Albert Raboteau reminds us:
Martin Luther King Day memorials tend to celebrate King the Civil Rights leader, stressing his activism on behalf of interracial equality and reconciliation. We slight his emphasis on the link between racism and poverty and so neglect King the advocate of the poor.
At the time of his assassination King was participating in the Memphis Sanitation Workers' struggle to achieve a decent wage while simultaneously planning the Poor People's Campaign. King's sermons, speeches and writings echo ancient Christian teachings on poverty and wealth, which may still serve as a resource for the contemporary struggle to overcome economic inequality. He was a 20th century exemplar of a very old tradition.
andLike the ancient "Fathers of the Church" King emphasized that "the least of these" are children and "icons" of God, whose treatment is the measure of our "salvation or damnation" as persons and as a nation. Like them he argued that excess wealth is "robbed from the poor." Like them he cautioned us against the ineluctable tendency of consumption to addict us to status and power. Like them he exhorted us to "move from being a thing-oriented, to a person-oriented" society. This year, as economic crisis threatens severe cutbacks to social services for the needy, we would do well to celebrate Martin Luther King Day by remembering and resolving to emulate his advocacy of the poor in our personal and political actions.
That's personal and political.