Martin Luther King, Jr. and St. Moses the Black
He was the slave of a prominent citizen. He escaped and became a gang leader and criminal who committed multiple felonies including robbery and murder.
He was large threatening black man who, if he lived today, could have sung the rap song “Meat Cleaver” by Brotha Lynch Hung.
“Cut niggas up, sector by sector/Next to her dead, first cousin and nephew/Next to her head, bloody intestines/Next to her bed, other intestines”
Today the Church commemorates St. Moses the Black. He led a large gang of robbers up and down the Nile River in northeastern Africa. He became a hunted man and sought refuge in the Wadi al-Natrun also known as the Scetis Valley where desert monasticism was flourishing. Coming in contact with holy monks and abbots there he eventually became a Christian and renounced his life of carousing, fighting, killing, and stealing. He repented. Where once he had been a notorious leader of a band of criminals he became a renowned Abbot of a community of monks. Moses the man was on his way to become Moses the Saint.
Repentance did not come easy for the marauding fugitive. St. Moses struggled long with thoughts and temptations to return to he previous life. But he endured and eventually through much ascetic struggle he was relieved of his temptations by the Grace of God.
In fact, his repentance became so complete that as abbot he became known of his gentle, kind, and humble spirit. As recorded in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, he was once asked to join the council in Scetis to deal with a brother who had committed an offense. He refused to go but when they insisted he went with them but first he took a leaking jug and filled it with water. Those with him asked, “What is this, Father?” Moses said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” When they heard this they forgave the brother who had sinned.
Today we also remember another famous black leader, Martin Luther King, Jr.
He was also a humble preacher of non-violence. When one thinks of he time in which King lived and what he accomplished by the strength of his character it is truly amazing. Sadly, his followers haven’t shared in his integrity and humility.
The most famous line in Martin Luther King’s most famous “I Have a Dream” speech given 50 years ago today was, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
There is a ringing truth here. It is character – how one lives – that matters. It matters more than skin color, more than our occupation, our status, or our possessions. But sadly, people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson insist on making the color of one’s skin what matters today.
The minute something happens involving a white vs. black incident (minor or major, in print or in real life) these so-called civil rights leaders are in front of the cameras accusing whites of unmitigated oppression. We have come such a long way since the awful days of Dr. King but you’d never know it to listen to these self-proclaimed saviors of the black race. They, along with their intellectual cohorts in academia (like James Cone and Cornell West) and media pundits (like Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Tavis Smiley and Melissa Harris-Perry) have perfected the art of race-baiting and have trained a host of young followers (like Toure and Jonathan Capehart) mostly over there at MSNBC.
Their manipulative spin and exploitation perpetuates the victimhood of blacks with bitterness and rancor. There is a constant cry for a “conversation” on race but it only counts as constructive and enlightened if you agree with their biased narrative. Just consider the throng of black conservatives who don’t agree with their harangues and tactics (like Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Tim Scott, Alan West, J.C. Watts, Dr. Ben Carson, Star Parker, Mia Love, Alan Keyes, Elbert Guillory, on and on).
Racism is still a tragic reality in our country. And the tension between races is more intense than at any other time in my life that I can remember. But it will not be overcome by rhetoric and accusations. It will not be overcome with bitterness, judgmentalism, suspension, and rancor. It will only be overcome through love, humility, and non-violence – not only in deed but starting with our words and the thoughts of our hearts toward each other.
It will only be overcome as we look to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. (as written about in this article by Thomas Sowell) and look beyond the color of our skin to the content of our character.
And even more we need to look to the example of the life of St. Moses who turned his own life to a life of repentance and holiness refusing to judge his brother. The Orthodox Christian spiritual solution to such social ills is to look deep inside of own hearts. Real change – repentance – starts there. We cannot blame others for our own sins. When we are offended by what we perceive to be the sins of others we ask God to show us our own sins, repent, pray for forgiveness and forgive all.
St. Moses, pray for us.
What do you think we need to overcome the racism that divides our country today?