I want to take this opportunity to remember and recommend, once more, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. This majestic, soul-inspiring address, originally given on August 28, 1963, has rightly earned its place among America’s greatest orations. I have read and re-read Dr. King’s speech, as well as his slightly-less-well-known “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address (delivered in Memphis, TN on April 3, 1968 – the day before he was assassinated), and his remarkable “Letter From Birmingham Jail” many times. I highly recommend reading them all in their entirety.
The reason for this post is simply to argue that one of the reasons the “I Have A Dream” speech so inspired our nation, and continues to capture our collective imagination well over 50 years later, is not just Dr. King’s eloquence, impressive as it was and still is. The reason his words still ring in our ears and resonate in our souls is that he offered not novel concepts, not merely timely aspirations, but the eternal truths of God’s Word. I have tried to show where some of those great words came from and what some of their implications are.
As our nation continues to experience deep racial tensions, Dr. King’s words seem particularly timely and appropriate. Consider these quotes from his speech:
Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. – If there is no God, and/or he is not just, this is nothing more than poetic nonsense.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” … [W]e will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” – A direct quote of Amos 5:24, American Standard Version.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. … You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. – An indirect reference to passages like Romans 4:1-4; 8:16-25; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Philippians 1:29; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 2:19-25; 3:13-18; and 4:12-19.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” – A direct reference to the biblical doctrine that man is created in the image of God Almighty, found in Genesis 1:26-28. Again, if there is no God, and/or he has not created us as equals, this is merely sloppy sentimentality utterly disconnected from reality and anchored in … thin air. If we are not divinely created, we are nothing more than random piles of molecules – white molecules and black molecules. Who cares how one pile of molecules treats a differently colored pile of molecules? Where would we even get abstract ideas such as “truth” and “equality”?
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” – An almost direct quote of Isaiah 40:4-5 from the King James Bible; a few words and phrases in verse 4 are juxtaposed.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
Either Dr. King spoke words of truth that day that rightly called a nation to repent of the sin of racism and embrace a new day of equality … or he was a silly, delusional man appealing to a non-existent deity, echoing vacuous phrases about fairy tales like “justice” and “freedom” from a ridiculous collection of ancient superstitions, and we are foolish piles of molecules to even stop to remember that it happened. It is one or the other.
Today we commemorate the day when a man, an American, a black American, a Christian minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ spoke eloquent words anchored in the very truth of God’s word to the conscience of a nation, and helped change the course of history.
God bless America, and may he do it once more.