Monday, January 21, 2008

What's Your Dream?

“I have a dream!” These words of MLK are known by people of all ages and used by those across all political persuasions. MLK has become a symbol and these four words the banner. They evoke emotion and imagination. Of all the millions of words he spoke before equal numbers of people, these four from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial remain synonymous with his identity. His influence continues, already making an adolescent appearance in the current presidential race.

Today businesses, schools, banks, post offices – and even churches take a rest to remember the man and his mark on our culture. He is more universally popular today in America than he was when he walked in Birmingham, or when he stood on the steps in Washington or when he died in Memphis. He had a dream – a prophetic dream. Unfortunately, the content of the rest of his speech and dream is less remembered than the inspiration that he had one.

King’s life and work are most often and rightly remembered as prophetic inspiration. I will never forget first visiting Ebenezer Baptist Church and the MLK National Museum and Memorial in Atlanta. The museum preserves much of the content of his life in the past while inviting conversation and imagination for the future. The site includes MLK’s elevated tomb in the middle of a reflection pool. I found it so profoundly moving that I brought the rest of my family to experience it during our summer vacation only a few months later.

With my profound admiration, there are details of his life and work I don’t completely agree with. He didn’t expect people to. How we remember King’s legacy would be more important to King than the fact that we do. An Associated Press article put it this way:

That does a disservice to both King and society, said Melissa Harris-Lacewell, professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University. By freezing him at that point, by putting him on a pedestal of perfection that doesn't acknowledge his complex views, "it makes it impossible both for us to find to new leaders and for us to aspire to leadership," Harris-Lacewell said. … "If we forget that, then it seems like the only people we can get behind must be popular," Harris-Lacewell said. "Following King meant following the unpopular road, not the popular one."

In that way, King’s life followed Jesus’ example. Jesus’ life challenged the dominant power structures of His day. Jesus’ identification and advocacy for the marginalized were dangerous for the status quo. His Kingdom dream was revolutionary and unpopular. He was on the unpopular road to Calvary. Nobody wants to be on that road. Yet, it was the necessary and only road that led to the redemption of the world.

Jesus said:
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul? If any of you are ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38

What are practical ways you and I can follow Jesus’ prophetic inspiration in our real world today? What is the most pressing “social” issue in America for you? (Before you read further, take a moment to cast your vote with one click using the poll at the top of the page).

The Barna Group released its most recent findings today on what Americans say are the current top social issues in the country. These are especially interesting in an election year. The top three might surprise you. Based on their polling research across the country:
Americans are troubled by a diverse palette of concerns. Three types of issues are of particular concern, perceived as "major" problems facing the country by three-quarters of the population. Those included poverty (78%), the personal debt of individual Americans (78%), and HIV/AIDS (76%). (You can find the rest of their detailed findings and where other issues ranked at: http://www.barna.org/.)
What do you think these results say about us? What does Jesus’ Dream of the redemption of the world mean in practical terms for our daily life and society? What do those who follow Jesus need to recognize or do to make a real prophetic difference? What is your dream?

What do you think? Please click the comments 6 to leave yours.

4 comments:

Linz said...

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference


Robert Frost

Oh how hard it is to take the road less traveled and yet what a difference one can make by doing so! I too will never forget visiting Ebenezer Baptist Church and the MLK National Museum and Memorial! :)

Anonymous said...

Do we, in fact, dream? I fear not.

These things we call dreams may be in many cases nothing more than feeble hopes for the absence of calamity. May we not lose our jobs or have to live in a smaller house or be inconvenienced by someone entering our life who actually needs our time.

It is convicting that the simple fact that King stated in no uncertain terms that he indeed had a dream was notable.

Think about it. We are the individually crafted masterwork of the creator of the universe endowed with the grace that is sufficient, love that is immeasurable, strength that is divine, the assurance the gates of hell will not stand against the church and the promise of an everlasting life with Jesus Christ. But how many of us really dream? Do we imagine things that no one thinks possible, except the God in whom everything is possible? Do we allow ourselves to think beyond ourselves, beyond our talents, beyond our experience into that arena where we have to rely totally on God? That is a scary and dangerous place.

T. E. Lawrence said, “All man dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous, for they may act out their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.”

I think the question is not “what are our dreams” but rather, do we dream at all?

Larry Eubanks said...

Hi Wayne,

I hope my questions don't seem out of place: (1) What is it about poverty that makes it a "social issue?" (2) By saying something is a "social issue" are we saying that we think government should be involved in fixing it?

D said...

So what is poverty? Is it just the absence of the means to attain what the material society deems as "necessary"; or the essentials of food, drink and clothing for which our bodies have a real need?

I think not. Poverty is also the aching need to have someone touch you, just a hand on the shoulder or a caress down the cheek, and say "I care". The need for someone to look you directly in the eyes with a look that says, "I see the person you are beyond the image you present to the world and I want to know you deeply".
The need of a child to be gently hugged, routinely fed, clothed, disciplined, praised, tucked in at night and told they are loved.
The need of a child to feel secure in knowing that the adults in their world will not abuse them or demean them in any way.
The need of an elderly person to know (he/she) is still valuable; that there is some way to continue giving to the world instead of just taking - or worse - being ignored.
Yes, poverty is rampant in our world. And yes, I believe it is a social issue in that it involves all people. And no, I don't think it is something the government should try to "fix".
The poverty I address is, instead, an issue of the heart; an issue which Jesus addressed over and over.
It is up to each of us to decide how we can give to each of the poor around us (and who is not in some way? ); to open our eyes and our hearts to the real needs of each neighbor; to empower each to give, then, out of their abundance.

And, hopefully, like the spreading ripples from the pebble thrown in the pond, humanity can begin to touch this overwhelming reality of poverty.