What did Martin Luther King Jr say about love?
- “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.” ― Martin Luther King Jr. “I have decided to stick to loveHate is too great a burden to bear.” ― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches “There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
- 1 How did Martin Luther King impact your life?
- 2 How did Martin Luther King changed religion?
- 3 Was MLK a spiritual?
- 4 What were MLK accomplishments?
- 5 Why was MLK so influential?
- 6 What were Martin Luther’s beliefs?
- 7 Why did Martin Luther change the Bible?
- 8 What was Martin Luther’s religion?
- 9 Did Martin Luther King pray?
- 10 What did Martin Luther King say about prayer?
- 11 How does MLK use imagery?
- 12 What was MLK greatest accomplishment?
- 13 How did Martin Luther King changed the world essay?
- 14 What was MLK legacy?
- 15 The Spiritual Legacy of MLK Jr.
- 16 Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Strength of Soul
- 17 How Martin Luther King’s faith drove his activism
- 18 MLK Was Right About America’s ‘Spiritual Death’
How did Martin Luther King impact your life?
He advocated for peaceful approaches to some of society’s biggest problems. He organized a number of marches and protests and was a key figure in the American civil rights movement. He was instrumental in the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the March on Washington.
How did Martin Luther King changed religion?
Along with his 95 Theses, Luther penned both the Small and Large Catechisms as the foundation for the new Christian denomination, Protestantism, and helped make the Bible a household item by translating the Old and New Testaments into German.
Was MLK a spiritual?
King’s spiritual leadership, and his strength to resist violence when lesser men were compelled to strike out, was rooted in his deep belief in the essential goodness of human nature.
What were MLK accomplishments?
10 Major Accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr.
- #1 He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
- #3 He led the Birmingham Campaign.
- #4 He was instrumental in organizing The Great March on Washington.
- #5 His speech intensified the Civil Rights Movement.
- #6 King was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963.
Why was MLK so influential?
King’s skill and effectiveness grew exponentially. He organized and led marches for blacks’ right to vote, desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil rights. On August 28, 1963, The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom became the pinnacle of Dr. King’s national and international influence.
What were Martin Luther’s beliefs?
What were Martin Luther’s main beliefs? His “95 Theses,” which propounded two central beliefs—that the Bible is the central religious authority and that humans may reach salvation only by their faith and not by their deeds —was to spark the Protestant Reformation.
Why did Martin Luther change the Bible?
While he was sequestered in the Wartburg Castle (1521–22) Luther began to translate the New Testament from Greek into German in order to make it more accessible to all the people of the “Holy Roman Empire of the German nation.” Known as the “September Bible”, this translation only included the New Testament and was
What was Martin Luther’s religion?
Martin Luther, a 16th-century monk and theologian, was one of the most significant figures in Christian history. His beliefs helped birth the Reformation—which would give rise to Protestantism as the third major force within Christendom, alongside Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Did Martin Luther King pray?
Throughout his life, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., turned to prayer for his own spiritual fulfillment while also delivering prayers to the public as a way to inspire and reaffirm a quest for peace and social justice. “Thou, Dear God” is the first and only collection of prayers by Dr. King.
What did Martin Luther King say about prayer?
Although prayer is native to man, there is the danger that he will misuse it. Although it is a natural outpouring of his spirit, there is the danger that he will use it in an unnatural way. Never make prayer a substitute for work and intelligence.
How does MLK use imagery?
King’s imagery focuses on two categories in his imagery: landscape and time. King not only addresses the struggles which lie before them, but he also illustrates the future rewards of their efforts: “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” (King 104).
What was MLK greatest accomplishment?
He promoted nonviolent tactics to achieve civil rights and led a number of peaceful protests, such as the famous March on Washington in 1963. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
How did Martin Luther King changed the world essay?
Martin Luther King Jr changed the world by ending segregation, so people of all races will be equal. During his trip to equality, he risked his life and hosted protests and boycotts to gain freedom and equality for all African Americans. Because of his actions, everyone in America is welcome and treated the same.
