Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
So said Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ironic timing, isn’t it? that on the eve of our MLK commemoration weekend our president should so debase himself and the office he holds by his disparagement of, well, you know what he said about certain countries.
What crossed my mind when I first heard his remarks were the faces of so many members and friends of Christ Church I have known over the years who emigrated from those countries; not to mention many others whose forebears were brought here in chains from those same lands stripped of their dignity, family, and humanity. A groan of apology wants to erupt from the depth of my heart for all those I love and respect. Somehow I feel tainted…
And sad and angry. Not terribly surprised. Exhausted from the relentless barrage of bilious bile.
I want to humbly assert two things: 1) Words matter. What we say and how we say it matters a lot. Culturally we’ve lost sight of this. We’ve let ourselves get loose and lazy with words. Our language has been corrupted. It’s become overly laced with expletives that have long lost their power to punctuate a point. We say stupid things under cover of seeming hip and sassy or “of the people.” While Twitter and Facebook can keep us connected with people we care about, they also allow for scattershot burps that mock wisdom. Instead of providing a useful tool with limited purpose, they can supplant older habits of thoughtful nuance, engagement, and discourse. I say, take a break, and a breath, and listen for God.
And 2) MLK used words very well. He had a remarkable capacity for clear-eyed assessment of current conditions coupled with a resilient faith that held firm to the conviction that all of us, no matter our national or ethnic origin, were the children of the same creator God; all of us sisters and brothers bound in God’s web of graceful love.
He had the gift to be larger than his genuine grievance, which lent power to his words and wisdom. He understood that hateful tribalism was the antithesis of Jesus’ message.
I do not want to be defined by what I hate. Like King, I want to see clearly and name things accurately. Racism, for instance. But I also want to cling to the revelation that love is the only energy that has the power to transform the inner person as well as create the conditions for authentic justice. We can’t hate our way into a healthy state. Love is the only pathway.
King teaches this. So very glad for his witness.