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Updated: Jan 17

THE SPEECH. This year will mark the 60th anniversary of what might be the most famous speech ever given by an American. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. painted a picture that remains fixed in our national consciousness. It was a dream. But is the picture we hold onto from that address the image that King most wanted to illustrate? Many perhaps recall these evocative lines,

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood ... I have a dream that one day in Alabama ... little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

This dream was an image of reconciliation, a coming together across the lines of race which in 1963 were often fixed barriers that might shock us today. And yet in truth our separation in society along the lines of race remains, if perhaps but more subtly. And so many of us continue to long for reconciliation. But King's dream, as offered from those marble steps 60 years ago, was grounded first and foremost in a call for justice. The image he put forward was that of a bounced check.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclaimation ... But one hundred years later ... the life of the colored American is still sadly crippled by the manacle of segregation and the chains of discrimination ... In a sense we have come to our Nation's Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir ... It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.

It was upon such a foundation of justice that King then imagined the scenes of reconciliation that fired people's imagination -- then, and now. This MLK holiday, as we consider the giant legacy of that icon whose life was snuffed out at a mere 39 years of age, let's continue to dream. But let us fix our dreams on justice, the justice we still need today in the face of enduring inequities of household wealth, healthcare outcomes, treatment in our criminal justice system (among other arenas of life) that persist along the lines of race.

Then, and only then, may we truly hope to hear freedom ring and harvest the fruit of reconciliation that we crave across this great land.

-- Rev, Pat Jackson

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I awoke today to the news of just the latest mass shooting in the United States. Seven people, including the shooter, were killed in Chesapeake, VA, falling fast on the heels of the killings in Colorado Springs and Charlottesville. It feels as though we’ve reached the point where these slaughters have become commonplace, routine, accepted, just the “cost of doing business” as Americans. As we prepare to gather around tables to offer thanks, it feels as though we need to acknowledge that we have some deep sicknesses in our land. We like to say that America is an ‘exceptional country’ – and we certainly are in many respects. But we’re also exceptionally violent. We have an exceptional degree of poverty and inequality. We have an exceptional history of racial oppression and bigotry that continue to mark and contort our society today. We can be exceptionally caustic in our civic discourse. And so in this season of gratitude, I’d like to say “no thank you” to gun violence, “no thank you” to racism and white supremacy, “no thank you” to anti-gay hate, “no thank you” to Christian nationalism, antisemitism and Islamophobia.


My hope in the midst of these national afflictions rests in the exceptional compassion found in the American people, in their exceptional generosity, in their exceptional faith in the God who holds us, and in the exceptional humanism of those who don’t adhere to any particular faith tradition. Dr. King often said it most profoundly. He offered, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

Rev. Pat Jackson

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Updated: Sep 20, 2022

How far can you go in 1.8 miles? Would you imagine across the globe and across thousands of years?

This past Sunday, I shared in the annual Unity Walk that is organized by the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington. Hundreds shared in that 1.8 mile walk that stitched together visits to six faith communities and featured over a dozen faith traditions. The event began with a dessert bar, music and program at Washington Hebrew Congregation (F). Outside of Annunciation Catholic Church (H), representatives gathered from Masjid Mohammad (the Nation’s Mosque), BRIDGES (Building Relationship through Interfaith Dialogue towards a Good and Equitable Society) of Loudon County, VA, and a Loudon Cty multi-faith Scout Troop. I crossed the street to St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church where one of the faith leaders (D) shared the significance of the markings on the bread used in the course of worship. A member spoke to me of the wonder of their Easter service which begins at midnight and concludes at sunrise. Following that stop I was in for a barrel of laughs at the Community of Christ Church as 4 comics from “Interfaith Comedy” (C --Yasmin Elhady pictured) brought the house down! There, I met up with my friend Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation (G) who, with a youth delegation from the congregation, makes the Unity Walk an annual pilgrimage. Recovering from the comedy set, I walked into the stunning interior of St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral (B) where the mosaics take your breath away. The final faith community site was the Islamic Center of Washington – a beautiful structure that I’d driven or walked past a hundred times. After stepping through the arches (E) of the plaza out front, I added my shoes to those in the cubbies next to the entrance and stepped into a hushed space where a group of men were offering afternoon prayers. The final stop was hosted by the United Hindu and Jain Temples (UHJT) at the Indian Consulate. Rajwant Singh of the Sikh community and Siva Subramanian of the UHJT community (A) spoke along with representatives from Jain, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Zoroastrian, and Baha’i faiths. The Mosaic Harmony choir (I) closed the 2022 Unity Walk with rousing song.

1.8 miles. Or think of it as 3,801 steps into music, dialogue, laughter, introductions and reunions, delicious food, invitations to learn and grow, and the continuing hope and promise that people of faith can come together across traditions that at once distinguish us and bind us together. Unity Walk 2022. If you missed it, put it on your calendar for 2023! I’ll see you there!

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