Watching the celebration of the life and legacy of the beloved, late and sorely missed Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday 21 January 2008, I was struck not only by the tributes to Dr King and his long suffering family, but also the acclaim of Governor Mike Huckabee, Republican, by former U. S. President Bill Clinton, Democrat.
Especially in light of Bill Clinton’s public melt downs concerning Hillary Clinton presidential opponents in recent days, I thought his public acknowledgement of Mike Huckabee as “a good man” was most gracious. President Bill Clinton was swift to point out, however, that he and Huckabee did not agree on much politically.
There is a deeper brotherhood between the two men as both were raised in the bastion of the Southern Baptist religion. In full disclosure, the Tennessee Mountain Man obviously springs from the same well. I am glad to see that Mike Huckabee claims not to be mad at any body about it which is probably more than Bill Clinton and the Computer Man can say.
Having that little tid bit out of the way… no…no it is not out of the way. It is never, it can never be out of the way. Growing up in certain religious circles combined with the assault of the real world scars one for life. It leaves many without the ability to accept any compliment or enjoy any aspects of life as an adult. For instance, yours truly missed several remarks of the President immediately following the words “good man”, as forcing it’s way into my consciousness like a roaring train at full throttle was, “there is none good, no not one”. Why couldn’t I just accept what he had said?
As the camera panned to Governor Huckabee who nodded his head in acknowledgement and appreciation of the President’s remark, my sick mind raced to “he has just received his eternal reward”.
Of course we were warned to never be judgmental because, says the Holy Bible, with what judgment you judge you shall be judged. At the same time a saint with a dress to the floor and sleeves to the hands, wearing absolutely no make up and sporting a big bun on top of her head stands looking down her nose at everyone else while she trashes the girl next door and the preacher to anyone who will listen.
Since those days I have visited many Christian denomination and several non-denominational churches. I was, at the time, the youngest ever licensed minister of the Southern Baptist Association at the tender age of 12. Like Governor Mike Huckabee, I am an ordained Minister (non-denominational) of The Gospel… the Good News. I have served as a Chaplain in drug and alcohol recovery centers and half way houses, and I am still haunted by the promise of John 3:16 accompanied by the churches fervor to get everyone “saved” while over whelming them with the thought that no one is going to heaven except the speaker.
Dr King was a Southern Baptist Minister and co-pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, but he probably would not have understood what I am talking about here. I have been a co-pastor in a predominantly African American Church and have been a traveling revivalist/evangelist with a Black Minister, and it has been my observation that black people enjoy life and their walk with God more than guilt ridden white folk do. Maybe blacks understand God in a way white people can’t. Maybe they trust God to be their righteousness while white folk try to work out their own righteousness. Or, maybe they simply find and trust a loving, healing, forgiving and restoring God that white men find self contradictory, bi-polar, and judgmental slipping around trying to catch you doing something wrong so He can warp you over the head with whatever is handy.
I remember one elderly pastor who addressing the congregation one Sunday morning said, “I know you, and I know you didn’t get righteous nor did you get holy… you just got old”. Another preacher said, “some of you are so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly use”. Now that I am a senior citizen and a product of the First Self Righteous Church I understand both comments, and both are right. But, where is Paul Harvey and the rest of the story when you need them?
Live right, you are told, dare not do anything that is fun and do not enjoy yourself as you are already going to hell. Don’t blow it… don’t make it worse. But, oh by the way, notice how fat we preachers are? While we don’t believe a word the Roman Catholic Church has to say and the practice of their priests is nothing short of blasphemy and hypocrisy, we, in effect, give you special dispensation to practice gluttony and to commit suicide on the installment plan with a spoon and a fork, but… use only grape juice in Holy Communion for strong drink is a sin.
Don’t screw up on Saturday and show up at church on Sunday….. God will be looking for you! This is, after all, the place where the High Priest was killed in the Holy of Holies and where Ananias and Sapphira died under the judgment of Saint Peter. When Jesus taught, God is a loving Father and said for us to “fear not”, why do those professing to speak for Him in these days seek to maintain power and control through fear?
By the way, why is it a sin for the congregation to have filthy lucre while the preacher is wealthy and flaunts it?
Want to be like Jesus and practice the life of Dr King? Let the preacher sell all he has, give it to the homeless, and join his brother under the bridge eating only what he can get at the soup kitchen so he too can say, “the son of man hath no where to lay his head”. What?!!! Give up the satin sheets, the fancy cars, the well heeled friends, the well placed contacts, and the big house in the ‘burbs’? Don’t hold your breath.