[Funny thing about being born in 1944: as it turned out, I grew up with the modern Civil Rights Movement, and, as a result, one of my heroes has been–and remains–The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And, because of that, I began to equate King’s work almost solely with the concept of “civil rights.”
Little did I–or, apparently, many of my contemporaries, realize that King’s mission eventually would broaden to include a more inclusive category of reforms, “social justice” (think, for example of his coming out against the war in Vietnam, and of the decision to launch the “Poor People’s Campaign,” the fulfillment of which Dr. King did not live to see).
In past years, as I’ve put up posts each January commemorating Dr. King’s life and achievements, I’ve focused almost exclusively on his role as the voice of the modern civil rights movement. This year, when the King Holiday is celebrated on Monday, January 17, I thought I’d try something different: I want to offer, first, not a prayer for “civil rights,” but a prayer for “social justice.”]
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[Prayer 27, “A Prayer for Social Justice” (Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, p. 823)]:
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease, that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer offers several prayers for “social justice.” This one is my favorite, because it seems designed to reach the broadest audience. Any thinking person surely can identify with one or more of the prayer’s summaries of the troubles in the modern United States: “barriers which divide us”; “suspicions”; “hatreds”; and “divisions.”
So, will this simple prayer bring an end to our divisions? Surely you jest! The point is that the quest for “social justice” is ongoing, and all of us should support it.
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Yet, this still is a post for the King Holiday, so I want to offer an additional opportunity to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy. This one comes from a King Holiday post I put up four years ago. I hope you enjoy it:
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For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject: