. King, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we must honor the strides we have made in fighting racism and poverty by taking confessing that the content of our national character is still struggling to reach its fullest potential.