I had a whole different blog planned about dreams. I might get to that. But this blog…it’s burning a hole in my heart right now.
I can’t think about dreams right now without thinking of Dr. Martin Luther King…and his thoughts on dreams. You might not have listened to his dreams since you were a kid – you can listen to it here. It’s worth the listen.
I have spent countless hours on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where MLK gave that speech. On the 30th anniversary of that speech I marched with thousands, in the sweltering heat of an August day, just like he mentions in his speech. And when I walked there, as a young and idealistic college student, I relished in the progress, in the promises, and in the unity of the moment. I believed that we’d already seen the coming true of his dreams. That our nation had walked past those problems and we could look back at that time in our history with sadness and mourning, but know that it was OVER.
I was wrong.
That naiveté was born of my white privilege and my limited experiences. My view was gifted to me by growing up in an idealistic Midwestern university town that was incredibly diverse, and I thought, where everyone was treated the same.
I was wrong.
The events of the past few months have proven that. Over and over again. The conversations with people who don’t look like me, the long coffee talks and the attempts to hear things that might not make me comfortable but might still be true…those conversations have broken my heart and opened my eyes to the fact that our great nation is still a work in progress. And I am sorry, but if you think that the things MLK was standing up against are over, that people are over-reacting, that we need to stop talking about race and racism and white privilege, than you simply aren’t taking the time to get to know anyone that doesn’t share your life experience.
You don’t have to walk far to meet someone – of even my generation or younger – that has experienced outright, blatant racism in their life.
It’s time – as Americans – to start talking about race and freedom and MLKs dreams again. It’s time – as Christians – to start asking how we can stand up with our brothers and sisters as allies and partners – as neighbors – to love them, to help heal our nation, to ask how we can stand up for righteousness in our own homes, our neighborhoods, our churches, and our nation. I don’t have the answers, but I know it’s time.
A couple of months ago I started listening. Sitting with people I don’t always have the chance to sit with, and hearing their stories. (That includes police officers by the way! I’ve been heartbroken to hear some of their stories and the vilification and hatred coming their way. This blog is NOT about hating the police.)
Now, I’ve decided to start dreaming again.
I’m dreaming with MLK, and the generations of brothers and sisters that have carried his torch, and his pain.
In church last weekend we talked about seeing THROUGH our situation – asking for God’s eyes, and believing in the promise that God will be faithful to provide us with anything that we need to do what He has for us to do.
This isn’t a Pollyanna attempt to act like nothing is wrong. I still carry idealism with me like I did when I was in college, but it’s not naïve and blinded like it was then. It’s a desperate cry, a hope that doesn’t make sense but has no choice. Believe me – I see that we’re surrounded by the conquering armies. I see the hatred, I see the pain, I see the wounds that look impossible to heal. But what’s the alternative? Should I lay down in the city square and admit defeat now when I am surrounded by the enemy? Should I give up now, and let my brothers and sisters keep facing evil and subtle hatred and do nothing? Should I allow them to continue to be shut out by deep and hidden systems of hate?
It’s time to stand up.
I don’t know how, and I don’t know where, and I don’t presume to have any answers. But I know it’s NOT time to give up on our nation. It’s NOT time to give up on my brothers and sisters and let them fight their battles alone. It’s NOT time to throw in the towel and believe that there are people beyond the touch of grace and love.
It’s NOT time to pretend like nothing is wrong.
It’s time to stand up, and it’s time to dream again. It’s time to remember those that have gone before us, and learn from them. It’s time to lean in – to get in relationship with real people that are facing these real problems – and learn from them. It’s time to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. It’s time.
Do you have thoughts or answers? Share them with all of us. Ideas about how I can help? Please share them. Want to put me in my place? I welcome that too. (Unless you just think there isn’t really a race problem in America. Then you can keep those comments to yourself. I am not interested.) Have a story to share with all of us? I would be privileged if you would share it with me or if you’d like me to share it here on my blog.
I am going to dream with MLK – and pray his dreams as a prayer, as a desperate cry – with eyes wide open, and no choice but to hope.
Pray MLK’s dreams with me:
“Oh God, we stand today in the symbolic shadow of those who fought against slavery and helped bring an end to the captivity of our brothers and sisters. We stand in the symbolic shadow of those that marched against the systematic segregation and evil hatred that existed in every sector of our society. We rejoice in the progress that they walked us toward. We share schools and businesses and busses with all of our brothers and sisters now, and everyone can vote without fear. Thank you God.
But all these years later, the black person still is not free. The manacles of segregation have been loosened, but the chains of discrimination still exist. Oh God, there is still more poverty in black society than white. There are still black people getting pulled over in areas they aren’t ‘supposed’ to be. In all of the areas where we are still not living up to the promise of what our nation was built on – a nation under God, a nation where ALL people can pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – help us. Bring a new day.
We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of love, of kindness, and of equality. We ask now God that you would bestow the riches of freedom and the security of justice on ALL people, regardless of their color.
There is an urgency of now, Lord. Lord – “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” Show us how, Lord. Show me how. Guide our steps and make things happen.
1963 was a beginning, Lord, but it was not the end. All was not accomplished. But you are not dead, and you are not done. Do your work, Lord. Show us how to help. Forgive us of our wrongful deeds and wrongful thoughts. Make straight the path of RIGHTEOUSNESS and love in our nation. Heal us as a nation, and pour salve over the hearts and families of black people in this nation that have so long faced subtle hatred. Remove our hatred, remove our bitterness. Heal of us of our arrogance and indifference.
Help us walk together, as a nation. White people with black people, again. As MLK said, and as you expect in your Word, we cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, Lord.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, 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 you will be able to drive a car in any neighborhood and not be suspect because of the color of your skin. I have a dream that black men and white men, in uniform or in gang colors, will not use their guns as their primary tool of survival. I have a dream that people in jail will not be treated as less human, and that when you surrender you will not be shot. I have a dream that we will not be a nation of hate and fear, but a nation of hope, and trust, and a nation that sees through.
I have a dream today!
“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. 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.
And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from the streets of Minnesota,
Let freedom ring from Oklahoma City to every neighborhood of Washington, DC,
Let freedom ring from every school and neighborhood of Chicago.
From every city to every ‘hood, let freedom ring.
Oh Lord, let freedom ring and let healing begin. Let eyes be opened, and let arms join together in unity and righteousness.
Let us shout – Oh God Almighty! Let YOUR freedom ring!”