Posts Tagged 'martin luther king jr'

True compassion, true revolution

Dr. King is arrested after a protest in Montgomery, Ala. in 1958. Breaking unjust laws and accepting arrest was an integral part of the civil rights movements non-violent protest strategy (CHARLES MOORE / BLACK STAR)

Dr. King is arrested after a protest in Montgomery, Ala. in 1958. Breaking unjust laws and accepting arrest was an integral part of the civil rights movement's non-violent protest strategy (CHARLES MOORE / BLACK STAR)

Today we join arms to remember and celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  As we gather in churches and synagogues, in universities and community centers, in homes and on the streets, we praise Dr. King for blazing the trail towards a more equal society.  His poignant speeches and fearless marching compelled a nation to stand up and declare racial segregation unjust.

While his most famous speeches — “I Have a Dream” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” — focus on strong condemnations of the unequal racial order of our society, we must look beyond these speeches to fully understand Dr. King. Beyond these speeches, Dr. King’s words an actions extend to include fervent condemnations of the Vietnam War, inequities in health care, and the pillaging of transnational corporations throughout the developing world.

On April 4, 1967, Dr. King delivered one of his finest sermons at Riverside Church in New York City.  In “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break the Silence“, it becomes clear that Dr. King’s life was not simply about the fight against racial segregation, but rather about the fight against social injustices everywhere.

A lengthy excerpt (full text here):

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Dr. King would surely be rejoicing tomorrow morning when we can finally refer to Barack Obama as President Obama.  However, we all know that when the candles are all blown out he would tell us to get back on our feet and get to work.


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