MLK in the Age of Trump

At the MLK celebration service I attended on Monday, it occurred to me how fortunate we are to have the prophetic example of Martin Luther King to help guide us in this time of division and bitterness, to a place of understanding, respect and love even for those with whom we strongly disagree.

Nancy Pelosi was asked recently if she hated the president. She replied, “I don’t hate the president. I’m a Catholic. I pray for the president. I pray for the president every day.”

Wow, that’s powerful. After all the nasty things that have been said about her, she tells the world she “prays for the president.”

As a Christian, that’s what Dr. King actually called us to do. “Love your enemies, pray for them that persecute you.”
That’s hard, but it’s doable, even for me. I figured if MLK could ask African Americans living in the deep south to pray for the people denying them the right to vote, to an equal education, to a seat at a lunch counter and attacking them with billy clubs, dogs and fire hoses, maybe I should try it?

A friend once told me, “If you resent someone, pray for them. Pray that they may find happiness and peace and joy and love every time you think of them in a negative light.” He said my resentment toward them would be lifted even if their behavior doesn’t change.

About 6 months ago, I actually did start to pray for the president, but I admit, it took a while. Initially I could only feel anger and resentment toward the man who pushed the lie about Obama’s birth certificate in media outlets at every opportunity.

But I did it. “God, I really think the president is a sick man. I pray he finds happiness and peace and joy and love.” And honestly, it’s working. My personal resentment toward DT has subsided considerably. Even though he has not dramatically changed, I have.

As the impeachment trial and election season heats up, there’s been an additional twist to my prayers for the president: “God, I pray the president may find happiness and peace and joy and love, and please God help me, help him, find another job. But most importantly, Thy Will, Not Mine, Be Done.”

If Americans are going to help improve the political and cultural climate in the country, we cannot be angry, bitter or hateful. We need to be calm, centered, confident and disciplined. We already have calamity; we need serenity. Serenity does not mean complacency, MLK was anything but complacent. He walked the talk to an unprecedented degree.

Thank you, Dr. King, and all those who walked with him for your inspiring and courageous power of example.

Happy MLK Day
Jimmy Tingle

Jimmy Tingle will perform next at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, on February 29, 2020. See JimmyTingle.com.