Monday, January 18, 2016

Praying with our Legs

This is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, a national holiday to commemorate this iconic figure of the Civil Rights movement. When we come to the occasion every year I recall speeding along a highway in New Mexico after flying in from Toronto and searching for my suitcase to no avail. I was bleary-eyed but captivated by the attention given to King on NPR. MLK is an American hero but his message of non-violent resistance to injustice belongs to the world, as do the words and witness of Mohandes Gandhi.

There is a documentary film in the works about another central figure of the rights movement, a Jew who worked closely with King. Rabbi Joshua Heschel. was born in Poland and escaped to the United States just before the Nazi invasion of his homeland. He was a theologian and philosopher whose book on the Sabbath is exceptional.

Praying With My Legs: the Spiritual Witness of Abraham Joshua Heschel  explores his life, including  the close relationship he shared with King and their involvement together in the civil rights and Vietnam War protest movements. Both men were prophetic, voices ahead of their time yet for their time. Both were gifted thinkers and writers, but as the name of the film suggests, they were willing to take to the streets to live their message with all the risks that entailed. Of course King was assassinated, murdered at the age of 39. Heschel died four years later at the age of 65.

You have heard of Martin Luther King. What about Heschel? Were they prophets of their respective faiths? Who are the spiritual prophets today?

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