Dr. King—Forty years later, his life and vision still inspire

By Richard Land
Apr 4, 2008

April 4, 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Anyone who had reached the age of consciousness by that date remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the shattering and heartbreaking news that Dr. King had been gunned down in Memphis.

I was a junior in college and the news swept across campus like wildfire. Most people could hardly believe it had happened. Others, having been exposed more directly to the implacable evil and hatred Dr. King faced, were more saddened than surprised. After all, people who would blow up little girls in a Birmingham church would have little compunction about assassinating the most successful and inspirational symbol of non-violent opposition to their rabid racist ideologies.

This column originally posted at Casting Stones, a blog at Beliefnet.com.

One of my memories of that painful and tragic day was being comforted and deeply moved by the brave words of Senator Robert Kennedy (then campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president). Little could I have imagined that he, himself, would be assassinated two months later in that horribly violent and convulsive year—1968.

Try as I might, I cannot imagine how we, as a nation, could have navigated through the dangerous shoals of deeply ingrained racism to racial equality under the law for African Americans without much greater bloodshed, without Dr. King’s courageous and inspirational leadership. All Americans should be extremely grateful that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. walked among us during the middle third of the 20th century.

Looking back on the truly significant progress Dr. King and those inspired by his dream, black and white, made between the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 and Dr. King’s death in 1968, I must confess that I am deeply saddened we have not made more progress toward racial reconciliation and justice than we have in the subsequent 40 years.

Perhaps the law has done most of the heavy lifting it can do. People of faith should understand better than most that the law can change habits, but faith can change hearts.

People of faith need to resolve to take a greater leadership role to foster venues and ministry opportunities that can lead us the rest of the way to the realization of Dr. King’s elusive, but transformative, vision of a country in which people truly are “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I can think of no more fitting way to commemorate Dr. King’s life and ministry than to rededicate ourselves to racial reconciliation in every segment and sector in our society.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission works to improve racial and ethnic relations in America and around the world. To learn more about this important issue, additional resources are available here. If your church is interested in purchasing materials on racial relations, please visit our online bookstore and erlc.com.

This column originally posted at Casting Stones, a blog at Beliefnet.com.

Further Learning

Learn more about: Citizenship, , Human Rights, Racial Reconciliation,

You May Also Like

5 Facts About Substance Abuse in America

By Joe Carter - Mar 13, 2014

This weekend many churches in America will observe Substance Abuse Prevention Sunday. In preparation for the observance, here are five facts you should know about the most commonly abused substances in America.…

Read More

The glory of your child’s bench warming

By David E. Prince - Mar 10, 2015

A few years ago, something great happened during basketball season for one of my sons. He sat the bench.

You may be thinking that such news sounds more like a cause for depression than celebration—and at the beginning of that season, my middle school-aged son would have agreed with you.…

Read More
Hookah bar shooting makes Levy Church prophetic Californians urged to sign petitions