Taking Inspiration from Dr. King

As you know, today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His legacy has undergone a lot of reinterpretation since he left us, but we believe that his authentic, radical legacy is coming back to the fore. And that's a good thing. 

KIFA adopted our mission statement from what Dr. King called the triple threat of racism, poverty and war, along with the fourth threat of human-caused climate change. It is our strong belief that Dr. King not only had the diagnosis for what ailed - and still ails - this country, but that he had the prescription as well: the application of direct, nonviolent pressure on the levers of power.  

Yesterday, as part of the rally to Expand KanCare in the state capitol, about 25 clergy-members associated with KIFA attempted to see the leadership of our state senate, which is obstructing the bill that would expand Kansas' Medicaid program. We wanted to impress upon them both the moral and the policy imperative of expanding access to healthcare for working poor people. They wouldn't see us, so we sang and spoke our witness at the entrance to the (empty) Senate chamber. We didn't choose to get arrested - this time. But we all felt the power that we had just by gathering together and bearing this witness. And we know we're just getting started. 

 

In May and June this year we will take part in the Poor People's Campaign, a national campaign in 40 states to bring moral witness - and more importantly, policy change - in the areas of systemic poverty, systemic racism, the war economy, and environmental destruction. 

On this anniversary of Dr. King's murder, we know that what we as a society have been doing to address these issues has not been nearly enough. There's still too much injustice: too many black people getting killed by police, too many people who can't afford to see a doctor, too many people dying from guns, too much warfare overseas and at home, too many places, as Rev. Barber puts it, with no lead in the gas but lots of lead in the water. Too few people with too much money and too many people with not enough. 

We also know that the faith community has a vital role to play in the activism that is already underway, and that is to come. Dr. King taught us that our moral witness is only valuable in as far as it makes poor people's burdens lighter. That prophetic witness has largely been lost in our faith circles, and we - among others, here and all over the country - are working to rebuild it, to provide a space where, as yesterday, people of faith can bring the teachings of our faith traditions into action -- in our congregations, in the state house, and in the streets. 

Let's take this anniversary to renew our commitment to Dr. King's work, and to the struggle that people of faith (when we're at our best) have always fought - the struggle for love, for justice, and for peace. 

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