(CNSNews.com) - Americans today are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech," which he delivered on Aug. 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial.
That speech echoed themes King, a Baptist clergyman, had been sounding since he had emerged as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement eight years before.
On Dec. 5, 1955, four days after Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Ala., for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person, King spoke in Montgomery’s Holt Baptist Church at the end of the first day of a boycott he had been elected to lead against Montgomery’s bus system.
King stressed that the boycott movement’s foundation was the Christian religion. “Whatever we do, we must keep God in the forefront,” he said.
“I want it to be known throughout Montgomery and throughout this nation that we are Christian people,” he said. “We believe in the Christian religion. We believe in the teachings of Jesus. The only weapon that we have in our hands this evening is the weapon of protest. That’s all.”
He also expressed his conviction that God would judge nations by whether they obeyed Him or not.
“He’s also the God that stands up before the nations and said: ‘Be still and know that I’m God, that if you don’t obey me I will break the backbone of your power and slap you out of the orbits of your international and national relationships,” said King.
Additionally, he stressed the movement’s reverence for the Constitution and the free system of government that made peaceful protest possible. “There will be nobody amid, among us who will stand up and defy the Constitution of this nation,” said King.
“Certainly, certainly, this is the glory of America, with all of its faults,” said King. “This is the glory of our democracy. If we were incarcerated behind the iron curtains of a Communistic nation we couldn’t do this. If we were dropped in the dungeon of a totalitarian regime we couldn’t do this. But the great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right.”
King said that if the Montgomery police were going to unjustly arrest anyone for merely sitting on a bus, he was happy that the person they arrested was Rosa Parks. This, he said, was because of Parks’s integrity, her character and her Christian faith.
“Mrs. Rosa Parks is a fine person. And, since it had to happen, I’m happy that it happened to a person like Mrs. Parks, for nobody can doubt the boundless outreach of her integrity,” said King. “Nobody can doubt the height of her character nobody can doubt the depth of her Christian commitment and devotion to the teachings of Jesus. And I’m happy since it had to happen, it happened to a person that nobody can call a disturbing factor in the community. Mrs. Parks is a fine Christian person, unassuming, and yet there is integrity and character there. And just because she refused to get up, she was arrested.”
Finally, King called for those joining the movement to boycott Montgomery’s busses to “be Christian in all our actions.”
“May I say to you my friends, as I come to a close, and just giving some idea of why we are assembled here, that we must keep—and I want to stress this, in all of our doings, in all of our deliberations here this evening and all of the week and while—whatever we do, we must keep God in the forefront,” said King. “Let us be Christian in all of our actions.”