#21 Crucified, then Praised [King.]

I’ve written 4 poems over the last day, and nothing quite sums up my feelings as I like, so I’ll simply say it straight.

Martin Luther King Jr. was an intensely polarizing figure in his day and we’ve forgotten that.

When I say polarizing, I don’t mean that many white people weren’t fond of him; I mean that many people weren’t fond of him. I mean that his Christian faith was unpopular at a time where the nation was beginning to distance itself from the religious establishment. His non-violent views were consistently seen as soft and unable to produce the long-term change that many African-Americans wanted to see. (Both Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael openly criticized King’s vision for racial integration.)  His tirades against the moderate, white American’s failure to stand up against injustice led to multiple instances of being painted as an imbalanced, racist man. Several of his close associations were openly socialist, Hindi, or homosexual, and this troubled a great number of Christians, especially members of the black Baptist church. Many Americans felt threatened by his Biblical views on Government, politics, and the American economy, not to mention his campaigning against the Vietnam War.

His house was bombed during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. His phones were wiretapped by the FBI when he was suspected to be associating with Communists. He was thrown into jail for protesting on twenty-nine separate occasions. The media crucified him when he spoke out against Vietnam, and many of his strong supporters (especially white ones) quickly disassociated themselves from him. And if that weren’t enough, we all know how he died.

This isn’t to say that King didn’t know many successes: A Nobel Peace Prize, The Million Man March, several speeches said to be among the greatest of all time, the end of segregation and the Jim  Crow laws, etc.. This is to say that his success came at an incredibly steep cost. In many ways, the reason our culture worships him now is because he was willing to be crucified by us for his ideas.

Perhaps the most fitting way to eulogize Dr. King is not simply the re-election of a black President (though Dr. King’s role in that reality cannot be understated). If we want to do justice to the memory to Martin Luther King Jr. today, perhaps more of us should live in a fashion that causes us to be crucified as we live and praised after our deaths, much like King, much like another greater King.

Has anyone believed us
or seen the mighty power
of the Lord in action?
 Like a young plant or a root
that sprouts in dry ground,
the servant grew up
obeying the Lord.
He wasn’t some handsome king.
Nothing about the way he looked
made him attractive to us.
 He was hated and rejected;
his life was filled with sorrow
and terrible suffering.
No one wanted to look at him.
We despised him and said,
“He is a nobody!”

 He suffered and endured
great pain for us,
but we thought his suffering
was punishment from God.
 He was wounded and crushed
because of our sins;
by taking our punishment,
he made us completely well.
 All of us were like sheep
that had wandered off.
We had each gone our own way,
but the Lord gave him
the punishment we deserved.

 He was painfully abused,
but he did not complain.
He was silent like a lamb
being led to the butcher,
as quiet as a sheep
having its wool cut off.

 He was condemned to death
without a fair trial.
Who could have imagined
what would happen to him?
His life was taken away
because of the sinful things
my people had done.
 He wasn’t dishonest or violent,
but he was buried in a tomb
of cruel and rich people.

 The Lord decided his servant
would suffer as a sacrifice
to take away the sin
and guilt of others.
Now the servant will live
to see his own descendants.
He did everything
the Lord had planned.

 By suffering, the servant
will learn the true meaning
of obeying the Lord.
Although he is innocent,
he will take the punishment
for the sins of others,
so that many of them
will no longer be guilty.
 The Lord will reward him
with honor and power
for sacrificing his life.
Others thought he was a sinner,
but he suffered for our sins
and asked God to forgive us.

— Isaiah 53

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