Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral. After his death, it did not take long for his life and ministry to be turned into a domesticated myth that focused solely on his "dream" for racial equality. What got left behind and excluded from the public portrayal of Dr. King was the last three years of his life when he called our nation to see and act on the connection among the giant triplets of evil - racism, materialism, and militarism. Because of this focus, he was one of the most unpopular people in the country at the time of his death. To this day, the "sanitized" version of Dr. King is celebrated while the real Dr. King is largely consciously or unconsciously ignored. In her book, Integration: The Psychology and Mythology of Martin Luther King, Jr. and His (Unfinished) Therapy With the Soul of America, Jennifer Selig writes:
It is bitterly ironic that a country embodying only a fraction of what King called for is the same country that's enshrined him in the myth of a national hero...In order to make the country comfortable, King must be remembered as the gentle dreamer from the 1963 March on Washington, rather than the fiery prophet who was killed just a few days before planning to give a sermon called "Why America May Go to Hell." (p. 218)
Fortunately for those who care and dare to look, we have access to Dr. King's writings (i.e. his last book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?) and video clips from 1966-68 that deconstruct the national myth and help us to know and face the truth of his prophetic witness. A recent addition is the HBO documentary King in the Wilderness. The trailer for the documentary is posted below. For any of us who want to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King, it is essential to deconstruct the national myth and open ourselves to his challenging, prophetic, and ongoing call to oppose those giant triplets of evil still present in 2018 - racism, materialism, and militarism.