Monday, December 07, 2015

Mondays with Martin: The Stones Themselves Will Shout

Visitors to the MLK Memorial frequently ask why the relief was sculpted by a Chinese artist. The artist, Lie Yixin, is a master sculptor whose work is featured in more than 100 monuments in his native land, but his selection for the King memorial remains controversial.
His signature block is, to me, one of the small treasurers within the MLK Memorial. I find it particularly beautiful, and point it out to visitors whenever I can.
When I'm asked why the figure of King was sculpted by a Chinese artist I'll sometimes direct visitors to this quotation carved into the granite just behind the figure of Dr. King: "If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical. Rather than sectional out loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation, and this means we must develop a world perspective."
Ecumenical is one of those wonderful words whose Greek roots suggest relationships lost in translation. We tend to use the word these days, if we use it at all, to refer to multiple churches of various Christian denominations or, more loosely, to mean inclusive. Its Greek root, oikoumenikos, can be translated as from the whole world, which gets more closely to what King was suggesting, but it still misses my favorite connection.
If you pull the Greek apart just a bit further you eventually get down to oikos, or house. Oikos is the root of economy, which means literally the rule or order of the house. Thus to be ecumenical is to be concerned with every house, to include every household in one's circle of care and compassion.
We don't hear much about ecumenism these days, and I certainly don't see much of ecumenical concern in the news of the day. Indeed, just the other day, Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, told students that they should arm themselves in order to "end those Muslims before they walked in."
The cheers of the students drowned out the rest of his sentence leaving me to wonder where "those Muslims" were walking in. Into houses? Into houses of worship? Into places that house businesses? Into the broad American economy? Into any place in the wider world?
If we are to have peace, we have to think beyond the narrow confines of our own households, the narrow confines of those who look like us, think like us, worship like us.
At the memorial the stone that the figure of Dr. King is carved into comes from China. The stone that his words are carved in comes from Canada. The stone that forms that broad walkway through the memorial comes from the United States. If we are silent about the urgent necessity of developing a global perspective, the stones themselves will shout out loud.