"Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty! We're free at last!"
When Dr. King ended his most famous speech with those words, he was speaking from the deep heart's core of Christianity. He had gone fully into his faith to bring out those words. He said, just before the litany of freedom ringing from every mountaintop of the country and even every hill of Mississippi:
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
That "faith" came straight from the vision of Isaiah, the vision of the presence of God when "all flesh shall see it together." And what is the freedom of that vision? That the oppressor is as chained by systems of oppression as the oppressed; that the freedom of political power and economic power and social power and cultural power, is not freedom at all. That only when we all are freed, can there truly be freedom. And he's also quite clear where that freedom comes from. Which sounds exclusionary; but it isn't.
It is not freedom based on belief, or faith, or even acknowledging the presence of God. The vision of the leveling and the straightening and the raising up is metaphorical, not literal; the presence of God is confessional, not empirical. The liberation of being free at last, of everyone being free at last, is not faith based, but does rely on faith, and that faith is not faith in God per se, but trust. It is trust. And it is open to everyone.
Don't doubt it is Christian; don't doubt it is a religious vision; but don't let that vision be an exclusive one, because it isn't. All that is excluded in it is power: power over one other human being, is not empowering; it is enslaving. It is the power of powerlessness that makes that vision ring, that makes it sing, and soar, and lift us up; if only for the moment we hear those words, and think we might have faith that they could come true.