I was privileged to spend almost three days in Memphis this week with Jim and Charlotte Martin. Jim is a fellow Grove Rat — we’re both from the same southeast Dallas neighborhood — and a long-time family friend and a trusted partner/mentor to me. We ate pulled-pork barbecue, southern fried catfish, blackberry cobbler, and banana pudding together. We talked about ministry and kids and churches and the political climate and preaching. We played touch football with his two grandsons and prayed together. I spent a day on campus at Harding School of Theology where Jim is the vice president. I attended chapel, met a ton of people who know my brother Keith, and sat in on one of Dave Bland’s preaching classes (what an unfortunate name for a preacher).
One of the unexpected highlights of my trip was visiting the National Civil Rights museum in the historic Lorraine Motel, the site of the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I thought I might spend a couple of hours in there on Monday, but it wound up being closer to five. They’ve done such an outstanding job of transforming that motel into an excellent and inspirational journey through the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. So many exhibits, so many stories, so many pictures and videos, so many lives are represented here.
The worst and the best of humanity are both represented here, the heroic and the horrible, the tragedy and the victory. It breaks my heart and compels me to tears of sorrow for the way sinful people treat God and one another and, at the same time, inspires me to want to be a better person.
After three or four hours of reading and watching and reflecting and walking the maze that is the museum, you forget you’re in a motel. Suddenly, without much warning, you actually find yourself standing in MLK’s room 306. You’re in his room. You’re looking through his window, just two or three feet away from the spot on the balcony where the assassin’s bullet took him down from across Mulberry Street. Such an historic site. Such a turning point. Such a watershed moment for this nation.
And, personally, I’m not sure we’re much better as a people today than we were forty-one-and-a-half years ago.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967
God have mercy on us.