When religion is racism

Martin Luther King, Jr. was, born on this day Jan. 15, in 1929. The beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies of his day diminished, oppressed and divided people because of their color and race. Suddenly MLK got real, and spoke the truth from his deepest feelings and convictions. His "I have a dream" speech was not spoken from his head. It has the ring of power and authority to it because he was lifting it up out of his heart. He challenged people to turn away from what was programmed in their heads, and to turn toward what was real deep inside them - that all human beings are equal brothers and sisters in one human family.

I have the above picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. On the back of the picture I wrote the following words – “determined,” “passionate,” “non-conformist,” “revolutionary,” “rebel,” “undeterred,” “courageous,” “powerful,” “unconventional,” “rule-breaker,” “peaceful,” “fearless,” “angry,” “offensive,” “loving,” “compassionate,” and “selfless.” These are characteristics I see in Martin Luther King, Jr. that resonate with me.

I wonder when you and I are going to start getting real like Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others in the civil rights movement. I wonder when we are going to turn away from the false beliefs, mindsets, narratives and ideologies that are dictating our views of one another and dividing us against each other. You often hear the phrase "get real." Thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr., it adds a whole new significance to it.

I’m a stand for Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. It’s a stand for the inherent, equal and divine worth of every human being, and working toward a world that works for everyone.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Men hate each other because they fear each other, and they fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they are often separated from each other.”

Sadly, too often it’s religion that separates us. It is religion but not God that divides people into “us” and “them.”

In the end, anything that separates the human race is a form of racism. Color can be a form of racism. So can religion. The Oxford English Dictionary defines racism as “belief in the superiority of a particular race.” With respect to religion it would read, “belief in the superiority of a particular religion.” This view typically acts as a justification for non-equal treatment of members of another religion. Racial ideologies can lead to the worst horror such as the Holocaust. Religious ideologies can too, most notably the Crusades. God has no religion.

Religion is racism when it denies the equal divine worth and dignity of every human being, and divides, separates and pits people of different beliefs or practices against each other. You don’t have to be a religious racist to follow your religious tradition or belief-system of choice. In fact, I’m convinced Jesus would never condone religious racism. Martin Luther King, Jr. confronted racial racism, I want to confront religious racism and offer an alternative.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I’m going with that!

It would be a MLK-sized step forward if we could affirm the following principles: ​ Every person can fully embrace and follow their religious tradition, spiritual interests, or philosophical views without creating division, destruction, hostility, or hatred. ​

Every person can find a rationale and motivation within their religious tradition, spiritual interests, or philosophical views to be an instrument of goodness, peace, love, and compassion in the world, and affirm the inherent, equal, and unconditional worth of every human being.​

Every person has the right to follow their own inner guidance in choosing their own religious, spiritual, or philosophical views and practices. ​

Every person can participate in a process of personal growth, self-actualization, and fulfillment of one’s highest beliefs and aspirations, and encourage the same for others. ​

Every person benefits when each of us follows our own unique inspiration for building a world that works for everyone.

All of us have something valuable to learn from each other, and that the future of our world rests in our willingness to work, play, live, grow, and be… together.

©  2009 Jim Palmer Author. All Rights Reserved
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