“On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. Over and over I have found myself asking: ‘What kind of people worship here? Who is their God?'” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Like no other national holiday, this day challenges us to an individual and collective examination of conscience and honesty about how we live professed moral values. In that light, it makes sense that this day is increasingly being understood as something more than a day-off but, rather, a national day of service. Here is a reflection for the occasion:
Do we take Christmas seriously — God’s free choice to “become human”? Or, as another preacher once said, “Is our faith so heavenly minded its no earthly good?” Does our faith explicitly or implicitly encourage “disembodied” faith such that injustice is tolerated because “it will all work out” in the afterlife?
Do we see everyone as created in the Image of God? Does our faith affirm the fundamental dignity and worth of each and everyone, rejecting any claims of moral superiority, ether explicit or implicit?
Do we carefully and critically examine Scripture as “Living Word,” remaining receptive to the Spirit’s present impregnating action in our world, instead of being frozen in fundamentalism that idolizes the past?
Does our faith confront and reject any teachings that might cause us to, personally or collectively, act with violence or incite rage or hatred towards others? Do we believe that war is only to be used as a last resort or not at all?
Does our faith further interfaith cooperation and empower our ability to feel compassion for the suffering, for someone who may be different from me/us? Or, does it lead us to love and care essentially for those in our immediate group or people like ourselves?
Do we see social justice and equality – as well as individual acts of charity – as integral to the Gospel and “God’s will”?
Do we really believe that “God is love”? Do we profess the foundational commands to love God and to love others as we would love ourselves? Or, are we imprisoned by dogma with judgment as the defining characteristic of God?
I am hugely indebted to Paul Brandeis Raushenbush for inspiring this reflection. You may find his original posting on which mine is largely based at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-raushenbush/martin-luther-king-faith_b_4623051.html