"…to the praise of the glory of His grace…" Ephesians 1:6

How and Why to Celebrate MLK Day

Here are some recommendations I recently offered homeschool parents and a school administration for how to celebrate MLK Day and the reasons we do in our family. I thought it might be helpful to some of you.

1) Celebrate “Black History Month” with speakers each week on Black History.
2) Require the reading of “Letters from Birmingham Prison” (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html)
3) Require students to watch the documentary of the Tulsa Race Riots. If you live or minister in Tulsa and or not aware of it – I think it is inexcusable. If you are a Christian anywhere you still would benefit from this look at sin and its consequences. Here’s a good version of the events. http://vimeo.com/14680242
4) Enter a float in the MLK Jr Parade (Entry requests have to be done months ahead of time so start planning for next year). Watch some of the parade on TV or attend.
5) Have students or children participate in a contest for who can give the “I Have a Dream” speech the best.
6) Require students to listen to a John Piper message on interracial marriage (Here’s the link – http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/racial-harmony-and-interracial-marriage)
7) Then as a family watch “The Great Debaters”.

Why Celebrate MLK Day? Below is an edited version of a letter I wrote last year as to why my children would not attend class on MLK Day but would celebrate the day. The letter was influenced by Dr. John Piper’s writings and W.E.B. Dubois and Carl Ellis and most importantly – the Bible.

Celebrating MLK Day is only a symbolic act – and by that I mean – it isn’t necessarily about performing any particular acts promoting civil liberty or racial harmony that I am aware of. It is a great opportunity to talk about racial harmony and the plan of God for His world, but in a lot of ways, sadly, I think, we will only pause and then go on living. I know that ******** has chosen not to recognize MLK Jr. Day as a holiday significant enough to take off for. I have never heard or read any rationale for that from ******* directly but have heard many of the arguments.

Perhaps the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 14 are applicable here. “One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.” We certainly acknowledge one’s response to this holiday as within the realm of Christian liberty and not a biblical mandate of any kind. So I intend my defense of our position to be a gracious explanation and not a rebuke.

I know Dr. King was a flawed man and some of us were alive to hold those flaws more closely. But it seems to me that we hold Dr. King’s flaws differently than other of our national heroes. George Washington’s Anglican faith was largely a social convention; so much so that he seems never to have taken communion. John Adams, the second president was skeptical of traditional Christianity. Thomas Jefferson, the third president scoffed at the notion of the Trinity and the deity of Christ. And James Madison, the fourth president drifted toward the deism typical of men of his standing in Virginia in the early 1800’s. (Mark Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992], pp. 133-135, 404). Their flaws seem less threatening for some reason. We certainly see admirable traits in those men that we can celebrate. Why is that more difficult with Dr. King?

He was a sinner, as he well knew, especially when he was caught in some of his worst behavior (Stephen Oates, Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., [New York: Penguin Books, 1982], p. 322). But he was probably more of a Christian than most of our Founding Fathers whom we memorialize. He certainly was a major factor in one of the most significant issues of our nation over the past 60 years.

I had just turned three when, on August 28, 1963, King stood before the Lincoln Memorial and said, “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. . . . I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King articulated and symbolized a great dream – and it is not yet realized.

In February 2000 following the death of my mom and a study through the book of Acts, I began to have a dream unfold in my heart – a dream that would take Martin Luther King’s dream to a biblical conclusion. I became convinced that the beauty of the gospel and the glory of the Savior was seen not in a people coming together because they had common backgrounds or lifestyles or from common races but that the glory of the church was God bringing people together who were not alike – but were made to be in love with a Savior, the Lord Jesus – and as a result – in love with each other.

It is more than just how black and white people relate to each other or how rich and poor relate. It’s about people from every race and every language and every tribe uniting with a love and passion for Jesus being the great thing in all things. As a result of that dream, I left a church I had been a part of for ten years and where I could have easily spent the rest of my life comfortably provided for – to come to Tulsa and start a church that would pursue that dream – offering hope to everyone.

One of the ways to see the purposes of God that drive history is to look at the end of the history that God describes in Revelation. This is where he is taking history. This is what history is about. This is what the church my daughters attend is about and what Tulsa is about and what the USA and all the nations of the world are about. Our reason for being is seen by looking at the goal of God in Revelation.

In Revelation 5:9, John tells us why Jesus is worthy to open the book of the end of history so that things unfold according to the plan of God. Jesus is worthy because of how his death relates to all the races and tribes of the earth: “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

The reason Jesus has the right to open the book of history is that by his death he ransomed people for God – for the glory of God and the worship of God – from every “tribe and tongue and people and nation.” So it was God’s design in the atonement – in the death of Jesus to ransom some from every kind of race and language and make them into one “kingdom.” They would all have one king. That is, they would all live with a passion for the sovereignty and supremacy of God in all things. That is what would unite them – the greatness and the supremacy of their one and only King.

You can see the vision fulfilled in verses 13-14, “And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.” This is what all creation was designed for, and Revelation 5:9 says that the reason Christ died and is worthy to bring creation to this great climax is that he ransomed people from all the tribes and languages to praise God as priests and not as punished rebels in hell.

Now that is what I think history is about. That is what nations are about. That is what races are about. That is what languages are about. That is what schools should be about and what families should be about. This is the meaning of all created things: all things exist by Christ and through Christ and for Christ (Colossians 1:16) – and for the Father who sits upon the throne: “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36). That is the meaning of history, and the meaning of our nation and of our lives and we either joyfully and savingly embrace it now, or in the end recognize it begrudgingly and without hope.

It is inconceivable to me that I could believe that this is the goal of God in history and the aim of the death of his Son and not care about racial harmony now in the spheres God has given me to live. That is the reason we feel it is significant to honor MLK Jr. Day and why we would encourage the dear ******** leadership to reconsider this issue in the future.


Joe Blankenship