MLK Reflections

As I think today about Dr. King and what he stood for, I’m reminded of a lecture I heard many years ago about inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes.

Suppose I said, “I was tired when I got back from my vacation.” This is a comment about my being tired. But suppose I said, “I was tired when I got back from my European vacation.” Now the emphasis is on going to Europe.

Now consider the following:

  • “I consulted a lady doctor about my condition.”
  • “The ruling was made by a woman judge.”
  • “This black guy ran a red light.”

In all these cases the emphasis is on the adjective, making it the most important part of the statement. We are suggesting that it is significant that a woman can be a physician or a judge. In the last case, why is it significant that the person who ran the light was black?

I suggest we honor Dr. King and his quest for equality for all humankind by becoming aware of how our language can reinforce stereotypes.

Speaking of Dr. King, if you haven’t done so, you should really read “Letter From A Birmingham Jail.”

I have put a copy below for your convenience.



My 9/11 Reflections

Like many other American churches, on Sunday, September 11, 2011, my home church Grace Episcopal cathedral of Topeka will hold a 9/11 memorial service. Unlike most churches, for our service we have invited the Topeka Islamic Center, and Temple Beth Shalom to join us. In 2001 these three faith communities joined for a prayer service. I am so proud of our parish for this inclusive approach. Imagine, Christians, Jews and Muslims praying together in Topeka Kansas.

It reminds me that the terrorist of 9/11 didn’t do what they did because they were Arabs, nor because they were Muslim. They did what they did because they “knew the truth,” with such certainty that anyone who disagreed with them was not only wrong, but evil, and if evil, worthy of death.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols also knew the truth.

Several years ago, I wrote and created a “live” John Brown performance. After 9-11 I quit doing it because I realized that the only difference between John Brown and the 9-11 terrorists was the name they called their God, and the cause they believed in. I had seen John Brown as a hero because I agree that slavery is evil. But I realized that like John Brown, the 9-11 terrorists believed their acts were justified because they believed  what they saw as Western Imperialism is evil. They also believed they were doing God’s will. Basically the people we should fear are not Muslims, or for that matter Christians, but anybody who is so convinced they are right they believe those who disagree with them are evil; that the end justifies any means.

So are we to accept injustice in the world and do nothing? absolutely not. Dr. Martin Luther King tells how to deal with injustice in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.” If you haven’t read it, you should. If you have read it, read it again.

Final thought: September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. The following Saturday a Senior Class performance was scheduled. Several people asked me if I would cancel it. I didn’t for three reasons.

  •  One: “The show must go on;”
  • Two: I felt that cancelling the show was what the terrorists would have wanted. They wanted to disturb us and interrupt our lives. I was unwilling to give them that victory.
  • Thee: Laughter heals

We had a small house, and there were almost as many people on stage as in the house. But we laughed. Oh how we laughed. Take that terrorists!

Laugh is not my middle name, but my first  name.

Finally, I truly believe every thing I have written here is true. If you disagree with me, more power to you. I may be wrong.