What was MLK legacy?
Dr. King’s leadership contributed to the overall success of the civil rights movement in the mid-1900s and continues to impact civil rights movements in the present. While King and other leaders generated momentous strides for equality, the push for civil rights remains a preeminent challenge today.
The Spiritual Legacy of MLK Jr.
On the third Monday in January, the public school where my son JaiMichael is a student does not have regular sessions. They, along with the majority of Americans, are taking the day off to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day last year, my son and I boarded the city bus downtown to celebrate, and I told him about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the tale that made King famous and earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. JaiMichael, a kindergarten student, was most looking forward to riding the bus.
The Church has a long tradition of commemorating those who worked hard to follow Jesus in their own time and who, in doing so, demonstrate to us what it looks like to live truthfully in the locations where we find ourselves.
Numerous saints in the Church are those who picked up their crosses and followed Jesus to the death that crosses compel them to.
How We Remember
The way we remember King has everything to do with whether or not we feel his best hour occurred on August 28, 1963, April 4, 1968, or any other date in his life. The dream that King shared with America on August 28, 1963, will be re-enacted and honored in hundreds of neighborhood and state events around the country today. A country that was founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all will remember how African-Americans were denied justice for far too long, how the civil rights movement demonstrated that separate is not equal, and how King’s dream of all people living together in peace was “deeply rooted in the American dream,” according to King.
As a result of King’s dream, we will be pushed to continue the hard job of living up to our greatest ideals and deepest convictions.
But, as a follower of Jesus, I want more for my kid than just the American Dream, as he grows up.
This is why I want my kid to be aware of the witness of Martin Luther King, Jr., who gave his life for the cause of civil rights.
“No man has greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” Jesus declared. “Greater love hath no man than this” (John 15:13, KJV). According to the Gospel, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This is a revolutionary message. In a nutshell, Jesus gave His life for the sake of His adversaries. When we look at King’s life as a life of discipleship, we can understand that his assassination was also a willing sacrifice of himself out of love for his adversaries, as did his death.
- As a result, it provides us with some insight into what it would mean for us to follow Jesus in the here and now.
- When it came to the church environment where he was nurtured, he was considered somewhat of a genius, having graduated from college early, mastered the skill of public speaking, and earned a Ph.D.
- Despite being a brilliant young man with a young family, King did what most people in his position would do after graduation: he went out in search of a decent career.
- King’s career, however, was cut short by two events: the civil rights movement and the death of Jesus.
- After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man, the new pastor, King, was drafted to lead the African-American community in a boycott of public transportation.
- He attempted to quit after a few weeks of the conflict had begun.
- After his resignation was rejected, King was arrested and sentenced to prison.
- Then Jesus came knocking on the door.
- While sitting at his kitchen table, frustrated and perplexed, King lowered his head in surrender.
- King was never the same after that.
Marked For Death
From Montgomery to Washington, King followed Jesus, and the hope he shared with America eight years later was unquestionably founded in the Gospel as it was in the United States Constitution of the United States. However, because King was following in the footsteps of Jesus, he was unable to end his journey with his triumphant arrival into Washington. Whether it was when the people erupted in applause or when Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, he could not sleep. He heard the voice of Jesus urging him to continue on, so he confronted the militarism of the United States, which was killing the lives of innocent people in Vietnam.
- In addition to being a national hero, he has relocated his family to one of Chicago’s most impoverished communities in order to walk with the poor in their battle.
- As a result of the repeated death threats he was receiving, he become increasingly conscious of the despicable forces that were using violence to maintain the current quo.
- He did it—and he did it with love—because Jesus had claimed his life and he owed it to him.
- Every night, after reading the Berenstain Bears or a sports book, I read a saint tale to my kid.
