“I just want to do God’s will”.
This seven word contract with our Creator were some of the last public words that he spoke before being murdered the next day on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel by a country—and I do mean by a country–that praised his stance for non-violence when it came to Black people’s response to hundreds of years of abuse and psychological, emotional, and physical degradation but turned on him when he stood by the same convictions to speak out against what he called the three evils of Racism, Militarism, and Poverty when it came to the war in Vietnam and gathering the country’s poor people together in A Poor People’s Campaign.
But why do I say he was murdered by the country instead of saying one man, or perhaps the government. I say it, because it is rarely, if ever, just one person who is the perpetrator of any evil. Yes, it may be convenient for us to put the responsibility on one person—someone that we can just get rid of and make all of our problems go away. But—in reality—evil, is always a communal enterprise.
As we all know, those who turned on Preacher King because of his stance on that war and the threat of a poor people’s coalition, weren’t his only enemies. Of course, there were the racists, and the segregationists, and the Black separatists, and Black Nationalist, and those who saw non-violence as weakness who were against him as well. All these groups had a hand in his murder. But it was not just those folks either. In fact, if you consider all the people who helped create the environment where someone who poured himself out for the betterment of all people could be murdered, these folks would be a minority.
No, the greatest number of people who contributed to the death of Dr. King and the many throughout history, who have tried to hold our society and other societies accountable to their professed values, were not the people who spoke out against them. The greatest number actually were the people who said nothing as the cacophonous wails of barely abated injustice reached their crescendo.
It pains me to say it my friends, but it was and always has been the people who just want to stay out of it—the people who don’t want any trouble, the people who won’t pick up their own crosses—who whether they intend to or not—help set the stage where the so called “few bad actors” can perform heinous acts of terror. And, when it happens time and time again, it calls to mind these other prophetic words of Dr. King, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
So, when I think about Dr. King’s death, I don’t think about a secret conspiracy by those who outwardly demonstrated their resistance to justice and equality for all people. I think about the silence of his friends—the silence of our friends.
SCRIPTURE – Luke 9:18-27
18 Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” 20 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.”
21 He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25 What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? 26 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
Poem – Moments After Martyrdom