Back in the summer of 1964 as the Democratic National Convention neared, President Lyndon B. Johnson was afraid of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
But President Johnson was absolutely terrified of Fannie Lou Hamer.
Because Hamer, even more than King, represented a threat to the southern white Democrats whom Johnson feared would mark the end of the Democratic Party in the southern United States. This would happen, he believed, if the African American “Freedom Democrats” of Mississippi would be included among Mississippi State Delagates to the Democratic National Convention.
And why would he have such a fear?
Because while MLK, Jr. had long talked the talk and even walked the talk in the struggle for civil rights among African Americans, Fanny Lou Hamer had long walked the walk in that struggle and was now about to talk that walk.
Take a listen. https://fb.watch/i46s2-iqZ4/?mibextid=NnVzG8
To prevent a public broadcast of Mrs. Hamer’s short speech before the DNC’s credentialing committee, the President would schedule his own brief news conference that day during which the networks would broadcast his own "important" announcement that this day represented the 9-month anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the shooting of his fellow Texas Democrat, Governor John Connolly. He was right. The networks cut away from their coverage of Mrs. Hamer’s speech just in time for his staged frivolous announcement.
In my book, “Love’s Resurrection: its power to roll away fear’s heaviest stone,” I write of my own work of trying to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ for our world in a way that would cause it to be good news for the poor and oppressed, in fulfillment of Christ’s own self-declared mission statement. I declared my own faith that what we have come to call sin really boils down to one main point. It is fear. Fear is the closest thing we humans can experience to sin.
Because fear, more than anything else, is what the Bible most often tells us not to do. Because fear separates us from the God who has no fear. Because fear is the motivating principle behind human behaviors that seek control over others whom we fear, including God. And because fear is the last human condition Jesus Christ, fully human, overcame upon going to the cross. It was the proverbial beam in his own eye that he had to remove before he could help us remove our own sin of “fearful control.”
By God’s own “loving influence,” the one Spiritual force within physical humanity that is more powerful than the “fearful control” or sin with which we are first born. Being reborn into the salvation of “loving influence” -- indeed, the perfect love that casts out fear -- brings love’s resurrection and its power to roll away fear’s heaviest stone.
On this eve of our Martin Luther King’s Day 2023, I’m led to reflect on what it means to follow the same Jesus that Dr. King followed in his own work of Christian prophecy here in this world God so loves. I wonder if it doesn’t mean that we, too, must take up our own cross in order to find our own freedom and salvation.
I wonder if we must not work out our own salvation with fear and trembling as we, like Jesus, like Martin Luther King, Jr., and like Fannie Lou Hamer, claim God’s loving influence within our immortal Soul as it overpowers that fearful control within our mortal body.
I honor those who spread the good news of freedom for the poor and oppressed in 2023. If we have freedom and salvation, surely it is because of the brave among us and the bravery within us that commits to follow behind while carrying our own cross of fear.
“You can pray until you faint, but if you don't get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.”
-- Fannie Lou Hamer, September, 1964