Saturday, November 05, 2011

Opportunity, Missed

If Dr. Jerry Newcombe of Truth in Action Ministries weren't obsessed with liberals, "political correctness," and the devotion to Christianity of the Founding Fathers (the slaveholders, presumably, among them), he'd be onto something.

Dr. Newcombe recently complained, legitimately, that the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. omits any mention of God or reference to King's devotion to his Christian faith. But it does contain this tidbit: "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."

This is problematic- and not only because Dr. King never made such a statement, which was lifted from King's sermon, "The Drum Major Instinct." In context, it would appear as

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.

A couple of months ago, The Washington Post's Rachel Mantueffel commented

This quote is awfully self-aggrandizing for a man who so often symbolized the strength in humility. It’s akin to memorializing Mahatma Gandhi with the quote, “Don’t you know who I am?” Even if the Mahatma said that once, it’s not as though that is what we remember him for.

Manteuffel, noting omission on the memorial of "if you want to say," quips "An “if” clause is an extraordinarily bad thing to leave out of a quote. If  I had to be a type of cheese, being Swiss is best." Frankly, if I had to be an animal, I'd want to be a gazelle; I understand they're awfully fast. (Admittedly, the cheese reference is better.)

If he were not blinded (or perhaps blindsided) by his eagerness to make a (conservative) political point, Newcombe, too, might have noticed the unfortunate mangling of one of Reverend King's extraordinary statements. If he had, Newcombe, who pals around with Dr. D. James Kennedy (what's good for Palin, is good for the left) might have explained that as inscribed on the memorial, the quotation obscures the humility that King was extolling. He might, from his Christian perspective, have explained that as a believing Christian, Dr. King understood that he should avoid self-promotion and vain conceit, as the apostle Paul urged in the second chapter of Phillipians:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Instead, it is left to the editors of The Washington Post (to the right, inaccurately considered part of the "liberal media") to have observed in September

Dr. King argued that the instinct can be harnessed for noble ends, but only by doing good works and not by seeking accolades for doing them. Notably, he sought no such accolade himself. “If you want to say I was a drum major,” he said, “say that I was a drum major for justice.” Remove that “if” — as the architects of the monument did — and you are perversely left with the sort of bragging that Dr. King decried.

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