Note: Karen S. and Loretta V. are two of my dearest friends. We comment on one another’s various emails and social media communiqués. Always. Here, with their permission, I share my reply to their responses to my previous post concerning the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., In Memoriam (January 15, 2022).
The three of us also share the values of love and justice and, under these sacred banners, our intentional service to, for, and with others in the world. And, as my mind, generally and intuitively, runs along the lines of wordplay and double entendre, the title, Correspondence, reflects both the act of our communication and the fact of our similitude in spiritual being and social doing.
My beloved sisters, on this national day of commemoration of the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., two thoughts occur…
One, I oft recall that searing, searching question (as oft, without a ready reply), “After Martin, where and who are the prophets of this day who speak truth to power, indeed, who speak to worldly principalities with the power of truth?”
(Truth, in my mind and heart, being love and justice; unconditional and impartial benevolence and fairness for all at all times.)
As I continue to think and feel, reflect and pray, I believe that we, each and all of us, in our varied and several life’s walks, are today’s prophets (which is to suggest that, thus, always it hath been so).
Yes, history is replete with the sagas of singular individuals who have stood in the public square, their lips bursting with the cry of care for the least, the last, and the lost. Nevertheless, how oft hath it been when examining, for example, the formal Civil Rights Era, when we discovered heretofore unrevealed, thus, unknown names and souls of those who, in their local places of being and doing, advanced the cause of liberty?
Two, I am struck, Karen, by your succinct expression of the historical arc of movement from “the mechanics of law and government structures (being) changed to make them more amenable to serving all Americans more justly, as many laws were, at least on the federal level, in response to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s” and that always necessity of “(d)eep transformations of hearts and minds (as) the real and lasting work of justice and love.”
This puts me in mind of a sagacious and sobering word of mindfulness and, indeed, warning to me by the Right Reverend C. FitzSimons Allison, sometime bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina when I took charge of a congregation in Charleston in 1982: “Paul, race hath been resolved in the law, but it hath not been resolved in the hearts of men, for their sin resides.”
So, it was then, so it is now…
Laws – as decisions expressive, at least, I think, in one sense, of our communal discernment of what makes for life’s fulfillment and, in another sense, as moral “bumper rails” to keep our individual human vehicles of living from careening pell-mell into one another – can be passed, yet without (never with) any guarantee of the radical (that is, returning to and restorative of the root of our common humankindness as the grace of our creation) effect on our behaviors, which encompass our thinking and feeling, our intending and acting.
In the light of these two (at least, for me) realities, I daily pledge (tho’ oft, at day’s end, I behold how far I have fallen short) to be a prophet and to fulfill in my living our just (thus, demanding my discernment to distinguish from unjust) human laws.
© 2022 PRA