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A few words about Dr. King
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Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.

In my last article I offered an appreciation of the recently departed Archbishop Desmond Tutu. As our nation pauses to remember the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is fitting to share a few words about this giant of the civil rights movement. Countless books have been written about his contributions to the cause of freedom. Others are far more skilled than I at detailing these.

What I would like to focus on for a few moments is Martin Luther King’s ability to stand on his convictions without completely villainizing those on the other side. This is a balance that is desperately needed today.

As many have said, our country seems more divided than at any point in my lifetime. Others have speculated that we are headed for a full-scale civil war between Red and Blue America. I pray not. I had hoped that after the 2020 election, tensions on both sides would cool, but now it seems that whatever happens in 2022 and 2024, tensions are likely to increase. The worst part is that I am not particularly clear on the issues that divide Americans. Instead, there seems to be greater and greater anger toward people and personalities on “the other side.”

I believe that Dr. King can help us with this. He said, “I have decided to stick with love.

Hate is too great a burden to bear.” These are not the words of pie-in-the-sky idealism. This is the deep Christian conviction of a man who experienced violence, jail, and frequent criticism from both his opponents and his friends. I hear more and more hate bubbling up in our national debates. We categorize one another by our politics, and we stop seeing the people who hold particular positions.

Whether our debates are big or small, we can lose love and still have a community.

King also said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” We’ve all had debates around the Thanksgiving table and on social media, believing that if we just chose the right words or a particular thread of logic, others would come around to our position. Has that EVER worked for you? It hasn’t for me. I have never been able to argue someone into significantly change their position on a matter of substance.

What’s left? Relationship, understanding, and sharing life experiences. These can move people. Time together has helped me see where others are coming from. I may not change my core beliefs, but I soften them and begin to see gray areas, nuance, and how others just might see things differently. But how do we get there when some of us are so far apart? Recently, on the news I saw a story about a group called, Make America Dinner Again. As the name suggests, this is a grassroots effort to get real people with different opinions and politics to come together around the dinner table as talk to each other as people. This project stated by New Yorkers, Justine Lee and Tria Chang, is gaining some national traction. You can check it out and join a group online.

While surely not the whole solution, it seems that groups like these and Martin Luther King’s convictions about love are our only choice if we want to have a family, a church, a community, and a country, God Loves you, and so do I. 

Pastor Devin Strong

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