1963, A Knock At Midnight, Born of Conviction, Brookhaven, churches, City Council, Civil Rights, Civil Rights Movement, corruption, dawn, Democratic Party, Episcopal Church, hope, hope in the age of Trump, Hyde-Smith, Jackson Mississippi, joy's cometh in the morning, KKK, Martin Luther King, McComb Mississippi, Medgar Evers, Methodist Church, moral relativity, NAACP, nuclear war, nuclear weapons, Pisgah Methodist Church, Psalms, sermons, Shakespeare, Trump, UMC, voting rights
“And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth“. (Luke 11:5-8, KJV)
“weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm, KJV, 30: 5)
Most of Martin Luther King’s sermons and speeches have remained remarkably timely long after his death, often sadly so. Unfortunately, most of his sermons/speeches aren’t even available under a creative commons non-commercial license, though they may sometimes be read online.
King’s “A Knock At Midnight“, preached in the bleak days of June 1963, can be read here: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/knock-midnight
In this sermon, Martin Luther King talks about it being dark like midnight, and the need for hope that dawn’s coming. In this day and age, it is hard to think of anything hopeful.
For the average American, hope’s not in a national Democratic Party, which still steadfastly remains more committed to new immigrants than to people who are born in the United States. Dr. King actually talked about this problem, historically, starting at ca 22 min http://youtu.be/RMLyhshxQc8 It’s not clear that hope can be placed in Mueller, either. But, there is some hope, even in the age of Trump.
“McComb, Mississippi, was one of the main battlegrounds for the struggle for civil rights in the United States… The Klan carried out their terrorism with no repercussions from law enforcement. In a two-month period, there were more than a dozen bombings – so many that McComb became known as “the bombing capital of the world…” https://mscivilrightsproject.org/pike/place-pike/mccomb/
But, finally last June, McComb Mississippi voted for a new African American Mayor, Quordiniah Lockley, and, for the first time, the majority of its City Council is African-American. See: “McComb voters pick new Mayor” By Liz Carroll, Jun 20, 2018 http://www.wjtv.com/news/state/mccomb-voters-pick-new-mayor/1251405117 An earlier interview with Dr. Lockley, who was previously City Administrator is found here: http://youtu.be/TyKqGJdD3uc
“During the 1960s, McComb and nearby areas were the site of extreme violence by KKK and other white supremacist opponents to the Civil Rights Movement. In 1961, SNCC conducted its first voter registration project in Mississippi in this city. Authorities and local KKK countered it with violence and intimidation to suppress black voters. Fifteen-year-old Brenda Travis was expelled from high school for being in a sit-in at an all-white luncheonette, where she ordered a hamburger; she was convicted of trespassing and sentenced to a year in a juvenile facility. In addition to the physical attacks on activists, Herbert Lee, an older member of the NAACP, was murdered in front of witnesses in nearby Liberty, Mississippi, by state representative E.H. Hurst. The attacker was exonerated by an all-white coroner’s jury. In 1961 more than 100 black high school students in McComb were arrested for protesting Lee’s murder…” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McComb,_Mississippi
This only starts to scratch the surface of how bad things were in Mississippi and elsewhere in the south. Many books have been written on it. Most of us have difficulty believing that such things could happen.
The date of Dr. King’s “A Knock At Midnight” sermon was June 5, 1963. His sermon about knocking on the doors of the church was both literal and metaphorical.
