It has been our tradition for a number of years now to take our conversation on the Tuesday closest to Martin Luther King Jr. Day and devote it to consideration of the some element of the Civil Rights giant’s words, teachings, or legacy. This feels like an especially necessary year for us to continue that tradition.
But I want to do that in a slightly abstract or indirect kind of way. King is, I think, rightly recognized as one of the great moral leaders of the 20th century. But what does it mean to be a moral leader. In reading the MLK Day entry at the website mbird.com, I came across this early in the piece:
The great moral leaders of the past are those who neither ignored the popular struggles of their day nor conformed to the dominant tribal modes of addressing them, but who instead showed people how to move forward in hope — how to maintain conviction without nurturing hatred, how to seek justice without turning to violence, how to act with moral urgency without descending into desperation, extremism, or grasping at power.
One of those great moral leaders, of course, was Dr. King. It’s almost a cliché at this point: King showed us again and again how to confront even the most intractable injustice with love rather than hate, with hope rather than despair — the hope that never gives up on our fellow human beings, even when they are so clearly overcome with the power of darkness.
With this as our backdrop, and in honor of Dr. King and his legacy, we’re going to talk about this idea of moral leadership. But especially where we look for it today in these difficult and trying times. King was a religious leader, a spiritual leader, as much if not more so than he was a political leader. But must our moral leaders be necessarily spiritual or religious leaders?
If your answer to that is yes, then does that suppose that God, or some manifestation of the Divine, is the ultimate source of morality or moral reasoning? Or does morality exist outside of God, such that we can find moral leadership from other sources?
Can we think of anyone who fits the bill for us, today, as a moral leader? What is it about them that makes you think of them in such a way? And thinking about yourself, can you see yourself in such a role? What would it take for us to think of ourselves as exercising moral leadership? Or is that too egotistical a question to entertain?
Join us for the online conversation tomorrow evening beginning at 7 pm. You can be a part of the discussion by clicking on the link below.