The Perfect Soundtrack for MLK Weekend: What Our Editors Are Reading | Sojourners

The Perfect Soundtrack for MLK Weekend: What Our Editors Are Reading

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1963 via Reuters. 

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One of the best jobs I ever held was assistant manager at Grace Records. I was a founding staff member at the new and used vinyl shop in Arizona, a father and son venture that was a thrill to work at.

Besides the perks of early access to great vinyls and the fun of listening to music all day, I learned a lot about people through the job. The crowd at a vinyl shop was a mix of young folk and old — the people who never let go of their wax and the people who were too young to have learned that vinyl had “died.” Everyone had an interesting story, and many customers had interests in obscure or rare works.

One day, when looking through our collection of spoken-word albums, I came across two sermons from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. I worked the day shift, and the afternoons could be slow, so I put on King’s sermons and played John Coltrane at the same time. The mix was energizing and eclectic: the saxophonist canonized in the African Orthodox Church and the Baptist preacher who marched at Selma went together better than you can imagine. The two were equally radical and imaginative in the ways they pushed the bounds of their “genres."

I recall this story for three reasons this week. First, this weekend is the celebration of King — a celebration that is often co-opted by those who stand against King’s visions. Second, because Pope Francis and I apparently share a love for vinyl shops (even if his Holiness bought a CD on his recent shopping experience). Third, the connection between art, moral imagination, and activism is one well attested to in this week’s stories.

These stories highlight how art plays a crucial role in our project to love our neighbors, and how it can go wrong.

1. Why The Passion Conference Was Bad News for Public Health
Passion’s leaders ignored surging COVID cases, modeling a self-focused, individualistic faith to the next generation. By Holly Stallcup via

2. Black Farmers Are Rebuilding Agriculture in Coal Country
Jason Tartt saw opportunity in the terraced hillsides of his native West Virginia, both for restoring the land and for other Black farmers. By Natalie Peart via

3. What Christians Get Wrong About Drug Use
Many Christians resist measures that make drug use less harmful, but that resistance is often rooted in myth. By Timothy McMahan King via

4. They Bought a Blender. Three Weeks Later, Their Cats Continue To Hold It Hostage
Jessica and Nikii Gerson-Neeves have tried everything to get their three cats to leave that Vitamix box alone. By Dawn Fallik via

5. ‘Don't Look Up’ Shows Us How (Not) To Pray
As one character puts it: “May Jesus Christ bless every single one of you — especially the honorable members of my own party.” By Olivia Bardo via

6. Colors: Where Did They Go? An Investigation
Why do so many TV shows and movies look like they were filmed in a gray wasteland? By Emily VanDerWerff via Vox.

7. Jan. 6 Vigils Invoke Same God, Different Narratives
Many groups used religious language to mark the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 attacks — but they weren’t united in their cause. By Gregg Brekke via

8. Pope Pops by His Favorite Record Store to Say ‘Hello’
Pope Francis took an evening ride in a white Fiat 500 to visit a record store he used to go to when in Rome as a cardinal. By Carol Glatz via Catholic News Service.

9. Will We Let the Filibuster Ruin MLK's Dream?
We can honor King by working to restore the voting rights he knew were central to dismantling racism. By Adam Russell Taylor via

10. Can the G.O.P. Recover From the ‘Big Lie’? We Asked 2 Conservatives
A look at how Trump has shaped the Republican Party and where it goes next. By Jane Coaston via The Argument.

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