The Power of Alliance

Biblically, theologically, ethically, even pastorally, it is incumbent upon the church to stand with workers, to be with them in the struggle for justice, to join them in holding corporations accountable to human community.

The day before his death, in a prescient sermon now famous, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. urged pastors and laypeople to support the striking sanitation workers of Memphis, Tennessee, by turning to Luke's parable of the Good Samaritan. In summoning the congregation to break the court injunction by marching the day following, he detailed the risks of that biblical "bloody pass," the winding road from Jerusalem down to Jericho. He allowed that the priest and the Levite may have been simply afraid, warily wondering if the robbers still hovered about, or if the victim was himself a thief lying in wait in wounded disguise.

And so the first question the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?" That's the question before you tonight. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?"..."If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?" That's the question.

The Brickmakers Local
Not long ago I heard Rev. Joe Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference preach at a striking workers prayer service, "The first labor negotiations in history took place between Pharaoh and Moses." Actually, Exodus portrays a pretty remarkable piece of negotiating (seven chapters worth), with offers and counteroffers, nudges and reversals aplenty.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1998
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