Martin Teaches Still

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My friend, Martin, is teaching me a lot today. Like the fight for equality of his day, there is a fight for equality today. I am moved by these words:

"It may well be that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition is not the glaring noisiness of the so-called bad people, but the appalling silence of the so-called good people."

I have been asked by more than one person why I feel so strongly about marriage equality and the struggle of my GLBT brothers and sisters. It is a simple enough answer for me: because inequality sucks! It sucks to be told that in the country of immense freedom and equality that you will be treated differently based on my or someone else's standard. It is wrong and it is whack for me to tell another person that who they are and who they love make them less of a person than me. The fight for equality for all people is one that must be fought. It must be fought even by those who aren't gay.

One of my dearest friends, Tonetta (a lesbian woman whom I have known and loved since elementary school) said to me, (paraphrased) "Ray, this fight needs your voice. It needs the voice of 'straight allies'." I could not agree more. If the only folks who stood up for equality for black folks were just the black folks then I dare say vile Jim Crow and "Separate but Equal" will have fallen eventually but it would have taken longer. It takes the voice of many--and especially the voice of straight folks--to say, "No! Not on my watch. Not in my name. Not on this day!"

In the struggle for justice and equality for all, I want to be weighed, measured and found un-wanting. I want to echo that great Prophet Amos and say (through my actions), "But let justice roll down as waters and righteousness like a mighty river."

This man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., got it. He knew what his life was to be about. I am always so moved when I read his Letter from the Birmingham Jail.

This quote is incredible. May I forever be an extremist for justice!

But as I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

Lord, that I not be found wanting. That I would always stand for justice. That I would see that my path is inextricably tied with the paths of others. Especially the others who are so unlike me.

Which type of an extremist will you be?


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