My brief (slightly fuller) reflection on the significance of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. published in The Center for Public Justice's Capital Commentary.

In Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Where Do We Go from Here?”, his last address as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he diagnosed the fundamental problem that beset the U.S. in 1967:
One night, a juror came to Jesus and he wanted to know what he could do to be saved. Jesus didn't get bogged down in the kind of isolated approach of what he shouldn't do. Jesus didn't say, "Now Nicodemus, you must stop lying." He didn't say, "Nicodemus, you must stop cheating if you are doing that." He didn't say, "Nicodemus, you must not commit adultery." He didn't say, "Nicodemus, now you must stop drinking liquor if you are doing that excessively." He said something altogether different, because Jesus realized something basic - that if a man will lie, he will steal. And if a man will steal, he will kill. So instead of just getting bogged down in one thing, Jesus looked at him and said, "Nicodemus, you must be born again."

He said, in other words, "Your whole structure must be changed."…What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, "America, you must be born again!"
Instead of proscribing a set of prohibitions that would not be sufficient for genuine change, King’s diagnosis of America draws us to the very precondition for national transformation – the rebirth of its citizens. His Jesus-inflected call for America to be reborn is not merely to a spiritual reawakening. Its message pushes beyond the obfuscating mantras of eternal damnation being rehearsed “while we create a hell for the poor” on earth. Rather, it is a moral vision that is inaugurated when we as citizens die to our indifference to injustice in order to be resurrected with a deeper hope in humanity and love for the least of these. In short, King is attempting to unleash a recreated moral citizen into our fragile American democracy that refuses to be arrested by arrogance, chained by cowardliness, and held hostage to hatred.

Xavier Pickett