Today we celebrate the birthday of a true American hero, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, a Baptist minister and a courageous voice for racial justice and racial reconciliation. He was truly a God-given gift to our nation. Frankly, I do not know how we would have made the tremendous steps we made in racial reconciliation in America, although we certainly have not arrived at Dr. King’s vision of a country in which we are judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character, as Dr. King so eloquently articulated in his “I Have a Dream Speech” at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in August 1963, a speech enshrined in the pantheon of the most eloquent American speeches.
Dr. King was a national treasure. How we have needed him or someone with his heart in the past few months, as we have been so painfully reminded that we still have a long way to go to experience true racial reconciliation. He reminded his fellow Christians and all Americans that those you would change you must first love. It was that magnanimity and that remarkable courage that allowed him to play the role that he played in confronting white supremacists and to do so in a way that brought about reconciliation.
Every year on Dr. King’s birthday I re-read both the “I Have a Dream Speech” and the even more erudite and extraordinary “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” which he wrote in longhand while incarcerated in the Birmingham jail earlier that same year for refusing to obey unjust laws.
I would urge all Americans to pause this day to call upon our Heavenly Father to give us another leader like Dr. King. We need him.
Dr. Richard Land is president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and former president (1988-2013) of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s official entity assigned to address social, moral and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families.