Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. As a seminary community and citizens of our country, we want to recognize the day, the man, and the movement. Thirty years ago (1983) President Reagan signed into law the congressional bill marking this day as one to give thanks for the leadership of Dr. King. Fifty years ago (1963) Dr. King gave the famous I Have A Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Some think this speech is one the most significant addresses ever given in American history (along with Washington’s Farewell Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.) One hundred and fifty years ago (1863) President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, effectively freeing slaves in ten states under control of the Confederacy.
Redeemer Seminary stands in the tradition of those who came to this continent to protest what our Founding Fathers unwaveringly called tyranny —- the denial of civil and religious freedom by the British monarch. So it is appropriate that, as a community, we give thanks for Dr. King, the leader of the non-violent activism which strikingly advanced Lincoln’s intent in 1863. It is also a time to affirm that, as individuals and as a community, we will continue to seek Lincoln’s purpose when he said in his Second Inaugural Address: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in…” Surely the Gospel of our Lord, calls us to nothing less, as we would seek in small and large ways the implications in all our social and spiritual settings, of what Lincoln proclaimed and Martin Luther King, Jr., with his Bible in one hand and his copy of Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers From Prison in the other, so bravely and meaningfully sought.
In our day, there may be new fronts, which President Lincoln and Dr. King could never have foreseen, where Christians will have to fight institutionalized tyranny. May the Lord give us thanks for past examples of leadership and courage for future challenges.
Yours in Christ,
Joseph (Skip) Ryan