What would he have made of these separate-but-unequal travesties of his historic moment?
Martin Luther King told a crowd at the Lincoln Memorial 47 years ago that "many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone."
Now, an "overwhelmingly white" sea of faces greets Rupert Murdoch's media minions Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin as they momentarily temper their hateful Tea Party rhetoric and try to hijack Dr. King's legacy by leaving their ugly protest signs behind to talk of a "religious revival" and an attempt to "restore America and restore her honor" in a coded attack on the nation's first African-American president and his policies.
Back then, King' s followers were fighting for the right to vote, send their children to unsegregated schools and sit next to white people in restaurants and buses. Today's "restore honor" patriots are complaining about budget deficits and government bailouts.
For their beliefs, civil rights protesters were attacked by police with billy clubs and high-pressure hoses while Dr. King spent nights in jail. For theirs, Beck and Palin have to endure million-dollar salaries from Fox News.
To counter their farce, there is a smaller African-American rally led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the unchurched radio talk show host who subsists on "love offerings" in a long career of risking nothing but limited TV face time by turning up to pontificate about every racial event in the news.
All this posturing brings to mind the expression "cheap grace," coined by the German minister and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in World War II to denote those who professed religious belief but managed to overlook the atrocities around them without personal risk.
For being outspoken when it really mattered, Bonhoeffer was disdained by his own church and hung by Hitler. Martin Luther King, who gave his life for what he believed, understood that kind of faith. He would not have been impressed with what went on in Washington this weekend.