- Then, when I get to the end of the story, he always has the same question: “How did they die, Daddy?” We may better grasp King’s legacy if we consider his life in the context of his death, as we do with all of the saints.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Strength of Soul
As the saying goes, “Every true manifestation of love springs from a continuous and complete submission to God.” Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. Another aspect of the way we talk about spirituality and related topics in evangelical circles today that bothers me is the way we frequently create false dichotomies between being and doing, prayer with action and contemplation with the world, as well as between contemplation and missional engagement with the world.
While the contemplatives (or desert dads) lounge about and stare at their navels, the activists fly over their heads and get the job done.
I was embarrassed about my identity as someone who was discovering the presence of God very powerfully in solitude, silence, and contemplation—as well as someone who is wired for activism and desperately did not want to believe that this meant “flying over the heads” of the desert mothers and fathers whom I had come to deeply respect.
- However, the terror is genuine.
- Religious contemplatives are concerned that activists do not pray enough, that their prayers are superficial, and that too much activity causes individuals to grow divorced from the truth of God inside them.
- It is past time for us to move on from this.
- It was never a question of prayer or activism for King.
- It was never about missional participation with the issues of the world or the contemplation of God’s presence inside.
- Almost all of the time.
Life, he argued, “is a creative synthesis of opposites working in productive harmony.” As we commemorate the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr., it is critical that we remember that it was King’s keen spiritual insight and attunement with the heart of God that enabled him to recognize what many Christians and other well-meaning individuals had somehow avoided realizing: that racism is an offense to the heart of God and contradicts the essence of the Gospel.
- King’s keen spiritual insight and attunement with the heart of God made it possible for him toknowwhat many Christians and other well-meaning individuals had There is no longer a distinction between Jews and Greeks.
- You are all one in Christ, whether you are male or female.
- “To our most ferocious adversaries, we say: We will match your physical might with spiritual force.
- We will, one day, achieve independence, but not only for our own sakes.
- In nonviolent resistance, we will be able to fight the unjust system while at the same time loving those who are responsible for the system’s injustice.
- It would have been difficult for him to live these truths himself, let alone lead others in them, if he had not had the strength of his spirit.
- God’s goals for him in his own generation were fulfilled via his spiritual vigor, which propelled him beyond fear and worry for his own survival to the fulfillment of God’s intentions for him in the future.
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead of us,” he thundered, “but it doesn’t really matter to me right now since I’ve already reached the summit of the mountain.” And it’s not a problem for me.
Longevity has its place in the world.
I simply want to carry out God’s will.
And I’ve had a look around.
“It’s possible that I won’t be able to accompany you.
In addition to that, I’m overjoyed tonight!
I don’t have any fear of men!
A prayer that leads to action, followed by action that leads back to prayer King’s leadership in the struggle for racial justice was more than merely human engagement; he saw it as his destiny, one that history and God himself had placed upon him by force.
And that deed, which was met with vehement disagreement and violent hostility, compelled him to dig his roots even deeper into the ground of his existence, which he discovered to be God himself.
We would have lost him to dread and discouragement if he had not learned how to transition from action to prayer—how to connect with a more powerful Source than mere human activism—and the forces of this particular evil would have won, if only for a little period of time.
However, it was a chance experience with God at his kitchen table that gave him the confidence to keep answering yes to his calling in the future.
‘Stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth,’ it felt as if I could hear the peaceful confidence of an inner voice telling me to do so.
Almost immediately, my anxieties began to go away.
I was prepared to confront anything came my way.
This decision proved to be a watershed event in his development as an effective leader.
It is possible that he would not have had the type of encounter with God that altered him at the deepest level of his being if it had not been for his complete commitment to the battle for justice and his steadfastness in the practice of prayer.
was a man of compassion and action who was assassinated in 1968.
The idea that love is the creative energy exhibited in the life of Christ was at the center of his teaching, and that it is the most powerful instrument accessible in the human desire for peace and security was at the heart of his message.
In King’s soul beat a tremendous pulse: his close relationship with God (prayer) moved him to daring and unreserved involvement with the brokenness of the world (action).
