I’m going from “Get Jesus off that mountain!” to “Put God on that monument!” but I think this article mentions a good point. Martin Luther King was a pastor. If he talked about God and the memorial is quoting his speeches and sermons but omitting the references to God, that’s not really staying true to the things that truly mattered to Martin Luther King.
Dr. Alveda C. King, Founder of King for America commented today on the newly dedicated MLK Memorial Site. The MLK quotes on the 450 foot wall surrounding the Mountain of Despair and Stone of Hope have received scrutiny and praises from visitors. “This missed opportunity to carve GOD’s Name on the wall still presents another opportunity. Many people don’t know that Uncle M. L. was a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It stands to reason that they have never heard of his devotion to Jesus Christ and his message of God’s agape love. I wasn’t consulted on the design of the site, still I see this as a teaching moment to encourage people to read King’s sermons.”
I had to look up the definition of “agape” to see why that got used. I knew it meant open mouthed with wonderment or surprise, but I didn’t know there was a specific Christian use of the word:
1. Christianity Love as revealed in Jesus, seen as spiritual and selfless and a model for humanity.
2. Love that is spiritual, not sexual, in its nature.
3. Christianity In the early Christian Church, the love feast accompanied by Eucharistic celebration.
Interesting. Back to the article:
During a pre-dedication tour, Alveda asked why the name of God wasn’t inscribed in some of the quotes. She was told that the effort was to be global and universal in scope and that the hope was that people would depart the site wanting to know more about her uncle.
Some certainly would walk away and make a point of studying his life and impact on the civil rights movement and would discover his loyalty to his faith in the process. Others (probably the majority) would assume the quotes were completely verbatim (why wouldn’t they be?) and thus never realize they’d been Bowdlerized to conform to some assumption that it’s somehow better that way. Why quote the man inaccurately? That doesn’t make any sense to me.
I went looking for more about this and found an editorial written by someone in dire need of a proofreader.
Carved on the north face of the monument is a mangled quotation — “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness” — that alters the meanining[sic] of King’s actual words.
Here’s what he said: “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.”
Without the first clause, “the if clause” as poet Maya Angelou described it after seeing the monument, the statement seems arrogant, self-aggrandizing, traits not associated with King or the nonviolent struggle for civil rights that he embodied.
Maybe the stonemason was getting paid by the word but the owners didn’t want to give him that much money… Well, almost:
The controversy arose because planners decided to reverse the “drum major” quote’s position with a second inscription, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
They went ahead even though sculptor Lei Yixin already was working on the 30-foot granite statue and couldn’t accommodate the full “drum major” quotation in the preferred location.
King’s words were truncated, their meaning was changed, and this otherwise stirring memorial to an American hero became a monumental mess for the National Park Service.
So that’s interesting. God has nothing at all to do with the quotes that wound up carved into the side of the monument.
So I suppose the real annoyance being showed here is coming from Christians who see this as a missed opportunity to shove more patriotic God quotes down the throats of citizens and visitors. How dare they pick banal quotes for this monument!? The audacity! The horror!
Martin Luther King may have been a pastor but his impact wasn’t limited to those in one church or one parish or one town. His words were heard around the world. His vision, his dream, his desire for a better future was meant to benefit everyone so selecting quotes that highlighted that ambition was a good choice. It’s still unfortunate his message was altered by the designers though. Kind of a shame.