Curry's MLK Day message: Love is the way
Bishop Michael Curry gave the keynote address at the 2021 Triangle Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Breakfast.
allow me to offer some reflections in this context of our moment in American history. And on this weekend, when we observe the birth and remember the teachings the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr toe offer two quotes for reflection. One well known, the other less so. Dr King said. Darkness cannot cast out darkness. Onley Lykken do that, and hatred cannot cast out hatred. Onley love can do that. He also said on other occasions we must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. When we discover that we shall make of this old world a new world, love is the way love is the way forward. It is the only way forward love, unselfish, sacrificial, not superficial or sentimental, unselfish and sacrificial love that seeks the good and the welfare and the well being of others as well as the self. That kind of love is the way it may be the only way, because that kind of love can help and heal when nothing else can. It can lift up and liberate when nothing else will. Love is the way, and this is not. I would hasten to say the province of any one religious tradition or anyone. Philosophical outlook. Authentic love, if you will. That is unselfish sacrificial that seeks the good in the welfare of others. This is not the precinct of anybody. This is a universal truth. Love is ecumenical. Love is interfaith. Love is not just bipartisan, it is multi partisan. Love is pluralistic. Love is inclusive because we are not the source of love. We are participants in it. The source of love is God, the God who made all of us and all things. First John. Chapter four says it this way. In the New Testament, beloved, let us love one another because love is of God and those who love are born of God and know God because God is love. Love is the the only way it can lift up and liberate it can help and heal. Now I know for well that there is a sense among us that we're not always sure that love can, that love can truly guide us. That love can truly inspire us. That love can truly set us free. And I know that and have experienced that even in my own soul some days but the truth of the matter is, love is the only way and is the power that can help and heal us because the alternatives are unthinkable. We have in recent memory seeing those alternatives, and they are unthinkable. We've seen moments of the abyss, the rising of the abyss of chaos and nightmare. We've seen it. We saw it in 2017 in Charlottesville, when neo Nazis marched through the streets of an American city holding tiki torches in their hand wearing khaki pants. Young men mostly in their thirties twenties and thirties, young people shrieking like crystal. Not in Germany. In the Second World War, shrieking Jews will not replace us, or we have seen the obits. We have seen the alternative to love. You cannot go there. We saw it. We saw it when George Floyd's life was snuffed out when he was murdered by an officer of public safety, cried for his mother. We cannot go there. The alternative is unthinkable, and we way saw it. Just this past week, we saw it in January, the sixth, the capital of the United States place where the House of Representatives and the Senate of this country Temple of Democracy, symbol of democracy of our democracy was violated by an attempted insurrection in the United States of America. My brothers and sisters, we have seen the nightmare of the abyss. We have seen what it looks like. We must not. We cannot. We will not go there. Love is the way. It is the only way to save us all. Dr. King, between 1965 and the eventual year of his death, often said over and over again, we shall either learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or we will perish together as fools. The choice is ours, he said. Chaos or community. I believe we must choose and labor for community. You who have come to this virtual breakfast believe that we must choose chaos community instead of chaos. We must choose community, as Dr King called it, beloved community, where there is, as the old slaves used to saying plenty good room, plenty good room for all of God's Children. And love is the only way that can guide us to a true justice. That is not mere revenge that can lead us in the pathways of peace and justice and goodwill and liberty for all we must choose community. The truth is we must choose community and labor for it. You know, the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that that choice may not be as difficulties. We think we may already have some guidance on how to move in that direction. We have some values that we actually share in common, and if we build on them, we may find that we are beginning to build toward that kind of beloved community. Now, for example, there is much diversity of opinion on a variety of public issues and on a variety of things. We have religious differences. We have political differences. We have ideological differences. We have personality differences, and all of these are part of the variety and diversity and the wondrous tapestry that makes American democracy. In fact, the Bill of Rights protects diversity of religious opinion and expression and protects the right for differences of opinions and actual expressions and freedom of the press. But there are some shared values in all that diversity. Some of them are simple and ordinary and common sensical. Some years ago, I remember the publication of a book by Robert Fulghum that was entitled. Some of you may have read it all. I needed to learn to know. I learned in kindergarten, and in that book he talked about the things he learned when he was a child in kindergarten. And here are the nine that he listed. Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody, wash your hands before you eat flush. And when you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. The old slaves used to say, Walk together, Children. And don't you get weary because there's a great camp meeting in the promised land. Those simple values principles not complex, not high and lofty and lifted up just those simple values of human decency and kindness and social living that they become a basis, if you will. Ah, small but significant step in the direction of moving beyond the chaos of un enlightened self interest to the beloved community, where we make plenty good room for all God's Children. We saw a little bit of that this not long ago. I I grew up in Buffalo New York and and now live in Raleigh, North Carolina, where my mother's people come from and having grown up in Buffalo. I am a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan since they were founded in the old FL. So we had a long standing rivalry with the old Boston Patriots and then, by extension, to the New England Patriots. But Bill Belichick, I must say a word in his defense or honor on his honor. He was offered no. He was to be awarded the Medal of Freedom, our nation's highest award in honor for civilian, and he declined to accept it. And this is what he said recently. I was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what? The honor represents an admiration for prior recipients, but subsequently the tragic events. January, the six occurred, and I made the decision not to move forward. I am an American citizen. I hold great reverence for our nation's values, freedom and democracy, and I could not accept the award values matter. We in this country holds some shared values, basic human values of decency. But we have some shared values that make it possible. Toe live in human community makes e pluribus unum from many diverse people. One nation makes it possible. If you don't believe me, ask Thomas Jefferson. We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have some shared values in this American experiment. If you don't believe me and you don't believe Thomas Jefferson, maybe you'll believe Old Abe Lincoln. Four score And seven years ago, our forefathers brought upon this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. And if you still don't believe Jefferson or Lincoln, maybe you'll believe what we were all taught in elementary school when we stood up and face the flag and put our hand over our hearts, I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands. Listen to this one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. This nation has not always lived up to it to be sure, Let there be no question. But the fact that we have not always lived off to it does not invalidate the values themselves. It is those values, those ideals, those moral principles that we can stand on. An e pluribus unum from many diverse people. One people becomes possible where the chaos is banished and something resembling the beloved community that God intends for all humanity becomes a possibility. 1963 I was in public school, public school number 76 in Buffalo, New York, Miss Lenny's fifth grade class. We were, uh, recently had been transferred from what was a predominantly black, uh, school, and we were reassigned to another school that was predominantly Italian. It was part of some kind of desegregation effort. Anyway, this was 1963. It was the year of the struggle in Birmingham, Alabama. It was the year of the march on Washington. It was the year that President Kennedy was assassinated in November of that year. This particular day in miscellaneous fifth grade class, we were studying in social studies, I believe about the great seal of the United States of America. You may remember that on the great seal. There's the the image of the eagle within his Italians holding olive branches and on this side and one side and arrows on the other. And above the eagle in Latin, the words E pluribus unum, the official motto of the United States of America defying the goal of the American experiment e pluribus unum. And we had a little thing. We got the color in the eagle and, you know, color it in. And then we learned about the words e pluribus Unum and learned that the words e pluribus unum or Latin and that they mean from many one from many diverse peoples one people, one nation. That's the motto of this country. But I don't remember learning in the fifth grade where that came from. I knew that the Founding Fathers decided that, but I didn't know where the actual words e pluribus Unum came from, except that they were Latin. This past September, I started doing a little research and digging, and I discovered that the words e pluribus Unum, that the concept goes back to Cicero off the Roman Republic, and this is what Cicero said, and where that motto comes from, when each person loves the other as much as he loves himself than one from many. E pluribus Unum becomes possible when each person loves the other as much itself. E pluribus unum one from many America, these United States democracy, community, beloved community becomes possible. Love is the way. The only way that can help and heal when nothing else can. And that can lift up and liberate when nothing else will. Dr. King was right. We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. For then we will be able to make of this old world a new world. Love is indeed the way. God love you. God bless you. May God hold us all. He knows all mighty hands of love.