In 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order that abolished discrimination in the Military based on race, religion, or national origin. From this point on, at least on paper, the military was no longer segregated. In spite of that order, the prejudice of the American and foreign cultures as well as the bigotry of individual Service members continued. The law may have changed, but not necessarily the attitudes of the people. It took time, enforcement, and strong examples by leaders for Truman’s order to become the new standard. It was hoped that the Military would set the standard for the desegregation of the rest of the Nation.
Although we wish it could, radical change rarely happens quickly. Our sinful fallen nature resists righteous change. Sometimes, therefore, change needs a champion.
In the mid-1950’s, there arose in the public eye such a champion named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Driven by his Christian faith and inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King began to organize non-violent civil rights protests. At great personal risk, he continued to bring his message of equality and harmony even in the face of severe backlash. One of his efforts was the March on Washington in 1963, where a few hundred thousand people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
He said that day, in part:
“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
And of course, perhaps the most challenging of his hopes:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”
As we honor the memory of Dr. King in the month of January, his message should always be a hallmark of our conduct. Our own Christian faith calls us to look beyond our physical differences and to celebrate our oneness in Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul said,
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Let us use January to resolve to see others as Christ sees them. Let us not judge others by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. It is time for each of us to be a champion of change.
Rev. Art Pace
CH (COL-ret), USA