Dr. King, the Priest, the Rabbi & the Imam…

Have you heard the one about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Priest, The Rabbi and the Imam?

Once you might have…in fact, when he was still alive there was a good chance he might have been the one to tell the story…the joke…but today…?

King was a great man with a great sense of humor.

According to the Chicago History Museum and WFMT who have the archival tape and as reported by wbez.org:

“Well, I think you have to have the ability to engage in creative laughter,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said.

King saw the importance of humor and laughter even during a time of great racial inequality.

Here’s what the civil rights leader told oral historian Studs Terkel during an interview in 1964:

“I think humor is most important in getting at truth and getting people to understand and often to rise above the despair which can surround them…Humor can open the door for honest discussion, but it’s up to us to walk through it.”

Now let’s be clear – his notion of humor was not the offensive depictions of Blacks prevalent in the Southern United States…that no doubt some/many found funny or ominous as the case may be. Nor do I imagine it is the Anti-Semitic depictions of Jews that still proliferate in the Middle East and elsewhere… good for a laugh by some…but also for scaring children. And I have no doubt that he would include hanging bloody pig heads on Mosque doors in the same hateful category…no doubt a belly laugh for the perpetrators and a happy fist pump for others.

However, I am ready to bet that he would have viewed Charlie Hebdo in a different light…the filter of “creative laughter…that opens doors for honest conversation.”

What would Dr. King have said about terrorists murdering writers and illustrators of satire…alongside others who were murdered solely because they were of another religion…what would he have said about such religious extremists?

Frankly we know…you see, in the United States we celebrate his Birthday every year in January. And I have made it a habit to study his speeches and his writing every year, in his memory, as the impression he made on me as child has been indelible.

Here is a quote I found…listen:

The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be…The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

Creative extremists, people not afraid to poke fun at themselves and in that context at others – he would have made the distinction between a heinous act; an illustration that incited hate and an insightful cartoon that caused us to pause…walk through the open door of dialogue and engage.

Sadly, as the weeks have gone by we have lost perspective on this. The same digital world that spreads hate and teaches terrorism is being equated with the digital world that can open doors and create dialogue in ways that Dr. King never dreamed of.

Let’s not forget that in a world where we didn’t have Twitter or Facebook and TV was still a fledgling medium for spreading news and ideas…25,000 people entered Montgomery Alabama, the State Capital, many having marched the 50-plus miles from Selma and forever changed the voting patterns in the United States…inspired by the famous March On Washington where over 250,000 Americans of all race, creed and color heard Dr. King deliver “I Have A Dream”…no Twitter, no Facebook no digital sharing – yet, even today, it still resonates and inspires as it did all those years ago.

So in the year of the 50th Anniversary of the Selma March I am deeply troubled that our digital sensibility is in limbo…is still in search of deeper meaning…

Maybe on the day dedicated to his memory…we can still learn from the words and thoughts of Dr. King…so I share them with you and hope that you will be inspired to think on it as I was…


Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Imagine the exponential power of science and spirit…not to be read as religion….wow…change the world….and see if you can finish the story of Dr. King, the Priest, the Rabbi and the Imam….

What do you think?

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