Thompson said he heard a recording of the speech while he was in seminary and he was brought to tears by the words King spoke. He said King's messages are timeless and relevant because he stood on moral principles. “He peacefully demonstrated in order to bring government in alignment with his interpretation of Biblical scripture,” Thompson said.
“That stand that he took is a long-standing stance in Christianity that goes all the way back to the apostles who stood before the Sanhedrin and said ‘we would rather obey the laws of God rather than man.'”
Harris said she did not have a formal religious education growing up and as a teenager “I didn't know if it was OK for a Jewish kid to be spiritually moved by Christian words.”
“I wondered if I was betraying my religion by finding prayer in the words of another's,” she said.
Harris said she learned later that King worked with Christians, Jews and people of other faiths to bring about social change. She said King's “Dream” speech remains one of the most inspiring sermons she has ever heard.
Like Pruett and Coleman, the Rev. George Young, senior pastor of Holy Temple Baptist Church, 1540 NE 50, said he thinks an integral part of King's messages — based on Scripture — was the idea of taking responsibility for oneself and helping to make the world a better place.
“That's always been my idea about what the practice of religious ought to be about: trying to create a sense of righteousness within ourselves that is demonstrated by the way we see others and the way we treat others,” Young said.
He said King's message went beyond racial justice and equality.
“It was larger than that. It was to bring about respect for all humanity,” Young said. “If we're going to rise, it takes all of us.”
Meanwhile, Harris said no one quite like King has come along since, but work based on the essence of his teachings is under way.
“We didn't finish the work in the age of the prophets and we didn't finish the work in the 20th century, but every generation that has a voice like Dr. King's has hope to take a few steps forward and work toward the prophetic vision of a just and merciful world,” she said.
“I don't hear one brave, rallying voice today, but I do see hope in organizations that are working against human trafficking, domestic violence, racism, religious tolerance, wars, hunger and poverty.”
He (King) would be concerned not just about where we are in terms of racial justice issues and economic issues, but where we are on how we treat one another. We are more socially fragmented than ever before.”
The Rev. A. Byron Coleman,
Senior pastor of Fifth Street