A Prophet Without Honor by the Rev. Bernice A. King
Several years ago, President Reagan signed the legislation setting aside the third Monday of January to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Many across the land rejoiced. For many of us, it was an honor long past due for a man who changed the face of this nation. It was the first time an African American was honored with a national holy day. And now every January, in every state, we pause to honor the man, the message, and his mission.
Unfortunately, as we survey the land, we would have to ask ourselves, where is the real honor? On the one hand, we celebrate a man who stood for peace, and yet we are the most violent nation in the world, so where is the real peace? We pay tribute to a man who fought for justice, and yet we have the Rodney King [Amadou Diallo, Rodney King, Timothy Thomas, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Shelly Fry, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown] incidents. We pay tribute to a man who fought for economic freedom, and yet African Americans are denied loans to buy homes and start businesses. We commemorate a man who struggled for equality, and yet African Americans continue to be judged first by the color of their skin and not by the content of their character. We honor a many who championed nonviolence, and yet we glorify violence from the silver screen to the TV screen, from the state house to the school house.
How dare we say we honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. when we allow these atrocities to occur with impunity? We must do more than honor a man of this magnitude with just a holiday; we must honor him with action. We must honor him by bringing into reality what he merely dreamed about. Until we are willing to honor Dr. King with consistent, liberating actions, then we dishonor him with our mere words, and he is a prophet without honor.
Throughout history God has sent us prophets who have spoken the word, but who have seldom been heeded. In essence, they were forced to prophesy in a vacuum. That’s why Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country.” (Matt. 13:57) It was, and in some cases still is, very difficult for America to find a real place for Martin Luther King Jr. We fear the prophet. We ridicule the prophet. We jail the prophet. We even kill the prophet. But we have no problem making the prophet merely a dreamer. Let’s face it, there are some people in power how have no intention of allowing my dad’s dream to become a reality.