Rep. Steve King of Iowa is a man with political power, who gained ascendancy in part through demeaning immigrants and stirring fear.
Martin Luther King, jr. was a man of moral and prophetic imagination, who counselled us to act despite our fears and who gained ascendancy because of the hope of a better future that he articulated.
The fate of our nation lies in which King it would choose to follow.
As I write this, Rep. King is being censured for his public comments; chief among them:
White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?Jan 15th, New York Times
Though he back-pedaled his argument, we know that there are millions of Americans who both loosely and strongly share his ideological framework of the superiority of European and white American culture, and by extension the superiority of those people called “white.” Though I reject this framework, I agree that this was dogma that he learned. Nearly all Americans were and are being taught this, normally implicitly, but with a near total pervasiveness. Its message is so ingrained that even many who consciously reject Steve King’s point demonstrate its resulting behaviors.
In contrast, Martin Luther King, Jr., in the Ware Lecture that he delivered at our Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in 1966, called upon us in particular to not sleep through the revolution:
There is another thing that the church must do to remain awake… We must get rid of the notion once and for all that there are superior and inferior races. It is out of this notion that the whole doctrine of white supremacy came into being, and the church must take a stand … to direct the popular mind …, for there are some people who still believe this strange doctrine.– Ware Lecture, 1966
We are still answering his call to “be woke” in our own lives, in our congregational practices, and in our work to heal the world. Our White and Woke worship series is to better prepare us.
Let us help America choose its King wisely.