Followers of Jesus in the Way of Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is the first year in the last six that we haven’t been running a Bartimaeus Institute over the Martin Luther King holiday.   Though Elaine is in the east at Haverford College doing some restorative justice work for their MLK commemoration, I was able to take our new intern (Talitha Fraser from New Zealand via the Urban Seed mob in Melbourne) to visit Bethel AME church here locally.  We were warmly welcomed and heard a stirring sermon on how we need to answer God’s call today to be radically prophetic, just as Martin did.  I believe the best place to remember King is in the black church, where he came from, rather than amidst the domesticated paeans of the civic celebrations.
I want to take this holiday weekend to reaffirm that we at BCM are striving to be followers of Jesus in the way of Martin Luther King.  We understand this in the sense that Lutherans are Christians in the tradition of Luther, Mennonites of Menno Simons, or Franciscans of St. Francis.  We think King was that important to the church and to our historical epoch—and we think more American Christians (particularly white folk) should embrace this understanding.  We are particularly grateful to mentors who, over the last 10 years, have urged us in this direction: Vincent Harding at Iliff Seminary; Nelson and Joyce Johnson at the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro; and Eduard Loring and Murphy Davis at the Open Door Community in Atlanta.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, as is his way, reminded us in his blog this week that last month commemorated the 40th anniversary of the passing of Abraham Joshua Heschel, the great American Rabbi of social justice.  Heschel developed a similar understanding of his Judaism in relationship to his Baptist colleague as they worked together during the 1960s (they are shown together in the picture above). Introducing King before the Rabbinical Assembly on March 25, 1968, just ten days before King’s assassination, Heschel said:  “Martin Luther King is a voice, a vision and a way. I call upon every Jew to hearken to his voice, to share his vision, to follow his way.  The whole future of America will depend upon the impact and influence of Dr. King.”
In that spirit, I am attaching two thought pieces we’ve used frequently here at BCM about the significance of King to our discipleship tradition and to our historical context today.  We hope that all of our colleagues will join us in taking some time this weekend to reflect on how we can re-member our greatest American prophet through our own practices.