What did MLK Jr. mean by 'Let Freedom Ring'
[Originally Published on 07/4/2017 on www.atlasoflight.com, the blog that preceded atlasartpress.com]
"...when we allow freedom to ring...we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children...will be able to join hands and sing...Thank God almighty, we're free at last!'"
-Martin Luther King Jr. August 28, 1963, Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
What will happen when we start to see ourselves and eachother the way God sees us? In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s spell-binding and historically spectacular ‘I have a dream’ speech, “God’s children” is mentioned numerous times evoking that we are created, loved, and belong. The idea of freedom (actually it’s the focus of the speech) and King's dream for us all to allow ourselves to be SET FREE will result in everything being made perfect, equal, right, smooth, and glorious. In King’s words, when we “let freedom ring…the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it TOGETHER.”He clarifies what will happen when we embrace true freedom--what will happen when we see ourselves and others the way God sees us.
"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" - MLK Jr., 'I have a dream' speech, 1963
All of his hope for freedom and unity is graciously attributed to God. King thanks God Almighty for the opportunity for true freedom that we each are entitled to no matter our demographic, ethnicity, etc. Scholars have extracted the speech's main call to action--how to get to freedom / how to see ourselves as God sees us--as to treat all with dignity. The ethical implication of King's theology implies that we were all individually CREATED with dignity and formed in God's likeness by Himself, the Creator. Therefore, because we were created with dignity, we should all be treated with dignity.
King also clearly stated he was HAPPY amid the FEAR of the racial, chaotic 1963. We can relate to uncertain times, but are we full of happiness or fear today? Here in America--over 5 decades after his declaration of happiness amid fear--there is still much fear of what may come within this great nation. How can we be happy amid fear? Let the great orator explain a bit more how he was happy amid fear.
"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'M HAPPY, TONIGHT. I'm NOT WORRIED about anything. I'm NOT FEARING any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. - MLK Jr., 'I have a dream' speech', 1963 [emphasis added]
He was happy amid fear because he had seen the glory of God. He knew God. He believed in God's glory and sovereignty. He knew that if he stayed close to God (and had the desire to do God's will), then God's glory would be revealed. No. Matter. What. Happened. If you do not believe in all that MLK believed (in God as our sovereign Creator), then look also to another transforming belief statement that was the foundation for benevolent change against all odds. The Declaration of Independence also confirms FREEDOM as one of the foundational principles of our nation. (hint: Liberty = the quality or state of being free).
The first sentence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
The last sentence: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." (excerpted from the Declaration of Independence)
"Their Creator" clearly refers to God (in biblical terms). Divine means "of, relating to, or proceeding directly from God or a god; supremely good" (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/divine). Providence is "often capitalized: divine guidance or carebcapitalized: God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny" (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/providence).
Both the opening and closing statements of this document point directly to God (Creator, Divine Providence) as the key element to achieving the goals of the nation: Life, Liberty (freedom), and the pursuit of Happiness--just as MLK did in his speech.
King's eyes were squarely fixed on the goal of freedom and so were the founding fathers of this country. ALL of the aforementioned parties relied on God / Creator / Divine Providence in order to achieve these goals for the nation.
Many would find it near impossible to believe how our nation could migrate from segregation to integration in the early 60s. Many also found it impossible to migrate from dependence to independence. But those who know the secret of King's hope and the founding fathers' hope should have absolutely no doubt--their faith in God and the unfailing, unfaltering, unwavering hope and freedom that Christ brings was how progress and greatness was achieved. Their faith was how they held on to happiness amid fear. How they held on to freedom amid bondage.
Pause and reflect on the sound of freedom ringing in your ears today--the Fourth of July, 2017. It is inside of us. It is around us. True freedom is reliance and total belief in a sovereign God. His freedom is available to each of us when we extend the invitation from our heart.