A LITTLE over twenty six years ago, an estimated quarter of a million blacks and whites gathered together peacefully in the United States capital on a sweltering August day to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., give what many feel was one of the most powerful speeches ever uttered in the name of human freedom. ``I have a dream,'' Dr. King cried, ``that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: `We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.'
``I have a dream,'' he said, ``that one day, on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.''
Powerfully, he built to the dramatic conclusion: ``And when this happens and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village 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 Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of that old Negro spiritual, `Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!' ''1
Today, although there has been progress, that dream of freedom and equality for all people, regardless of race or color, has yet to be fulfilled. There is still widespread discrimination and bigotry in America. And, sad to say, racially motivated violence actually seems to be on the rise in many cities. There seems to be a hardening of attitudes, a loss of hard-won ground. Has the dream died?
In the final analysis, that depends on you and me, doesn't it? Isn't it up to us whether the dream lives on or whether it becomes merely a nostalgic memory of the sixties? For the dream to come true, it must ring true in our hearts and minds. And if the white people and the people of color in America don't lose sight of their common brotherhood and sisterhood as children of God, we will have a real basis for healing racial prejudice and fear.
I know that prejudice can be healed on this basis, because I've seen it happen in my own life. Like many young people during the sixties, I was an idealist and believed in the idea of equality and freedom. I was excited by the civil rights movement and by leaders like Dr. King. And yet, because of my upbringing, I could not deny feeling an irrational personal discomfort about people of color that was totally at odds with my ideals.
As I prayed about this and about terrible racial tensions at my school, I found the teachings of Christian Science to be a tremendous help. You see, Christian Science is about freedom, not only freedom from racial and political oppression but freedom from every form of enslavement, whether it be sickness, sin, or death. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ``The voice of God in behalf of the African slave was still echoing in our land, when the voice of the herald of this new crusade sounded the keynote of universal freedom, asking a fuller acknowledgment of the rights of man as a Son of God, demanding that the fetters of sin, sickness, and death be stricken from the human mind and that its freedom be won, not through human warfare, not with bayonet and blood, but through Christ's divine Science.''2
Christ's divine Science means the laws of God that Jesus practiced in the healing of sickness and sin of every sort. He healed people's bodies by healing their hearts and minds, by showing them that they were, in fact, the children of God. This Science of Christ helps us see through the material picture of man as mortals divided into conflicting races. It reveals man's true nature as spiritual, not corporeal -- as actually the image of Spirit, God.
As I worked with these truths, I began to see how utterly ridiculous it was to judge another on something as superficial as skin color or ethnic background. That's certainly not the man that God sees! God sees the real man, the good and lovable man that shines through each of us when we are at our best. Slowly, the love of God changed my heart, melted away the irrational fear and prejudice that was blinding me to the man of God's creating.
That year in school, for first time, I made friends who were black, and in our common Christian faith we found a ground for helping to bring peace and understanding to our school. In more than one instance, the sight of black and white students, standing arm in arm between two hostile crowds, was enough to end a violent confrontation. It was truly the power of Love -- of God -- over hate and ignorance.
And what of today, as the national holiday commemorating Dr. King's life draws near? Is the dream still alive? Yes. The fight to end discrimination and prejudice is really part of the larger battle to win universal freedom for mankind from slavery of every sort. Through the spiritual understanding that God is our Father and that we our His children, we can ring in that day when we can finally say of all human bondage and limitation, ``Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!''
1The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Newmarket Press, 1987), pp. 95, 97. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 226. BIBLE VERSE: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.