The notion that God exists, that God may be experienced in one’s own innermost being, and that our human existence can be fundamentally directed and sensitive to that Presence is what mysticism is all about.
In the wilderness, Moses experienced mysticism when he heard God’s voice and overcame all of his fears and obstacles to complete the task that God had given him to do because God had called him to do it.
Horeb in search of a genuine experience with God before returning to his prophetic vocation.
It is Peter who has the vision of the unclean animals, which causes him to change the course of his entire life in order to preach salvation to the Gentiles.
As a result, contemplation is being present to the One who is always present with us and responding passionately to that Presence.
Their sense of security and identity is grounded on God, not in doing what is good, receiving compensation from the church, or seeking promotion in the eyes of others.
And what is the result of living one’s life in the midst of such a tremendous pulse?
The ability to maintain one’s position.
To be more specific, contemplative activity.
It is activity that arises as a result of genuine encounters with God.
It is the willingness to move beyond being primarily concerned about our own safety and survival to a position where we realize that our true existence is hidden with Christ in God, regardless of what happens to our physical life, that constitutes contemplative activity.
This type of activity is impossible until we are profoundly connected to the Source of our life, which can only be achieved via prayer and meditation.
Contemplative action is not about being free of fear; rather, it is about having the fortitude to meet fear head on and master it through love.
“I don’t march because it’s fun for me,” King once explained.
King was never safe again from a human standpoint when he went public with his views in 1968.
It is about saying yes to the God with whom all things are possible and accepting his will.
Man and God, united in a beautiful unity of purpose by an overflowing love as the free gift of Himself on God’s side, and by perfect obedience and receptivity on man’s part, may turn the old into new.” I used italics to emphasize my point.
In the midst of his prayer, he was able to communicate his dream to the rest of us in terms that allowed us to see, taste, and feel what he had experienced.
It is beneficial for us to be challenged and inspired by a man who, through reflection and action, made a difference in our world and motivated others to do the same.
From the sermon “I See the Promised Land” (also known as “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”) delivered on April 3, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.
Coretta Scott King’s biography, starting with the foreword Strength to Love, by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength to Love, p.
Adapted from “Contemplation in Action: Learning from Martin Luther King, Jr.,”Conversations: A Forum for Authentic Transformation, Fall/Winter 2010.
Ruth Haley Barton is founder of the Transforming Center. A spiritual director, teacher and retreat leader, she is the author of Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence. Download a print-friendly version of this post (PDF) (PDF).
Ruth Haley Barton
(Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is the Transforming Center’s founding president and chief executive officer. She is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life, including Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, andInvitation to Solitude and Silence. She is a teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader.
How Martin Luther King’s faith drove his activism
“Don’t ever think I’ve fallen in love with you, or that I’ve fallen over you. I didn’t fall in love; rather, I rose to the occasion.” Toni Morrison is a novelist who lives in New York City. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., probably the greatest defender of justice of the twentieth century, was assassinated on April 4, 1968, as he stood on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, while he spoke against the Vietnam War. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (photo courtesy of Dozier Mobley/Getty Images) Since that awful evening, King’s admirers and detractors have been preoccupied with the subject of what will become of him and his legacy.
In order to fully legitimize some modern social or political goal, his statements must be explored, deconstructed, and re-contextualized several times.
Throughout his career, his thought matured and developed, even as the fundamental values that underpinned his advocacy remained generally consistent and unwavering.
Any attempt to incorporate that rhythm into a certain ideology runs the risk of lowering this towering figure to nothing more than a cheap intellectual trinket of little significance.
So, what exactly is the definition of the word King? Dr. J. Kameron Carter, professor of theology and black church studies at Duke Divinity School, was the person I turned to for this question. Carter agrees that there is a “battle over the meaning of King” as well as a “cultural pounding over the meaning of civil rights, more broadly.” Carter believes that the key to comprehending this individual is found in his religious beliefs: “He was a churchman from the beginning to the finish.” Although King did not always name his theological anthropology, it is certain that it is prominent in his writings,” says Anthony Bradley, professor of theology and ethics at The King’s College in New York City.
