Originally posted at http://www.TheEagleOnline.com Jan. 19
The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr. spoke in the Kay Spiritual Life Center on Tuesday about Martin Luther King Jr.‘s vision and the need for parties to work together for progress to keep America from “peril.”
Forbes gave the address, “The Mandate for Prophetic Justice,” at the Third Annual R. Bruce Poynter Lecture, hosted by the Office of the University Chaplain and the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church. The R. Bruce Poynter Endowment supports annual lectures by people who seek a more compassionate world through academics and daily actions.
Forbes is senior minister of the Riverside Church, an interdenominational, interracial and international church affiliated with the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ.
Forbes related his speech to King and also discussed King’s holiday in relation to politics and the inauguration of President George W. Bush.
“I have the distinction of being one of the rare voices you will hear [about prophetic justice] in Washington this week,” he said.
Forbes stated that he is a Democrat, but he spoke of both Democrats and Republicans working together to benefit the country.
“I stand before you with a firm conviction. ... I believe there are values that are part of the Republican tradition that, when decontaminated from a right religious leading,” will benefit the United States, Forbes said.
Forbes said that those in power must be “acknowledged or challenged” by the progressive movement.
“We must say something,” he said.
Forbes introduced a subtext to his original topic titled “A Dream That Demands Change of Direction.” He said that most people do not understand the context of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
“Dr. King’s dream challenges us,” he said. “I think people do themselves a disservice by listening to ‘one dream’.”
Forbes said that he believes King was trying to get Americans to look at “tribalistic pride” as a direction in which the country has moved.
To “people that allow race to be the basis of distribution of resources of who deserves health care ... King was saying, ‘Wake up!’,” he said.
Forbes compared racism to a mutating virus, stating that many people believe racism is no longer a problem. He said that racism has taken on different forms.
Forbes also related nationalism to racism. He read a section of King’s speech “A Time to Break Silence” and asked the audience to read it.
“For every time [Dr. King] mentions Vietnam, change it to Iraq,” he said.
Forbes said that Americans should move away from “self-centered politics.”
“Let’s be thoughtful and concerned about the needs of others,” he said.
Forbes related the biblical story of the magi searching for Jesus to the country’s current political situation.
He described the magi’s dream that warned of danger if they told King Herod about the child who was thought to be the King of the Jews. Instead of reporting back to the king after seeing the child as they were told, they returned to their country by a different road.
“Perhaps the way we are going is the way of peril, and prophets call us to see,” Forbes said. “America is in desperate need of a prophetic dream that tells us: America, if you continue in the direction you are going, peril will come.”
Forbes also focused on the college students in the audience.
“We’ve got to really make sure that we’ve got this dream of justice,” he said. “The real issue is to get the dream beyond your mind and your heart, but into your bones.”
Forbes ended his speech with a rap to appeal to the young people in the audience. He encouraged the crowd to chant in response to his verses, “No time for foolishness!”
“I’m from New York, and so is Reverend Forbes, but I’ve never seen him live and in person. ... I’m going back to find all three speeches he mentioned,” said Kameko Jones, a senior in the School of International Service.
Forbes inspired Lisa Rothman, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well.
“He has a great personality, and I hope in the future we can reach all these dreams,” she said.