Civil Rights leader and voting rights activist Medgar Evers was murdered on June 12, 1963 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medgar_Evers
Less well known is: “On Jan. 2, 1963, 28 white Methodist pastors in Mississippi published a statement titled “Born of Conviction.” It amounted to a declaration of independence from the arch-segregationist views that seemed unassailable in their state. The swift backlash included death threats, slashed tires and crosses burned in parsonage yards. Within 18 months, 17 of the pastors had bolted the state. Two others departed soon after, and the 20th had left by 1971.” https://www.umnews.org/en/news/mississippi-pastors-paid-price-for-segregation-challenge
Near McComb in January 1963, someone came into the preacher’s office at Pisgah Methodist Church and told Rev. Bill Lampton: “You’ve messed yourself up real good, boy!” He said that the Pisgah church members were going to hold a meeting that very night to “throw [him] out.” On Saturday, Rev. Lampton woke up and found that his car tires had been slashed. He was warned by two church members that if he held church services the next day that “an angry mob threatened violence to the church and parsonage. Fearing imminent danger, Lampton removed his family to the safety of his parents’ home in Columbia. Pisgah Methodist Church held no services that Sunday. Lampton sent for his possessions a few days later and never returned to that pulpit. Lampton’s troubles ensued from the “Born of Conviction” statement…” See: “Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975“, by Carolyn Renee Dupont 2013, p. 127-128: https://dickatlee.com/issues/mississippi/church_intolerance.html The web site also explains why Columbia, where his father had a store, was safer.
On Sunday morning, June 16, 1963, Emma Campbell participated in a kneel-in in Jackson Mississippi. “Hilton Head woman’s knees felt like jelly when she helped integrate America at a church ‘kneel-in’ by David Lauderdale, Sept. 4, 2017, Read more here: https://www.islandpacket.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/david-lauderdale/article171214012.html
Brookhaven, home to Trumpian Senator Hyde-Smith is between McComb and Jackson https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2018/11/21/senator-cindy-hyde-smith-graduated-from-all-white-segregationist-academy-husband-reported-as-kin-to-man-arrested-in-1955-shooting-of-black-voting-rights-activist-alleged-shooter-reportedly-b/
What does Martin Luther King talk about in this sermon “A Knock At Midnight“, which is relevant today?
In this sermon, preached in June of 1963, he talks about it seeming like midnight in the world and so dark that we don’t know where to turn. He talks about the threat of nuclear war and annihilation. He talks about the risks of breathing the radioactive fallout from above ground weapons testing and in the event of nuclear war. (Meanwhile, today, we breathe radioactive discharges from nuclear power stations.)
Science cannot save us, he warns, and science brought us nuclear weapons, which endanger us all.
He talks about psychological midnight, where people are full of anxiety, depression and fear.
He talks about midnight in the moral order, and the problem of moral relativity. And, that people are applying what he calls the eleventh commandment of trying not to get caught lying or stealing or hating.
People knock on the door of the churches and seek answers. People have lost faith in God; faith in humanity, and faith in the future.
People seek hope because they have become pessimistic, especially in the face of corruption. Here he quotes Lord Acton “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He omits another part of the quote “Great men are almost always bad men…”
He points out that many have been tempted to cry out with Shakespeare:
“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing. — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)”
(King paraphrased part of this famous Macbeth scene. Since it’s in the public domain, while King isn’t, we quote the original.)
He points out that even in the most hopeless moments people continue to seek hope because one cannot live without hope.
People are also knocking on the door of the churches seeking love – to love and be loved. People want to feel like they matter; like they are more than a number.
He talks about millions in America and abroad knocking on the door of the church seeking social justice and freedom. They are met with a sort of “Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.”
People knock on the door of the church seeking peace, he points out. And, yet so many times the church has either remained silent or supported war.
People knock on the door of the church seeking economic justice, but have been left in poverty. And, so often the church has sided with the rich and the status quo.
The church must act as the conscience of the state, not its servant, he says. It must act, again, as a prophetic voice, and not as a social club.
He talks about how in the parable, the man continues to knock until the door is finally opened. He says that the church must proclaim Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the Hope of humanity. Churches must teach those knocking that God can bring good out of evil situations. People must be offered forgiveness, and faith in immortality.
He says that midnight can challenge our faith. And, that people are really awaiting the dawn. The message of hope must be that dawn will come.
“weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm, 30:5, KJV)
Read Dr. King’s sermon here: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/knock-midnight
The original sermon uses the Revised Standard Version. “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”? —Luke 11:5-6, RSV
“Luke 11 King James Version (KJV)
11 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
8 I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?…”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been 90 years old this year.