Learning about change

in Christian organisations

Martin Luther King Jr. and justice in the wilderness

Today we celebrate Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. in America. In 1963, Rev. Dr. King gave his famous, "I have a Dream" speech at the conclusion of the March on Washington that approximately a quarter of a million people attended. Today, the results of a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, indicated that 54% of Americans agree that people are judged "by the content of their character," regardless of race. Yet 70% of African Americans and 55% Hispanic Americans say that race is "still a defining factor in how people are judged."

I was a young child when our family was visiting Washington D.C. in 1962, and on our way back to our hotel from eating dinner, my father took a wrong turn and became lost as it was raining hard and he couldn't read the street signs. We were only a few miles from the U.S. Capitol in our brand new shiny Bonneville; suddenly navigating major pot holes on a narrow street in the heart of Black poverty. The depth of poverty and suffering I will never forget. Nearly every window of the tiny wood structures that were called home and barely standing, were broken and had torn sheets to cover. Young children were sleeping outside on the ground, and the people were bone thin and starving. It appeared that no one actually stayed inside their home but sat crowded together on broken down porches. There were no cars in this neighborhood, except ours, so my father had to drive ever so slowly to not hit kids in the street. All eyes were on us as we passed. Some older children wanted to charge our car and were stopped by their parents. We made it out of the poverty stricken neighborhood just a few miles from our Nations Capitol in 1962.

Our home was in a wealthy averaged sized town between Detroit and Toledo, and we (in the day that families spent most of their evening watching T.V.) saw daily pictures of White and Black violence in the early 1960's. How could the Black population in our Nation ever forgive us for such awful unforgivable treatment for so many years?! It was really difficult to see how Rev. Dr. King could get anywhere through peaceful marches and civil disobedience. But he had faith in Christ and he preached Jesus Christ. The Rev. Billy Graham had close to 40 Crusades in America five years prior to 1963 actively preaching Jesus Christ to us all. It was a time ripe for our God to change hearts...a miracle changing of hearts! A time when a young forest metaphorically speaking (Isaiah 32:15+) suddenly sprang up and there was hope of "justice [being] found in the wilderness." I believe that if the American Church gave God more room beyond 1963, that the miracles that happened in 1963 and in 1964 via the signing of (another) Civil Right's Bill would have continued: and People of Color in our Nation would have realized Rev. Dr. King's dream to a greater extent today. The tremendous movement of our Nation in the 1960's for greater equality for People of Color came from the miracle (I believe) of individual hearts that God could change. A learning organization with God at the helm!

Both Rev. Dr. King and Rev. Billy Graham were considered Baptist's preachers. They spoke to a national audience. But the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest Christian denominations in America, did not denounce racism until 1995.

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I have read the speeches of Martin Luther and even memorized some notable quotation. It is fair that at school I once led a peaceful demonstration thanks to the principles I read from his history. I have also greatly followed Dr. Reverend  Billy Graham and noted the humility that characterize this great man of God. These two to me have given themselves as great leaders who have refused to let society change their beliefs and values but rather have society accept their beliefs and values. In most organizations, even Faith based institutions we have leaders who are 'just thermometers' and not thermostats! They havel ost the power to change things! If at all we are to have learning organization one key ingredient to that is to have leaders who are the salt and light! The two set standards  for us to emulate.

I so agree with you about the humility of these two men. To my mind, it is their humility before God that allowed God the room and ability to change them and our world. My perception of these two men was that at their very core was Christ and a desire to be obedient to God and thus they shared and spread the Good News to all who touched them, despite how harsh the world treated them or judged them.

My observation of both of these men was that a few of their beliefs which were more doctrine specific, were not held onto for the sake of their audience, and they even sometimes changed elements of their own belief system. I remember Billy Graham reporting that he asked a person if they were Christian, and the reply was "No, I am Baptist." Billy Graham appeared to become more and more focused on sharing the Good News and not denominationalism. He may have had some denominational views that he supported, and worked his ministry through a more specific doctrine, but it appears to me, for him, in time, what seemed important to him was that he share the Good News and let God handle the rest, and judge the rest, and grow the rest.

It appeared to me, that both of these men counted on God's work from inside out instead of outside in, for themselves and for those whom they preached to.




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