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An Interview with Dr. Alveda King: A Message of Peace and Fear

A Message of Peace and Hope in a Time of Chaos and Fear - Dr. Alveda King Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

One only has to turn on her television set, listen to the radio, peruse social media, or even step outside her front door to be witness to the winds of change sweeping through the nation. Of course, with that wind we have also seen chaos and upheaval grip much of our nation as well. Following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many have taken the opportunity to speak out against the inequality faced by people of color in our nation. And while this is a wonderful thing to do, others have used this platform to preach change through any means available, including violence. As Christians, what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to react? How can we help implement change and civil discourse and yet dissuade those using violence?

A Message of Peace and Hope in a Time of Chaos and Fear - Dr. Alveda King Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

I was blessed to speak with pro-life leader and civil rights activist Dr. Alveda King, niece of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In a candid interview, we discussed the state of our country as well as what we, as Christians, can do to help our nation move forward.  In the eyes of many, the two of us are vastly different- she is an African American from a well-known family, engaged in activism since she was born. She served in the Georgia House of Representatives and has written numerous books. She is well-known, often giving interviews for news stations and other media. She has faced challenges that I will never face. She has lived a life that I cannot imagine.

A Message of Peace and Hope in a Time of Chaos and Fear - Dr. Alveda King Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

I, on the other hand, am a white woman who was born after the civil rights movement and grew up never truly knowing what it was like not to love everyone I met. Schools were not segregated, I had friends of every color and nationality, and I was never taught to hate those who are different from me. I am married to a police officer, who was raised the same, and together we have raised our children to also love everyone they meet. I am a homemaker and homeschooling parent. I practice what I preach and volunteer in many ways to help our community thrive and uplift those who need to be uplifted. I am currently the youth minister at my parish and I would venture to say my name is not known outside of my own little world. We have faced intense hate because of my husband’s chosen profession and for our faith, but our experiences are not the same.

In most people eyes, we are more different than alike… but as Dr. King points out, speaking sister to sister, we aren’t different, we are the same and this is the message we all need to hear but that we often fail to hear.

Beginning a Conversation of Peace

Opening our conversation, I asked Dr. King about her feelings regarding George Floyd, the police, the protests, and ultimately the riots. She began, “We are having this conversation in June of 2020. This particular year there is a new election, we will be reelecting our president I believe and some others will be elected; Covid 19 has just rocked America and the world. This is not new… elections are not new, pandemics are not new; and neither is the violence we are experiencing from the death of George Floyd- a man who was killed from a knee on his neck-of course him being African American and the officer being Caucasian.” Expanding on the public’s vastly different reactions to officer involved arrests by white officers versus black officers, she continued, “So we’re down to the argument of skin color, over and over again. That has happened throughout creation since the fall of humanity. People fight about skin color, class, who’s rich, who’s poor, who’s young, who’s old, and all types of things. The answer, the cure, of course, is always- come to the Lord and seek the Lord. And treat each other, regardless of skin color and socioeconomic conditions- treat each other as humans…”

This is where we most often fail. We only see a black man or a white officer. We fail to see that God has created us each in His image and likeness. We fail to see the inherent dignity in one another. Instead, we focus on skin color, wealth, social standing, age, and a myriad of other qualifiers that don’t necessary qualify but instead divide. And we are all guilty of this regardless of our color, status, pocketbook, etc. As humans, because we are sinful, because have experienced the fall, it is difficult for us to see each other through God’s eyes.

Dr. King quoted Acts 17:26, “He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and He fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their region” several times throughout our conversation. She lamented, “I was taught by my father, Reverend A.D. King, my mother Naomi King who is still living, my granddaddy Daddy King, Mama King his wife, and my uncle Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that Acts 17:26 “of one blood” means that we have to get along. Martin Luther King Jr said we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools. We’re not separate races.” She continued, “God created all people…. Our blood is red, our skin color- we can see it. We have to see it or we are colorblind.  It’s a sin to differentiate people by skin color or money or any of the human conditions that we have. The human race has been in the condition of being a fallen group of people in a fallen world. The answer to that is always Jesus Christ. So sin is sin. It is a sin to see our brothers and sisters as other races when we are all of one race- the human race. It is sin to say “my race needs to get along with your race” because there is one race. So, the issue of racism, socially engineered to divide us, is sinful.”

