Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Faith in the American Dream
by Dennis Jamison
In the wake of the day designated to honor the contributions of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., intelligent Americans can wonder about the legacy of this incredible man of God. And, the embattled political spheres demonstrated they are not prepared to see the same vision as Dr. King. Even if only the “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial is used as a measuring stick, one can understand the words and intent that this crusader once shared with all Americans has been distorted and trivialized.
When King spoke the words of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he shared that his dream was rooted in the American Dream:
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream 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 that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with… With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
Dr. King’s words are not that difficult to interpret. They express a positive vision of hope and brotherhood that was not just a vision but the initiation of action to push forward into his time the dream of the Founding Fathers. King’s efforts and struggles were neither superficial attempts at grafting on to something much greater nor an insidious attempt at using a legacy for his own personal or political benefit. The man, the minister was intensely focused upon helping all Americans – black as well as white. King was not so petty as to place his personal or political advancement over that of others.
Political operatives still try to control the narrative, or to play politics with such a vision of hope – one that was trampled upon while he was still alive. His dream was for all the people of the United States, but it has been very much distorted since – by all kinds of individuals, from Al Sharpton, to Barack Obama, to the GOP.
Yet, despite what the leftists and progressive–revisionists would want people to remember, King was more than just a political and social reformer; King was a man of God, who loved God and the fundamental principles woven into the fabric of the United States, and that is why he shared his Dream. It was rooted into the American dream. He even said as much.
What has been lost about King is that he was more than just a leader of a secular movement for black Americans’ civil rights. Dr. King was genuinely a man of God, and it was his relationship with God that gave him the strength and courage to transform from the humble preacher to the modern prophet and the social activist many remember him to be. But, it is his rootedness in his relationship with God, and his love for America that spurred King to strongly proclaim: “I have a dream 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.’” He still believed.
The key component in King’s speech is the American dream of living in freedom. For “four score and seven years,” as Abraham Lincoln pointed out, the ideal the Founders hoped would be the beginning of a noble human endeavor. To provide a foundation, or to plant the seeds for a land of freedom. Lincoln was aware that ideal had been denied black Americans as they suffered in slavery. Then, after slavery was abolished through the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the point of “all men” being entitled to the rights of all citizens expressed within the Declaration of Independence and in the Bill of Rights, was finally established in this nation.
Unfortunately, the second part of the creed King refers to in his speech is that notion of “equality,” and that remained to be clarified King took the same kind of stand that Lincoln took in his day. Lincoln was helping Americans return to the original foundation established under the Declaration of Independence: all men being equal under the law. In his day King was helping Americans return to the same foundation: the Declaration of Independence. But King’s focus was on the uncompleted aspect: all men being equal.Certainly, one of the primary points that King made in his time was that freedom was a dream for all people: not just for white people, but for all people.
The component of the American Dream that had not been fulfilled was the part about “equality.” Because of this, Lincoln and King are linked to each other, and to the Founding Fathers forever. In all honesty, to address this incomplete part successfully, it required a black man to rise to the occasion because white people could only imagine or intellectualize the depths of the pain of their suffering.
Martin Luther King Jr. fought for freedom, not from the slavery of the Deep South that had long been abolished by the blood of hundreds of thousands of white men fighting for the rights of the black population; he was fighting against a residual white power structure left over from well before the days of the Confederacy. It was such a white political elite that had legalized discrimination, prejudice and racism; a power structure left over from the old white aristocracy that had ruled a part of the U.S. since the founding and had maintained rule over the South for 160 years prior to that. King fought for the rights of his people to be seen as equal under the law, but the inequality was deeply entrenched in North America since before the U.S. was even born.
King brought a positive change based upon his faith and the faith of hundreds of thousands of black souls. He had faith in the American Dream, and with that faith he believed that “we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together…” Sadly, this is truly the opposite of what some of the political operatives in all quarters of our country seek due to the struggle for power in America.
Those who fan the flames of divisiveness and disunity within this nation, do not rest on the foundation of Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy. He has risen upon the legacy of the other powerful forces that were active in the black community in this nation: the nation of Islam, the Black Panthers, Black Liberation Theology and the teachings of Saul Alinsky. These forces lead people away from the American Dream and the ideals espoused in the Declaration of Independence. For the most part, these forces deny one of the most important parts of this esteemed document: the existence of God, and the concept that the rights of the people originate from the Creator. Without believing in God, rights only originate from the governments of men, and men can often be tyrants.
If one sincerely considers it, this aspect of the Declaration of Independence, is the current battlefield in the development of the Land of the Free: that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Only a relative few truly believe this declaration in this day and age. In this time, Americans will be confronted with this real challenge of faith. Americans still face the challenge to decide whether the nation is to be “one nation under God,” or a nation under the dominion of a network of faithless and divisive “leaders” who pursue their own self-centered, personal and political power. This is truly a time for genuine leaders to appreciate and emulate the faith of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.