Remarks on Martin Luther King Jr.
by Daniel Castillo
January 19, 2020
I’m a recent graduate and alumnus of Fuller Theological Seminary. It was there that I got to learn intimately about King’s work. I read over a dozen books, including books that he wrote, a lot of the sermons, and a lot of the letters he wrote. I listened to hours of interviews. I would say I’m not an expert, but I know a little bit about him.
What I’ve learned through my studies was drastically different than what I learned growing up. As a child, I was taught that King was polite. He was civil. He was diplomatic. He was well-mannered; he was well-groomed. And I’m not saying that those things aren’t true, because they are. But what I didn’t know about him—what they didn’t share—was that he was largely disliked. In fact, the same year that he was killed, there was a poll taken and he had a disapproval rating of 75%.
Think about that. How can this be? It’s really difficult to fathom how someone like him will be disliked when you hear the “I Have a Dream” speech. But the thing is, if that’s the only thing you’re exposed to, then you’re missing out on King’s much larger legacy.
The “I Have a Dream speech” was a pivotal moment in history. But if you heard other speeches, like “The Other America,” or “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” “A Knock at Midnight,” you will realize that your perception of him has been greatly shaped to fit a certain sensibility. A number of times, he would say, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” For those who were familiar with that phrase knew that you express that when you are profoundly angry at what’s going on with the world. If Pastor Alex Gee were here, he would say that King was “justifiably angry” with what was going on around the world. If you read those speeches now you would think that they were written yesterday because the same material conditions that he was speaking out against exist today.
He wasn’t liked because he made people feel uncomfortable with their status and with their own faith. He challenged people to put their lives on the line, even if that meant your own. King called out America’s appetite for violence and war. He once said, “We live in a society where we have guided missiles and misguided men.” He was angry at the rates of homelessness. Last year, one thousand people died sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles. One thousand people died! He would have been angry last week, watching the black mothers who were arrested in Oakland for trying to give shelter to their children in a vacant home. Where 75% of the homeless population in Oakland are black people, and they comprise a 25% of the city’s population. I want to think about that. And here’s the kicker: there are double the amount of vacant homes than there are homeless people, so there’s more housing to go around. He was angry at the inequities in education, housing, and employment. Statistically black women are the most educated group in the U.S. They constitute over 71% of all master’s degrees awarded each year, but they are the lowest paid and lowest hired for most professions.
King spoke out against political corruption and police brutality. Last week, there were dozens of police officers who are fired from LAPD for falsifying documents, and inputting innocent people’s names into gang databases. These people are black and brown people. And not only that, the auditors found that 42 of those names belonged to infants. Forty-two infants are in the gang database! Think about that.
King called out the privileges and the handouts that white Americans have systematically received for centuries by the government agencies. Before he died, he was actually promoting a wealth redistribution plan that would guarantee a basic income package for impacted communities especially low-income communities of color. King was especially critical and angry at the complacency of Christians and churches for doing nothing, and waiting and being silent in the midst of oppression. He said, “the church has left many men and women disappointed at midnight.” There are men who stand at the pulpit every Sunday and never speak out against racial injustices. They are the arch supporters of the status quo.”
What I’ve learned from King is that these conditions are morally unacceptable. And it is our duty as Christians to respond, to be justifiably angry, to protest, to march, to hold people accountable, to break and eradicate unjust laws, to love, to commit to put your life on the line to hold true to Jesus words in Matthew 25: 35 -40. “When I when I was hungry, you gave me food. I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was homeless, you invited me in. When I was naked, you gave me clothes. When I was sick, you took care of me. When I was in prison, you came to visit me. Truly I tell you, whatever you do to the least of these you do for me.” King’s legacy is far more than a celebration once a year. It’s an invitation, a reminder, to live a life of moral conviction.
I will conclude with the words of King, “Let us rededicate our lives to the long and bitter but beautiful struggle to bring in the new world. Let us speed up the day when ‘justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ It is necessary for us to take a stand that is neither safe nor popular, but we must do it because it is right.”
This is the Dr. King that I celebrate. And as you celebrate tomorrow, I hope seriously consider this invitation to put your feet behind your prayers, “to be sick and tired of being sick and tired,” to be righteously angry. To no longer allow the crippling material conditions that marginalized communities of color, to proclaim the good news that we are children of the Most High, and we have the resolve and the authority to cast down the evils and bring forth the righteousness of the Lord. It is then that we will access the glory of the Lord. Amen.
“A Religion of Doing” Sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist
The Task of Christian Leadership Training for Education in the Local Community
Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence
Letter from Birmingham Jail
But If Not – Sermon
I Have a Dream
Rev. Alex Gee – Justified anger: Rev. Alex Gee says Madison is failing its African-American community
A Knock at Midnight – Sermon
Martin Luther King Makes the Case for Reparations
MLK Talks ‘New Phase’ Of Civil Rights Struggle, 11 Months Before His Assassination
Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
The Other America
The World House
Black Women Now the Most Educated Group in U.S.
LAPD Falsifying Documents
Moms 4 Housing Evicted and Arrested From Oakland House
Homeless mothers with Oakland’s ‘Moms 4 Housing’ have been forcibly
evicted from a vacant home they were occupying
Martin Luther King – Sick and Tired