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Benny: MLK and the Dream of the 2020's

Submitted by bmattis on Wed, 01/08/2020 - 16:01


As the traditional cheer of the 2019 holiday season settles into our memories, many find hope in 2020, not only as the beginning of a new year but also as the start of a whole new decade. Of course, not everyone agrees that 2020 is actually the start of a new decade; since there was no "year 0," 2021 would mark the 201st ten-year increment since the beginning of the Common Era. Nevertheless, I remain firmly committed to the view that 1/1/2020 is the proper date to mark the new decade.

Unfortunately, the heated conflict over when to celebrate a new decade has been rapidly overshadowed by disaster in Australia and international hostility, threatening to displace the hope of our new decade with a preoccupation over existential risk. But as Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, the words of King's very last Christmas sermon (delivered in 1967) warn us against despair:

Christ came to show us the way. Men love darkness rather than the light, and they crucified Him, and there on Good Friday on the Cross it was still dark, but then Easter came, and Easter is an eternal reminder of the fact that the truth-crushed earth will rise again. Easter justifies Carlyle in saying, "No lie can live forever"...And so today I still have a dream. I have a dream that one day men will rise up and come to see that they are made to live together as brothers. I still have a dream this morning that one day every Negro in this country, every colored person in the world, will be judged on the basis of the content of his character rather than the color of his skin, and every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. I still have a dream that one day the idle industries of Appalachia will be revitalized, and the empty stomachs of Mississippi will be filled, and brotherhood will be more than a few words at the end of prayer, but rather the first order of business on every legislative agenda. 

The time between Christmas and Easter is a time where Jesus is persecuted non-stop, first as a refugee from the tyrannical Herod and ultimately as a threat to the primacy of the Roman empire. So, if the holiday season brought us hope, let's hold on to the the true hope that persists through fire and flame. My superstitious attachment to this 'promising new decade' pales in comparison to a faith in Christ's promise for the ultimate resurrection of this "truth-crushed earth."

It's times like these when I'm grateful to live in community with other believers. CAP volunteer communities are intergenerational and interdeonominational, often challenging members to go out of their comfort zones in dialogue with others. However, the ideological differences between us serve to strengthen the shared hope for renewal in our hearts. As we wrestle with each other's personalities, beliefs, and expectations during a year of service, I hope we can get some valuable beginner's practice in the kind of hope-inspired fraternity described by King in that Christmas sermon:

Man is a child of God, made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such. Until men see this everywhere, until nations see this everywhere, we will be fighting wars. One day somebody should remind us that, even though there may be political and ideological differences between us, the Vietnamese are our brothers, the Russians are our brothers, the Chinese are our brothers; and one day we've got to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. But in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile. In Christ there is neither male nor female. In Christ there is neither Communist nor capitalist. In Christ, somehow, there is neither bound nor free. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

Benny Mattis is a One-Year volunteer serving in CAP's Volunteer Program in Rockcastle County. If you want to learn more about serving with CAP, email volunteer@chrisapp.org.