“History reverberates with testimonies of a shameful tragedy. Centuries ago a sage named Socrates was forced to drink hemlock. The men who called for his death were not bad men with demonic blood running through their veins. On the contrary they were sincere and respectable citizens of Greece. They genuinely thought Socrates was an atheist because his idea of God had a philosophical depth that probed beyond traditional concepts. Not badness but blindness killed Socrates. Saul was not an evil-intentioned man when he persecuted Christians. He was a sincere conscientious devotee of Israel’s faith. He thought he was right. He persecuted Christians not because he was devoid of integrity, but because he was devoid of enlightenment. The Christians who engaged in in famous persecutions and shameful inquisitions were not evil men but misguided men. The churchmen who felt an edict from God to withstand the progress of science, whether in the form of a Copernican revolution or a Darwinian theory of natural selection, were not mischievous men but misinformed men. And so Christ’s words from the cross are written in sharp-etched terms across some of the most inexpressible tragedies of history: ‘They know not what they do.’”
—Martin Luther King, Jr. “Love in Action” in Strength to Love
Dr. King could find similar examples in our own day. Sadder still: We have come to the day that Dr. King seemed to want to prevent. The blindness of which he spoke has deteriorated into sinfulness.
A great example is the now quadrennial dustup over pray-ers at the Presidential inauguration. Some of us—apparently only a few of us—are overcome with giddiness when the diverse spectrum of speakers is announced. Four years ago Martin Luther King lieutenant Joseph Lowery (I was his backstage host at a youth ministry event in 1995) and Rick Warren (I led our church’s version of 40 Days of Purpose in 2006) were invited to pray. This time the line-up included Myrlie Evers-Williams (civil rights activist and widow of martyr Medgar Evers) and Louie Giglio (of Passion Worship Movement fame).
But not everyone shares my glee at this diversity. Others operate with obligatory disgust and begin their dirt research. And then the Inauguration Committee’s the gesture of unity gets trampled by polarization and name calling. Welcome to the culture wars!
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