22 Jan

Today is Martin Luther King (MLK) Day. A national holiday. No schools today. No banks opened. It is a day of celebration. I know there are some who question why MLK should be celebrated when there are a number of American leaders that are snubbed in the list of national holidays. All of the presidents combined only get one day… all rolled in one!

MLK Day is more than just the celebration of a man. MLK is more than a man anyway; he has become a myth. This doesn’t mean that MLK didn’t exist. We often wrongly believe that “myth” equals “untruth.” It is not that myth is not true. Rather myth is a truth that has become bigger than mere historical fact. Webster‘s defines myth as a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon. We discussed the Genesis myth in our Men’s Fraternity Sunday morning. Myth is a truth that powerfully shapes the way we reason, the way we think. Myth shapes how we look at life and at each other.

MLK Day is not so much the celebration of a man, but the celebration of a movement. The man became a myth and the movement became a myth. The civil rights movement of the 1960s was more than an issue of black’s rights. It was an issue of justice.

To seek justice among people is a part of the kingdom of God. The Bible uses the word “justice” 132 times. The Jewish prophet Amos spoke on the issue of justice. One of his prophetic themes is the need for justice in addition to right worship. You can construct occasions of worship that seem proper, but without justice, without people treating people fairly, right worship is empty. Amos, speaking on God’s behalf, declares:

I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Amos 5:21-24

I was surprised to learn that Bob Dylan (a Jewish prophet in his own right!) sang at the 1963 march on Washington, where MLK delivered his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Dylan sang with Joan Baez. [video] He also sang “Only A Pawn in Their Game”
at the Washington march. He sang it in the same prophetic tradition as Amos. He sang it as a cry for justice.

Only A Pawn in Their Game (1963)
Bob Dylan

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood.
A finger fired the trigger to his name.
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man’s brain
But he can’t be blamed
He’s only a pawn in their game.

A South politician preaches to the poor white man,
“You got more than the blacks, don’t complain.
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin,” they explain.
And the Negro’s name
Is used it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid,
And the marshals and cops get the same,
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool.
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
‘Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks,
And the hoof beats pound in his brain.
And he’s taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide ‘neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain’t got no name
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught.
They lowered him down as a king.
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He’ll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game.

Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music

Bob Dylan & Joan Baez at the Washington March 1963.


Posted by on January 22, 2008 in Life



2 responses to “Justice

  1. Pop

    January 24, 2008 at 7:51 am

    Absolutely the best Blog you have written to date. I am so proud you are my son.

  2. Derek Vreeland

    January 24, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Thanks Dad! And welcome to the blogging world.

    I will be visiting your blog

    Blog on!



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