- As Bradley points out, King was heavily affected by a theology known as personalism while pursuing his doctorate at Boston University.
- “The future of each man wherever he inhabits on the world is bound up with the destiny of all men that populate the globe,” declared Benjamin Elijah Mays, Morehouse’s president in 1946, in a letter to the school’s faculty.
- King’s insistence that black people be treated with dignity is the ethical implication of his theology, which holds that they were created with dignity in the first place.
- It has been explained by Carter that the vast white churches that grew up throughout American history did so in the style of the great European cathedrals and denominations from which they were transplanted.
- And it is the same tradition that has produced other civil rights stalwarts, such as Rosa Parks and Ella Baker, among others.
The last sermon
In his farewell sermon, delivered the night before his assassination, King expressed his hope for the future. King’s speech at Mason Temple, the headquarters of the Church of God in Christ, is famously titled “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” It is compelling for all the usual reasons — King’s compassion, his fiery call for justice, and his eloquent summation of his frustration with the unfeeling powers that be. However, the sermon, probably more than any of his other public appearances, is compelling for a different reason than the others.
- When he subsequently came to Mason Temple to preach, he felt obliged to speak about his near-death experience with the congregation.
- He came dangerously close to death a decade before his sermon on April 3, when he was stabbed in the chest while signing autographs in Harlem, New York.
- Here’s how he responded to the possibility of his assassination, just one night before it occurred.
- Longevity has its place in the world.
- I simply want to carry out God’s will.
- And I’ve had a look around.
- It’s possible that I won’t make it with you.
As a result, I’m content tonight.
I have no apprehensions about men.
King’s attention was completely focused on his objective.
Washington said, “He dared to dream of a brighter day in the midst of the horror that surrounded him.” To imagine a day when America will fully acknowledge and repent of her past transgressions was a bold and adventurous fantasy.
In a literal sense, that Dream was erected on the shoulders of black people — “dead working labor,” as Carter refers to them — who were perceived to be valuable only inasmuch as they supplied labor for the interests of their employers.
King’s radical notion of love
As Cornel West, philosopher and professor at Union Theological Seminary, notes, King’s dream was in a way a deconstruction of every previous goal that had been pursued in the American democratic experiment: Individualism is at the heart of the American Dream. The dream of King was a collective one. “I may participate in upward mobility while still enjoying the good life,” declares the American Dream. The dream of King was fundamentally Christian in nature. His commitment to radical love had everything to do with his commitment to Jesus of Nazareth, and his dream had everything to do with community, with a “we” consciousness that included poor and working people all over the world, not just black people, and a “we” consciousness that included black people as well.
To comprehend why West considers King’s love to be genuinely revolutionary, one must first comprehend what love means to King in his own words.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) Carter asserts that contemporary conceptions of love “cannot withstand the weight of what King was talking about.” The love King taught and practiced was taken directly from the teachings of the New Testament onagape, the Greek word for God’s love, which King described as “an overflowing love that wants nothing in return.” It was a far cry from the intense emotion or sentimentalism that King was known for.
King’s love speech “grew out of what it meant to love your neighbor,” says Bradley, alluding to Jesus’ commandment in the Gospel of Mark to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
To love one’s neighbor, argues Bradley, “entails loving those whom one does not feel the same way about oneself, since God’s mandate to love serves as a mechanism by which the universe is utterly flipped upside down.” According to a famous quote by James Baldwin, “Love does not begin and finish in the manner in which we like to believe it does.
In the same manner that these two writers are talking about love, Carter argues that King is talking about love “in ways that indicate toward forms of life that are non-exclusionary.” It is, he claims, to speak of love in this way as it is to speak of “a way of being together, a kind of mass gathering that does not require an outside against which to set itself.” He also points out that this demand for love is being made “in the face of a political structure founded on the necessity of presupposing a barrier between the inside and the outside,” as he puts it.
