It is the commemoration of the March on Washington, when hundreds of thousands peaceably gathered to demand equal rights for all, as guaranteed by the US Constitution. May of us remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. Some remember Mahalia Jackson’s inspiring version of “How I got over.” History teaches us the march was foundation in passing the Civil Rights Acts, and the Voting Rights Act.
What I did not know was that it nearly did not happen. David Brooks in his column this morning reminds us the idea for the March got no support from the Urban League, NCAACP or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and President Kennedy was concerned it would hinder passing legislation. Were it not for violence in Birmingham, the March may have never happened. But what Brooks shared that grabbed my attention is the deep theological underpinnings of the March, and the deeper self transformation necessary prior to the March. (Here is the link to article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/27/opinion/brooks-the-ideas-behind-the-march.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0 ).
The connection to this weeks reading is from Hebrews (13:6) “So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” Trust in such truth allows one to walk into the gates of violent opponents “… willing to absorb the violence, absorb the terrorism, to face the music and to take whatever comes.” i And it works, it brings about social transformation twice as often as violence does. ii The extent that we are surprised by this is a measure of how much we have to learn about the power of God’s love for us, and through us.