The Climax of the movie ‘Selma’ (2014) saw Actor David Oyelowo re-enact Rev. Martin Luther King Jr’s passionate speech on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol after a successful march in March 1965. He recited the first stanza of what is now known as the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’.
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…” he cried. Then with “Glory Hallelujah! His (God’s) truth is matching on,” he roared in conclusion, sending his audience into raptures and earning himself a rousing ovation.
They had won!
The execution of the 54 mile, 4 day Selma to Montgomery march was a tape-breasting moment for Africa-Americans who had fought a long, painful and bitter battle against racial segregation and disenfranchisement. The march would eventually trigger a dramatic domino effect on other states as regards racism and it culminated in the then President Lyndon Johnson forcing a ‘Right to vote’ bill through the US Congress.
While the obvious moral lesson will be perseverance and patience, there’s a minor detail easily swept under the rug. The ‘How’.
At the centre of Civil Right movements in the 60’s was Rev. (Dr) Martin Luther King Jr: An American Baptist Minister and the First President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. At a time when African-Americans suffered the most traumatising abuses especially in Southern America from the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), her affiliates and supporters, no fight or response could be mustered as neither leadership nor unity was present.
The emergence of Rev. King was not unique because it was uncommon to have a black leader, it was unique because of the philosophies he stood for and had thousands buy into. It was the philosophy that guided the movement for years and brought victory.
His philosophy was what distinguished him from the likes of Malcolm X, another civil rights leader whose guiding ideology for achieving victory for African-Americans was “By any means necessary” and “The ballot or the bullet”. Ideas he promoted all his life.
Rev. King’s main influence was Jesus Christ and the Christian gospels, which he would almost always quote in his religious meetings, speeches at church and in public discourses. His faith was strongly based on Jesus’ commandment on loving your neighbour as yourself, loving your enemies, praying for and blessing them.
His faith translated into his preference and practice of nonviolent resistance instead of retaliation. Employing his influence in the African-American community and his powerful oratory to maximal effect, he brought thousands of others into the light and got them practicing the biblical principle of love for one’s enemies. It was difficult to turn the left cheek in the face of extreme violence, pain and hatred for so long but love, aided by patience and peace won. The Gospel came up trumps!
The Christian idea of revival and the spread of the gospel has for far too long been confined to that little spot behind the pulpit. As Christians we have to come to the point where the gospel is brought into our day to day lives and our seemingly secular activities (politics, academics, relationships). The best gospel is that which is preached away from the pulpit. The great commission requires that we carry the gospel along with us EVERYWHERE we go and EVERYDAY of our lives. It’s not a part of your lives. It is your Life!
We shall overcome!