- King’s conception of love was really revolutionary in that it had the potential to upend the social stratifications that served as the foundation of our contemporary society.
- This is what it means to love my daughter.
- According to my daughter, love appears to her as a horrific and breath-taking action, reaching out in genuine affection and attempting to grab and pull her back just as she is about to be electrocuted.
- In addition to being purely philosophical, King’s concept of love has practical implications for practicingagapelove.
- ” The “tragic midnight of injustice” is made worse by every act of hatred, even when it comes from those who are persecuted.
- ‘If we respond with hatred and anger, the new era will be nothing more than a copy of the old age,’ he said.
- However, King emphasized that the goal of the battle was not to position whites at the bottom of the social hierarchy and blacks at the top; rather, the goal was to bring about a society in which unjust hierarchies had no place.
It was clear to him that there was a distinction between the mechanisms that enabled his opponents and his genuine, flesh-and-blood competitors.
Furthermore, he emphasized that evil may be discovered under any skin hue, not just one particular skin color.
According to him, “there is some evil among the greatest of us, and there is some good within the worst of us.” According to King, there is also a self-interested motivation for liking one’s adversaries.
When it comes to those who despise, you may stand up and look at someone, and that person can be gorgeous, yet you will still label them ugly.
The good becomes awful for the one who hates, and the bad becomes good for the person who loves.
That is exactly what hatred does.
You’re not seeing things clearly. The emblem of objectivity has been extinguished. Hate undermines the basic structure of the hater’s own psyche by tearing it apart. As King has stated on several occasions, hatred is an unbearable weight to carry, which is why he “chosen to stick to love.”
Responding to violence
The fact that King admonishes his followers to show forgiveness and understanding to their oppressors may appear to be a source of frustration. After all, it has been half a century since King addressed the 200,000-strong throng gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, and his ideal has yet to be completely fulfilled. Certain facets of it have already come to fruition. However, in so many other ways, the realization of that ideal continues to be too slowly progressed toward realization. When preaching on Jesus’ order to love one’s neighbor to those who had been imprisoned and mistreated, how could King explain the commandment to those who had been imprisoned and abused?
If their lives were in danger, or the lives of their families were in jeopardy, why not warn them that violence was acceptable?
“Many people were skeptical that his strategy would bring about change quickly enough.” Modern King talks, which frequently place the minister against Malcolm X, a civil rights leader whose promotion of violence and black power is well recognized, may emphasize this difference over technique in a dramatic manner.
- (Photo courtesy of Marion S.
- Carter is looking for “The peacefulness of King should be “unasked,” since it “obscures the truth that modern political nation-states are formed in bloodshed,” according to the author.
- Jim Crow is a condition characterized by violence.
- As a result, Carter wonders, how can one negotiate in a scenario that has been violent from the start?
- As a result, Carter says he likes to think of the two guys as insurgent resistors who employ a variety of various techniques to accomplish their objectives.
- “While Malcolm and I did not always agree on how to tackle the racial problem, I always had a profound regard for him and believed that he possessed a remarkable capacity to pinpoint the presence and source of the problem.
” On July 10, 1966, King delivered a speech at a gathering for the Chicago Freedom Movement in Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo courtesy of Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images).
A voice that continues to cry out
Though modern readers may emphasize the contrasts between King and Malcolm, it is crucial to recognize them. King, in contrast to Malcolm, was not attempting to establish a black nationalist movement. In any case, King was not attempting to establish himself as a leader of any political organization. In the words of Carter, “he was a preacher, a churchman,” and he was charged with organizing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which had a “distinctly Christian manner of going about civil disobedience and protest,” according to Bradley.
- Who we are and why we are marching was the fundamental question.
- Though certain aspects of his thinking shifted at the end of his life, particularly when he proclaimed his ardent opposition to American militarism as the country engaged in the Vietnam War, his purpose remained unwavering throughout his life.
- His hope of a new world, however postponed, remained in clear view right up until the end of his life, when he passed away.
