“We remember Dr. King as a dreamer of a renewed American dream,” says Bishop David Bard, with emphasis on “our moral responsibility to be intelligent.”
BISHOP DAVID BARD
January 17, 2022 | LANSING — Greetings on this celebration of the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This national holiday was instituted so that our nation might remember Dr. King as someone who worked diligently and passionately for civil rights to make the promise of the United States of America real for all of its citizens.
We want to remember Dr. King as a dreamer of a renewed American dream “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, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.” We want to remember Dr. King, who, with keen vision and acute intellect, could identify impediments to that dream. As he wrote in his final book: “The great majority of Americans are suspended between these opposing attitudes. They are uneasy with injustice but unwilling yet to pay a significant price to eradicate it.”
For we Christians, we also celebrate this day, acknowledging that Dr. King’s dreams and keen analyses were rooted and grounded in faith in Jesus Christ. Dr. King called the nation to live out the true meaning of its creed that all were created equal and called people of faith to live out that faith by doing the work of justice, peace, reconciliation, and love. And in his call to people of faith to such work, King encouraged thoughtfulness and intelligence. “Never must the church tire of reminding [people] that they have a moral responsibility to be intelligent. Must we not admit that the church has often overlooked this moral demand for enlightenment? At times it has talked as though ignorance were a virtue and intelligence a crime.” (The Strength to Love, 31)
On this celebration of Dr. King’s birthday, I am especially reminded of that moral responsibility to be intelligent. We are awash in information yet are drowning in it for our lack of critical thinking to sift through some of the garbage that we hear. Our democracy suffers for it. Our response to the current pandemic is hampered by misinformation. Our work toward racial reconciliation requires that we tell a more complicated story about our history, being willing to confront the realities of slavery, the mistreatment of native peoples, our national miscalculations, along with celebrating courage, invention, community, beauty, and love. To tell that more complicated story asks that we respond to the moral responsibility to be intelligent.
That we have a national holiday to celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a cause for celebration and a measure of progress. May we use this holiday to remember the ongoing challenge of his dream, his continuing call to even more justice and even deeper community, and his reminder of our moral responsibility to be intelligent.