My friend Billy of The Orant recently asked his readers to join him in a personal effort to give up racism for lent. Knowing that prejudice is a malady of perception and that it is difficult to identify racism in oneself, Billy has posted a book list and asked his readers to each pick a book to reflect on and to let him know how it has challenged their perspectives. I picked, A Call to Conscience which is a collection of Martin Luther King Junior’s pivotal speeches. I’ve only read two of the eleven speeches, but I can see I won’t be able to fit my thoughts on the book into a single reflection, so I’ll be updating as I read through the book.
The first speech in the book was given at the inception of the Civil Right’s Movement. It is the address that King delivered to the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) at the start of the famous bus boycotts initiated by the arrest of Rosa Parks. Throughout the talk King encouraged his audience to stand united, he condemned violence and rumors of violence, and gave thanks to God that he lived in a nation that protected the freedoms of speech and assembly.
I was surprised to find that it was not just inspiring but also fun to read. The emotional interjections of those present at the historic meeting are recorded in the text, which makes it easy to imagine hearing King’s words delivered in a crowded meeting hall that simmered with emotion and energy. If I took one thing away from the MIA speech it is the following exhortation to keep God at the forefront and 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,
Pray that we may we ever keep God at the forefront as we seek to correct that which revolts against love.