OPINION: The choice before us

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By Bishop Glake Hill Jr.

Jackson Advocate Guest Writer

I love this time of year. I get to take some time to reflect on our celebration of our heritage. Saddled in between Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and Black History Month in February, we get to celebrate and cherish men and women on whose shoulders we stand. All of us, Black and white, owe a great deal to our forefathers and foremothers who gave their all to make this country what it is today. So, I love hearing the various renditions of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. I love celebrating our heroes, such as Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, and many, many more that are too numerous to name in this publication. But most of all, I love reading the wisdom that was left to us through their writings, speeches, and various recordings. 

Perhaps one of my favorites to read is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His writings are considered some of the most important writings and speeches of the 21st Century. His mix of poetry and prose is a case study for any aspiring writer. But most of all, the prophetic wisdom revealed in his writing is timeless and impactful. Every year for his birthday, I read “Letters from a Birmingham Jail’, which I consider one of the greatest pieces of writing I have ever read. But this year, another bit of wisdom he writes in another sermon caused me to reflect and examine myself. He writes: 

Light has come into the world, and every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

As I reflect on the conditions of the United States of America, the State of Mississippi, and the City of Jackson, we find ourselves once again facing the struggles of the past, issues that we thought had long been eradicated. Structural racism, economic inequality, and social injustice still exist today. Blatant attempt by political leaders and the powerful to use these evils to control power, influence and money is more widespread than ever before. We seem to be regressing, not progressing. 

But just like the prophets of the Bible, Dr. King’s words speak to us today, in this season, against this enemy. When faced with these evils, Dr. King gives us two responses. The first is destructive selfishness. We can become so focused on ourselves that it will eventually lead to our own destruction. For many of us, we stay silent about the issues around us, because it really doesn’t affect us. It doesn’t matter the condition of our schools because we don’t have school age children. It doesn’t matter about huge health care costs because I have good insurance. It doesn’t matter about food subsidies for children in the summer because I have money to feed my family. It doesn’t matter what happens in Jackson because I don’t live in Jackson. These are all simply excuses to justify our own selfishness, which Dr. King reminds us, is destructive. 

Yet, another path exists. Dr. King declares we can and should choose creative altruism. Altruism is the concern for the well-being of others. Dr. King calls us to intentional and active steps that each of us must take to improve the lives of others. He calls us to care. He calls us to be a voice for the voiceless. He calls us to stand up for the disinherited. 

Dr. King calls this choice life’s most persistent and urgent question, one in which we will be judged. In fifty or sixty years, after many of us may be long gone, history will look back at this time, at us, and judge our choice. The condition of Jackson, the condition of the state of Mississippi, and the state of the United States will be up for discussion. I pray that as they read and discuss our choice, they are inspired by our altruism and not discouraged by our selfishness. Then our lives will be celebrated too.  

Bishop Glake Hill Jr. is Presiding Bishop, South Central Diocese, Church of Christ (Holiness) USA.

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OPINION: The choice before us

By Jackson Advocate News Service
March 4, 2024