Today (August 28th, 2013) marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Although it must be admitted that our society has advanced by great leaps and bounds, one must ask; has the dream been realized? In this article, two of Dr. King’s emphases in his “I Have a Dream” speech will be examined as the question will be asked: has the dream been realized?
Dream of Equality
One of the core tenets of King’s speech was on the equality of all people of various races. King stated, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (King 1963, 5). This is a biblical theme also. Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Paul stated concerning the church, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, NLT). James, the brother of Jesus, even wrote, “Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law” (James 2:8-9, NLT). Therefore, Dr. King’s voice of equality was a very biblical message. Are we where we should be in this regard?
We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. In some regions, the role of race is not as much a factor as it is in others. But, let us be honest. There are still tensions. Perhaps the passing of time will in the future mend the wounds suffered in the past. In order for this to occur, people must be diligent in building bridges with others of different races. Christians should lead the way. The evangelical Christian should realize that God created all of us. Yes, we all have weaknesses and faults. But, we are all creations of God and have a purpose for being here. This should help the Christian, of all people, to understand the necessity of loving others. If a person is loved by God, who are we to act any differently? Yes, if a person strays, kind-hearted corrections should be given with the best interest of the other in mind. But, nothing should surpass the love that we are commanded to possess for people of all skin tones. As the Gospel hymn is sung, “Red, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…Jesus loves the little children of the world” (Hymn: “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” Public Domain). We are not there yet, but we should judge more by the “content of their character” (King 1963, 5) rather than the color of any person’s skin.
Dream of Freedom
King said, “When we allow freedom to ring when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholic, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, Free at last, Great God almighty, We are free at last” (King 1963, 6). The area of freedom is one that brings great concern for many people today. Are we still the “land of the free”? Considering the fact that individuals are losing the right to publicly profess their faith, one must wonder whether the First Amendment rights of all Americans will stand after the next century has passed.
In Montana, a statue of Jesus, which held significance for the veterans being commemorated, was challenged by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The American Center for Law and Justice reports, “Part of a war memorial on Big Mountain at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana since the 1950s, the statue was inspired by monuments the soldiers – who were also members of the Knights of Columbus – saw in the mountains of Europe during the war” (ACLJ, “ACLJ: Federal Court in Montana Keeps War Memorial in Place – “Win for Protecting Religious Heritage and History of our Nation”). Is this really freedom? It seems that we have taken a different turn than what Dr. King had imagined. King said, “With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day” (King 1963, 5). The great irony is, Dr. King, if living on earth today, might find that his dream of freedom was gained on the racial spectrum, but would be losing ground on the religious spectrum…the very fuel that sparked the fires of his bravery and fortitude.
A lot of good was done on August 28, 2013. Dr. King reminded us of the great kinship that we all hold together. We have many problems in our day and time. The United States of America is more divided than ever before. However, Dr. King reminded us then, as we need to be reminded now, that we are all creations of God. Every life has a purpose and value. The world may look at you as a loser. You may have been called a mistake. But, God sees you as a winner. God sees the person you could be. Despite the differences that many possess, let us be reminded of the value of life as we celebrate the work and message of Dr. King. For Dr. King reminded us of what the Christian should have already seen…that every person of every race is made “imagio dei” (in the image of God). As God told Samuel, “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT). As the realm of freedom is addressed, may it be reminded to the reader that true freedom comes through a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Paul writes, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 7:24b-8:2, NLT).
Seeking to love all…red, yellow, black, and white,
ACLJ, “ACLJ: Federal Court in Montana Keeps War Memorial in Place – “Win for Protecting Religious Heritage and History of our Nation”, (ACLJ.org, June 25, 2013). Accessed August 28, 2013. <http://aclj.org/american-heritage/jay-sekulow-aclj-federal-court-in-montana-keeps-war-memorial-in-place-win-for-protecting-religious-heritage-history-of-nation>.
King, Martin Luther, Jr. “I Have a Dream,” Washington DC. March on Washington, delivered on August 28th, 1963. Accessed August 28th, 2013. <http://www.archives.gov/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf>.
New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.
Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.