If we are to ever see America return to a land of liberty and freedom, we need a revival of the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday signed into law by Ronald Reagan on November 2, 1983. In remarks made during the signing ceremony in the Rose Garden, Reagan acknowledged Dr. King’s contributions as he peacefully, but forcefully, fought to bring racial healing to America using the power of unconditional love, forgiveness, and non-violence; and he concluded with these words:
“Now our nation has decided to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by setting aside a day each year to remember him and the just cause he stood for. We’ve made historic strides since Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus. As a democratic people, we can take pride in the knowledge that we Americans recognized a grave injustice and took action to correct it. And we should remember that in far too many countries, people like Dr. King never have the opportunity to speak out at all.
“But traces of bigotry still mar America. So, each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day: Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. And I just have to believe that all of us—if all of us, young and old, Republicans and Democrats, do all we can to live up to those Commandments, then we will see the day when Dr. King’s dream comes true, and in his words, “All of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘… land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed the words written by the Founders in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.“
Dr. King also believed and understood the oft-overlooked words that follow in this most sacred document:
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
To put it another way, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood that government exists to protect our rights, not create them. He also knew that the only power government possesses is the power given to it by the people, and when government exceeds that power, we the people need to take it back. This was expressed his April 7, 1957 sermon entitled “The Birth of a New Nation,” where King spoke about the need for people to be free and self-governing.
Emphasizing how freedom is never given but can only be achieved through constant agitation and struggle, he said:
“If we wait for it to work itself out, it will never be worked out. Freedom only comes through persistent revolt, through persistent agitation, through persistently rising up against the system of evil.” (Emphasis mine)
As I reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his life of struggle, I’m struck by the similarities we are witnessing in today’s struggle for liberty and freedom against a tyrannical government that continues to operate under the belief that our rights come from government instead of from God.
I’m not comparing the struggle for racial equality to the challenges we’re facing today; clearly, they are different. But what is the same is the spirit of tyranny that controls our government — a spirit that kicked in following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and then spun out-of-control during the 2+ years of COVID tyranny.
However, in both instances, the assault on our constitutionally protected God-given rights is clear for all to see.
A few years ago, there were unconfirmed rumors going around about how Martin Luther King, Jr. was a less-than-honorable man, engaging in sexual sin and maintaining close ties with communist leaders. Are the rumors true? Maybe. Maybe not.
But that doesn’t change the simple fact that, as Coretta Scott King stated in a speech given at the signing ceremony with Ronald Reagan, “America is a more democratic nation, a more just nation, a more peaceful nation” thanks to the work of her husband.
America has lost her heart of liberty, but I believe that a revival of the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. could help her find it again. No, let me rephrase that: without a revival of his spirit, America can no longer be a land where “freedom rings.”
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.
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