Since 1986, the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been celebrated in the United States as a federal holiday. In recent years, it has been established as the third Monday in January. It honors the life, work, vision, and legacy of Dr. King, who was assassinated on April 4, 1968. While most Americans and many abroad remember King as an African-American hero, one of the shining lights of the civil rights movement and the author of the famous "I have a dream" speech, fewer may realize that his vision included universal humanity. In the last year or so of his life, King began to speak out about America's role in the world and of ending war through the establishment of all-inclusive brotherhood in our hearts.
In response to the tragedy of Sept. 11, the staff of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University posted several excerpts from King's sermons and addresses on its web site (www.stanford.edu/group/King). One still-relevant selection is from "A Christmas Sermon on Peace," delivered on Christmas Eve, 1967, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. He said, "Now let me suggest first that if we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means that we must develop a world perspective."
The brotherhood of humanity is not an elusive dream. It is an inescapable fact, when we approach the subject spiritually. One starting point is Christ Jesus' great gift to humanity, the Lord's Prayer. As all Christians - and quite a few others - know, it begins, "Our Father." This inclusive "Our" pulls us all together in one family. God, our true Father and Mother, creates us in His/Her image and likeness. This image and likeness must be both spiritual and infinite in its individual expressions. Understanding this allows us to view all the splendid diversity of humanity, not with suspicion of the unknown but with appreciation for the outpouring of God's goodness.
A friend of mine and I often talked about God's goodness as expressed in this splendid diversity of humanity. He is a federal employee in the field of law enforcement. One day, he found himself the target of vicious racial discrimination. He felt undermined and sabotaged at work, and even felt that the safety of his family was in question. This went on for some time, but we continued to talk often about God's love for him. As the result of his faithful prayers, he eventually found himself located elsewhere, in a new assignment of greater responsibility, where he was liked and his talents were appreciated. In addition, investigations into his case were begun at the highest levels, and corrective measures are being taken. God, "Our Father," was caring for him through the difficult time.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote about the effect that knowing God as all-inclusive has in our experience: "One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, - whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 340).
While I don't know whether King ever read any of Mrs. Eddy's works, I'm sure he would have agreed with this statement. A deeply committed Christian, King surely saw the implications of the Lord's Prayer in transforming human character. He knew that a spiritual point of view works wonders.
The advantage of a spiritual point of view of brotherhood is that this outlook transforms hearts. Brotherhood is not just a legal mechanism, a compliance with the law. A God-centered point of view raises our consciousness to greet everyone we meet and everyone we think about as a loved and loving child of God - another member of our family.
Have we not all one father?
hath not one God created us?