Unfortunately there are those who do not wish to see the world as one race. They hope to keep us separated. How are we to react then to those who wish to keep dividing us? Dr. King, like Martin Luther King Jr and her own father A.D. King, advocates peace. Communication is the key- truly listening to one another and then actively working with one another. But what about those who say that no one is listening and so violence is the only thing that will open the government’s and people’s eyes? When asked about the response of some justifying rioting and other violence she said that people are taking MLK Jr’s quote about “rioting is the language of the unheard” out of context. She states, “Martin Luther King Jr, in that same speech when he was speaking on riots and violence, went on to say that all violence is immoral and doesn’t make sense… we need to be heard, but not with violence. We have to quickly continue to say “we hear you” and now that we hear you, let us communicate in a peaceful, sensible manner. And so we have to NOT be violent and but to work together and learn to live together as brothers and sisters and not perish together as fools- because John 3:16 “for God so love the world…” God’s not colorblind, God’s colors are magnificent!”

Working for Peace

Peace is the key. But how do we teach peace? How do our religious communities take the lead? Dr. King emphatically states, “The leaders of all faiths who acknowledge that there is a God in heaven, need to come together to teach people not to be fearful and tearful and to not panic, but to have faith to pray… to pray instead of panic and to have faith instead of fear. And as leaders do that, (and every person is the leader of him or herself and if he’s not, he’s in serious bondage)- leaders of your homes, your churches, your communities, your work, our governments- all leaders should be encouraging and not stirring up fear.”

Don’t incite fear. Don’t encourage violence. Don’t panic. Instead, pray, have faith, work alongside one another to bring about true change. Encourage one another. Simple but powerful lessons for us all.

As a mother and a youth minister I was particularly interested in what we can do to help raise the next generation to avoid the mistakes of the past and to repair the damage that the past has inflicted. Dr. King spoke eloquently when she said, “Remind these young people of their purpose and their destiny- that they have a voice and their voice comes from God; they have breath that comes from God. And even though George Floyd’s voice had been taken from him, they still have their voices and can raise them for good and unity. We have to teach our young people about God- not to fear, not to panic, but to love and to communicate, to talk… use our breath that God gives us to speak truth.”

This, of course, is not just a message for the white community, but instead for all of us. If we are truly one human race then we must all reach out to one another speaking the words of truth in love… without fear, without panic, but instead with Christ guiding our words and actions.

Conquering Sin Together

As Dr. King and I ended our conversation, I asked her if she could relay one last message to the people reading, a message that she believes God wants all of us to hear, what would it be? She responded with so much love when she said, “The Lord has said in the book of Luke, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to set the captives free”- the little babies in the womb are captives, people in jail unjustly are captive, God wants this to be a time of repentance and to understand that we are all of one human race. We need to come back to God and God will help us solve these issues together.”  With God’s help, we can be the instruments to set the captives free.

What has happened to George Floyd is unquestionably wrong and horrifying. For any person to be treated as he was can’t be justified. It has shaken us all to our core. It has been a catalyst for change (and thankfully so!).  But as Dr. King agreed, this isn’t just a police officer problem; this isn’t just a black vs white problem; this isn’t just an American problem… this is a worldwide problem. It is a problem with sin. It is a problem with the condition of our hearts. Conquer sin and we will conquer racism and every other ailment of the heart and soul. But we cannot do this without God and we cannot do this without one another.

If you would like to visit Dr. Alveda King at her website you can find it here. Additionally, she works with Priests for Life as their Executive Director of their Civil Rights for the Unborn outreach program.

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The Prodigal Son’s Older Brother? That’s Me.

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” -Alexander Pope

When I was thirteen, my parents got divorced and then, in a surprising turn of events, remarried each other again six years later. Everyone expected my younger sisters and I to be overjoyed, but instead we were conflicted. After enduring a second marriage, a subsequent divorce, an annulment, and the mess that comes with all of those things, we were confused by their reconciliation, to say the least. 

As a sophomore in college, I just couldn’t comprehend how they could forget all of the things they said and did to each other and simply start again. I didn’t understand forgiveness.

Now that I’m married and a mother to my own children, it still baffles me to think about all of the hurdles that my family experienced during that period of our lives. Instead of confusion, though, I’m filled with awe. What we thought was a dark period where God had abandoned us was really a time of renewal, conversion, and healing. He was working to make each one of us new.

Even with such a profound example of forgiveness to aspire to, I’m easily distracted when it’s time to put it into practice. After all, we live in a world that knows nothing about mercy, only justice.

Recently, I heard the story of the Prodigal Son again at Mass. I’ve heard it a thousand times, and my focus is usually on how much I can relate to the son who wanted everything his way and in his own time – right now. What young person hasn’t felt that way?

For years I’ve brooded over how similar I am to the prodigal son and how much I adore the father for waiting to run out to him, ultimately restoring him to the family, despite his unworthiness. 

But there is a third person in that story who more often than not, I ignore altogether: the older brother. 

