MLK Day 2020: Looking Back and Looking Ahead?

Spiral Jetty, United States. Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash
Spiral Jetty, United States. Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

It is amazing, when you think about it, what Boomers have seen in our lifespan. Our journey has been punctuated by so many tragic and overwhelming events. Assassinations have take a major toll; JFK, the various civil rights leaders, RFK and Dr King. You cannot help but wonder what Dr King would be saying or writing now, as so much of his work seems to be in retreat and racism and anti-semitism seem to be so much in the news.

The institutionalization of this day seems to have been focused on giving back, of service to others. Boomers have done so much in this give-back mode. So many have and continue to be of service to others in so many ways. Yet, the society seems to still, in many ways, worship ideologies that promote division, separatism and seeing so many as  “the other”. As Jews, we have been the victim of this for centuries and it is an ideology that we must always be on guard against, lest we fall victim to it. There is a certain idolatry to this belief, an idolatry that Dr. King spoke against his whole life.

We recently interview Scott Shay for an upcoming Seekers of Meaning podcast. (it will post on Feb. 7 on Shay’s book, “In Good Faith”, is a rather detailed discussion on the challenges of atheism and religion. About a third of the way through (p. 218) he writes about “Idolatry: When a Lie Becomes the Truth.” The opening sentence seems to speak to the warnings that Dr.King spoke of during his ministry. Shay writes “A society becomes idolatrous when the consensus is to accept the rationalizations given by both individuals and groups for exploiting abusing, hating and following evil leaders as the truth.” WE Jews know this to be truth. The lesson? Maybe to remember that before we follow blindly any person or ideology, we need to ask, search and seek.


Rabbi Richard F Address

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