Soul Force on MLK, Jr. Day

As I reflect on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., while watching it snow I never cease to be amazed at what a brilliant wordsmith he was. Part of the power and influence he had in moving a nation forward towards racial equality came from his masterful use of words to convey powerful ideas. Many of his ideas we can only aspire to because we don’t seem to have the will to actually achieve them although we could if we truly desired. I wish I could put words and ideas together that would have a fraction of the impact that he did.

While I am still trying to understand and make sense of what is happening in our country today and while I am genuinely trying to comprehend what is on the hearts of friends, colleagues and fellow citizens who are expressing their concerns through violent and disruptive actions, I admit I am struggling. I recognize that there is a wide gambit of perspectives being expressed right now, but what I am specifically reflecting on today are those that believe what happened at the Capitol 2 weeks ago was ok and who continue to make plans that include something more than peaceful protest and expression of 1st Amendment differences of opinion. When in the 21st Century did it become ok to build gallows on the lawn of the Capitol Building? When did it become ok in the name of Jesus Christ to bash in windows, storm and overwhelm uniformed officers in order to kidnap some of the highest elected officials in our country in order to prevent the peaceful transfer of power in our country?

I preached yesterday about the strange sense I have that we have lost our Due North on our collective compass. Instead of having a moral and ethical guide that we could all orient to and guide our decisions, it feels like individuals and groups can determine their own Due North that suits the outcomes they most desire. What one person says has crossed a line, another says is the pursuit of freedom or justice. We have lost our collective, agreed upon sense of what is right and what is wrong, what is ok and what is not ok. This crosses all religious and political stripes.

What breaks my heart most about this is that we Christians have no excuse. We have been given this moral compass with a clear Due North and yet we are all a bit lost. I watched a video yesterday of some of the people who broke into the Senate Chamber on January 6th and wrote on VP Mike Pence’s pad of paper at his chair “It’s just a matter of a time, justice is coming” and then stood up and led a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ thanking God for helping them do what they did that day. It chilled me to the bone. In no way was God smiling down on the events of January 6th. Which takes me to a powerful quote from MLK, Jr.

“In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., “I have a Dream” Speech, August 28, 1963

What a powerful call to anyone striving to seek genuine freedom or justice to do so in a Christlike manner. I love the phrase “meeting physical force with soul force.” Where is the soul force when you need it? I imagine the soul force would help us to reestablish Christ as our Due North on the collective compass. (I can almost see a bevy of super heroes maybe named Michael, Gabriel and Mary intervening to show us how NOT to drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred – but that might be too much Netflix talking.)

I truly don’t know what the solution is for getting out of this divisive mess we are living in right now. I pray that the violence is behind us and that no one else gets hurt but I’m nervous that might not be the case for a while. I pray that those who are upset will feel like they have been truly heard. But I also pray that truth will prevail and where there is confusion, misinformation, and hatred that is fueling this movement, the tank will become empty. I pray that we can find a way to deescalate this situation. I pray that we can realize that breaking the law has consequences. Just like we believe accountability is an important aspect of our spiritual practice to follow Jesus more closely, accountability is necessary when laws are broken and people are killed and hurt.

It pains me to be reflecting on these thoughts today instead of something a bit more optimistic. But as a spiritual leader, I cannot be complicit with silence while I watch a complete dissolution of our spiritual, moral and ethical fabric that has held us together as a society for 200 years unravel.

I invite you to join me in creating a “Soul Force” to do a couple of things. Pray like you have never prayed before for a path forward that ultimately leads to unity and peace for our country. Model for others that even if you disagree or are disappointed, we are capable of accepting both differing ideas and defeat with grace and dignity when our perspective is not the majority. Finally, join me in realigning our Due North back to the moral compass that Christ outlined in the Gospels – love and not hate should prevail above all else. Jesus’ kind of love is defined as serving others instead of serving self, caring for those who need help, and recognizing that everyone has value and is invited to the table. Everyone.

Please join me in prayer,

Pastor Lory Beth

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