By getting married, working, having children, and no longer depending on my parents for financial support or permission to live my life, it’s easy to feel like I have little in common with the prodigal son anymore. That connection was from a previous life of immaturity and naïveté. 

In the meantime, however, I’ve unknowingly shifted from one son to the other.

The older brother works hard, does what he is told, and stays faithful to the father, but then becomes angry when he sees not just anyone, but his own brother being welcomed and rewarded when he doesn’t deserve it. He becomes indignant. He wants justice, a consequence for his brother’s foolishness. 

Make him work like a slave! Make him pay back what he owes! Anything to make it feel like he got what he was due. Afterall, what is mercy without justice?

Looking at him is like looking at myself in the mirror.

I knew the Lord was speaking to me during the Gospel that Sunday, but his message became even clearer when I read these words from St. Therese later that week with my book club: “It is because He is just that He is compassionate and full of gentleness, slow to punish and abounding in mercy, for He knows our frailty.” The Lord is merciful even when he is just; “He remembers we are nothing but dust.”

How often I demand justice, when the answer is mercy. How quickly I judge people who make a mistake and don’t reconcile to my liking, or worse, hold a grudge and can’t let it go. 

I may try to trick myself into thinking that I’m better than the fools who squander their father’s money on alcohol and prostitutes, but at the end of the day, I’m the one refusing to come into my father’s house because he welcomed my brother in without asking for a thing. Who’s the fool now? 

I couldn’t understand authentic forgiveness when I was nineteen because there was nothing in the world to compare it to. The world demands consequences for those who are at fault, but Jesus is not of this world. If I ever question that reality, I only need to look at my parents’ marriage. If they can forgive, so can I.

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Blessed Are the Peacemakers

blessed are the peacemakers

As this historic election winds down, I am at a loss for words. I can’t articulate the emotions I have felt over the past months and especially in the past few days, as I have watched family, friends, neighbors, online acquaintances, and others butt heads and tear each other apart. The things I have read especially today (the day after the election) have hurt my heart even more. I am truly thankful the election is over and I am praying for everyone in our country.

However, while the election is over, our work has just begun. Regardless of who won, my words would be the same… I pray we will come to understand that we are all called to love and to uplift one another. God does not want to see us divided! It should be our goal and the goal of our nation to make this world a better place for everyone. We have to work together if we want to accomplish anything. We can’t let divisions keep us from what truly matters.

True progress and true peace can only happen if we become peacemakers. And so, I leave you with the words of St. Francis who said what I can’t seem to find the words to say-

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

 

May God bless you.

May God bless our country.

 

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Mercy and Justice -or- My Perfect Confession

+JMJ+

I’m Catholic and have been since birth.  My faith has always been part of the definition of me.  That being said, in May 2010 my world fell apart and the foundations of my faith cracked.

At 8:50 pm on May 26th 2010 my beautiful daughter Rita Marie was born.  She weighed 8lbs even and was 21 inches long.  She had a head of gorgeous black hair.  She was all me but for her nose and her hands – those were her daddy’s.

She was perfect.

But she wasn’t breathing.

A special ambulance came and rushed her to the local Children’s hospital.  There she stayed for two days.  She died in my arms when she was but 48 1/2 hours old.  I sang to her as she left us for Heaven and Life Everlasting.  Her daddy made sure of of her destination when, good Catholic man that he is, he baptised her as soon as it was evident she wasn’t breathing.

I’m so blessed to have a Saint in Heaven who is especially concerned for me and my family.  But I am also broken.  I have struggled greatly since Rita came and left us.  On the Feast of the Assumption I went to Confession for the first time in 10 months.  10 months is a long time for sin to build.  I didn’t even know where to start and I let Father know.  I was expecting to come out with a penance that would take me hours to complete but God surprised me with His Justice and Mercy.  He had just the right Priest waiting for me and cleared the line so that I could quickly duck into the confessional without having to wait for ages.

Without going into intimate detail of my fallen nature, Father said two things that stuck with me.   The first was that there are two parts to faith: the intellectual knowledge or understanding that God is Real and the trust that He wants good for us.  The second thing that stuck with me was my penance and the spiritual guidance received.  Respectively, to pray simply the prayer of St. Faustina “Jesus, I Trust in You.” a certain number of times and to say every day, as many times as needed, “Lord give me the light and grace to get through this day.”

I truly feel God’s love and mercy from that penance.  He knows I am already hurting and broken and chose to remind that I am His and that He loves me even when I am expecting Him to give me the spiritual equivalent of a good spanking.

I went into the confessional feeling like God had it in for me –  like I was His new Job – and came out feeling like Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet.

Our God is both Merciful and Just.  He is perfectly both and measures each to us as we need.

Jesus, I Trust in You.