Dr. Martin Luther King infused the spiritual into American politics as no one else has–at least since Lincoln. His “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on this date in 1963 was one of the great uplifting moments in American history. “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope,” King told the assembled crowd.
Before he became widely known, Dr. King addressed a church congregation in my home town of Detroit, and explained how faith inspired his political vision.
“There is something wrong with our world, something fundamentally and basically wrong,” he told a Detroit congregation in 1954. “The great problem facing modern man,” he said, “is that . . . the means by which we live have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live. . . . The problem is with man himself and man’s soul.”
Those words illuminate our current political culture with a light that is sadly lacking in today’s discourse.
The light from above, streaming down through a forest canopy, will always stop me in my tracks and capture my attention.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
A few words apropos for a troubled time in the United States.
Photo Challenge: Shiny
Huron National Forest, Michigan
Hartwick Pines, Michigan
Tacquahmenon State Park, Michigan
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full;
unto the place from where the rivers come, there they return again.
This shallow stream meanders into Lake Michigan, one of the four Great Lakes that surround Michigan’s peninsulas, and on a languid summer day it is a treat to feel the wet sand squishing between your toes .
Photo Challenge: Delta
Warren Dunes and Lake Michigan
Be sure you put your feet in the right place; then stand firm. —Abraham Lincoln
In the gray half-light before the dawn, a leader offers a vision of moral clarity, while avoiding the trap of self-righteous moralizing. As the Proverb teaches, where there is no vision, the people perish. Yet, a leader often has to rein in his more zealous followers in service of the broader cause. Otherwise, the zealots by their intolerance will repel many of the undecided who could still be persuaded.
Abraham Lincoln mastered the political craft during decades of seasoning in the rough-and-tumble of local politics before he took his trade to the White House. Although influenced by the racial prejudice common to white people of his day, his conviction never wavered that, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Lincoln’s clarity on the immorality of slavery was a beacon for his countrymen, and his sincerity was his bond with the common people. Having found his own solid ground, he stood firm in curbing the excesses of the Abolitionists, whose rigidity would have sabotaged the Union’s cause before battle with the Confederates had been fairly joined.
If the trumpet is uncertain, asked St. Paul, who will answer the call to battle? Times of great change, whether in Lincoln’s day, our Revolution, the New Deal, or the New Frontier, call for leadership that provides moral clarity, and keeps the movement to the straight and narrow path, rather than straying into self-righteous posing. To America’s sorrow, no such leader has come forward for almost 50 years. This lack results in an impasse: “The old is dying, yet the new cannot be born.”