MEEKS: Integration and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 16, 2013 

An amazing analysis of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s journey is presented to us by Dr. Jennifer Selig in her book, “Integration: The Psychology and Mythology of Martin Luther King Jr. and His (Unfinished) Therapy With the Soul of America.” Unlike so many books that focus on other aspects of King’s life and work, this book allows the reader to venture into the soul of King and our country, and to see many ways in which his work is not finished. Also, it presents personal challenges to the reader and all who are thoughtfully seeking to pursue the establishment of the beloved community.

As we approach the 2013 celebration of Dr. King’s birth, it is a great time to reflect upon a few new aspects of the work that he set out to do in his short time on this earth. As Selig and many others have noted, King died knowing that his work was far from finished. He was actually in great distress about that fact and the ways in which the struggle for the liberation of African-Americans was losing its energy. Of course, in addition to this, was the constant threat of death which haunted him from the very beginning but became more pronounced as he continued to move forward.

King’s amazing sense of being called to the work that he was doing contributed to the creation of the energy that forced him forward regardless of the danger or the actual harm that came to him and others. His deep identification with the Hebrew prophets, especially Jeremiah and Amos, was quite critical in his analysis of the call upon his life. Along with this he had a very deep understanding of the psychology of human beings and often spoke in his sermons and in his personal counseling sessions from that perspective.

The most important response that Selig generates in the reader is the desire to explore what King’s life and legacy are about today and how it impacts the call to the reader to seek integration of all parts of her life just as King sought it for himself and for his country.

Many of us know that the journey of life is mostly about the work of finding one’s authentic self and trying to live as faithful as possible within that knowledge. King was very concerned about being faithful to his understanding of who he was being called to be. He talked about this in many of his sermons and the inability to live up to that ideal haunted him.

But it did not stop him from living a very radical life. The life of standing up for authenticity which makes it impossible to accept anything less than liberation of the mind, body and spirit.

As we prepare to celebrate his birthday next week, we need to be mindful that as a nation we have worked very hard to make King acceptable to us. We have sanitized his message and mostly reduced it to the “I Have A Dream” speech that is much easier for us to hear than say, “The Letter From A Birmingham Jail.”

I agree completely with Selig that we should declare a moratorium on listening to the dream speech for a long while as we resurrect the rest of King’s message and work on its implementation. We still have much work to do in order to realize the beloved community that King imagined. This year’s celebration would be a great time to turn ourselves around and get to that work with renewed intentions.

St. Francis Episcopal Church and the Tubman Museum invite you to hear Jennifer Selig speak on “Our Selective Remembering and Collective Forgetting of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Radical and Revolutionary Message, and Why We Must Resurrect it Today.” on Sunday, at 2 p.m., at the church, 432 Forest Hill Road.

This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. E-mail her at kayma53@att.net.

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