What do Martin Luther King, Jr., General Robert E. Lee, and Dietrich Bonheoffer have in common? Seemingly nothing except that last week they each had anniversaries of a sort. In addition, they each came from positions of faith, which scaffolded their significant stances against the human injustices of their times.
April 4, 2015 marked the 47th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In his remembrance of Dr. King, Porter (washingtonpost.com/4/4/2013) wrote that King, who was thirty-nine years old when gunned down in Memphis, Tennessee, “was barely in his mid-twenties when he was swept up by a movement far bigger than his slight frame seemed capable of carrying. Enduring a burden so heavy that it would crush the soul and spirit of most of us, he died as he had lived, fighting for the dignity of the common man.” King’s call for human rights and educational equity, economic parity, and voting rights for all were just some of his civil rights stances. Can you imagine the criticism that King endured from Blacks and Whites, both in churches and society for stirring up the status quo?
April 9, 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the surrender of the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, which effectively ended the Civil War on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1965 (huffingtonpost.com/4/16/205). By all accounts, Lee was a man of integrity and a devout man of faith. His exemplar of equality was reflected later that week when he attended a Holy Week service at a church in Richmond, Virginia and celebrated communion with the then freed black men. Can you imagine the gasps from the pews when Lee sat at the communion rail with the Blacks?
April 9, 2015 also marked the 70th anniversary of the assassination of Dietrich Bonheoffer (Newsday.com/4/9/15). German theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer was a Lutheran minister and anti-Nazi dissident, who is said to have personally confronted Hitler. Prior to returning to Germany to protest the Nazi Regime, he had been teaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. At the age of thirty-nine, he was hanged at the Flossenburg concentration camp, two weeks before Allied Forces liberated the camp. Can you imagine the strength it took for Bonheoffer to confront the complacency of the church when they did not take a stand against the Nazis?
Let us not pass by the anniversaries of these remarkable men without being reflective. Allow yourselves to be moved regarding the social injustices of our times. Racial injustices, economic and educational disparities still exist in the United States and around the world. Be moved to take action on a cause that impassions you; otherwise doing nothing is in itself a statement.