- There will always be disagreements over whether King’s techniques were effective or rational; nonetheless, King’s legacy of love — a revolutionary, fierce, and exacting sort of love — is unquestionable, even if it sometimes appears to be beyond our comprehension.
- In the face of such hostility, why did he continue to speak up for love, in the name of love, in a society awash in hatred?
- In this moment, the voice of Dr.
MLK Was Right About America’s ‘Spiritual Death’
EDITOR’S NOTE:This piece first published atTomDispatch.com. To keep on top of important stories like this one, subscribe to TomDispatch’s newsletter to receive the latest updates. Fifty-four years ago, standing at the pulpit of Riverside Church in New York City, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his now-famous “ Beyond Vietnam ” lecture. For the first time in public, he stated in forceful words his opposition to the American war in Vietnam. He recognized plainly that a foreign policy defined by violence impacted the poor and dispossessed across the earth.
Also taken away from us were our moral energy and the financial means we needed to battle poverty here at home.
In his talk, King publicly battled with a tough problem: how to advance nonviolent resistance among a generation of Black teenagers whose government had offered little but suffering and hollow promises.
As he described that day: As I have traveled among the forlorn, rejected, and furious young men, I have informed them that Molotov cocktails and firearms will not solve their problems.… But they questioned, and rightfully so, “What about Vietnam?” They wondered whether our own nation wasn’t utilizing large doses of violence to address its issues, to bring about the reforms it needed.
They struck close to home, and I realized that I would never be able to speak out against the brutality of the downtrodden in the ghettos again without first speaking out against the most powerful purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. I was determined to do so.
A Pandemic Cries Out for Global Cooperation
In the year 2020, the entire world was engulfed in a catastrophic epidemic. Millions killed, and tens of millions suffered as a result of the war. It was a time that, in King’s spirit, would have been ideal for conceptualizing new global ways to America’s ongoing battles from the previous century. But it didn’t happen. A comparable window of opportunity would have presented itself for developing global cooperative answers to public health, mounting debt and despair, and intellectual property rights.
Despite the fact that it was the worst time imaginable, US-backed institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund continued to demand billions of dollars in debt payments from impoverished countries in the Global South, forgiving debt only when their governments fell into step with the United States and Europe, as Sudan’s government did recently.
The United States government, on the other hand, backed exclusive partnerships with Big Pharma, assuring that vaccination apartheid would grow widespread in our country as well as across the rest of the world.
Another worrying aspect is the creation of anti-Chinese legislation in Congress, which is now being prepared on a theme basis.
In theory, legislative action on China represents an unmissable opportunity for Republicans, but Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has already stated that his support for Schumer’s bill will only come if it includes a significant increase in “defense” spending, which would be the second time in as many years.
A guy afflicted by his own poisonous combination of religious fanaticism, white racism, and misogyny killed murdered eight people in Atlanta only a few weeks ago, including six Asian-American women of Asian origin.
Furthermore, passing an anti-China bill that is aggressive and potentially militarized is irresponsible at a time when tens of thousands of people continue to contract the virus on a daily basis in the United States and we are only beginning to understand the long-term economic consequences of the pandemic.
Although poverty appears to be receiving some attention in the pandemic period, it is unfortunate that it took the devastating impact of Covid-19 on American jobs, housing, and nutrition before it was elevated to the top of the national agenda.
Now that it’s in place, we can’t afford to let it be overshadowed by hasty preparations for a new cold war that may quickly escalate.
Cruel Manipulation of the Poor
Foreign policy that was brutal, particularly in the context of conflicts in other nations, was just half of the spiritual death that King predicted in 1967; the other half was how militarization of this society and a diversion of its moral values had brought war and misery closer to home. It wasn’t until he mentioned the “cruel exploitation of the poor” in his sermon that I realized what he was talking about. During his visit to Vietnam in 1967, King witnessed how American soldiers were fighting on “the side of the affluent and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.” As a result of Agent Orange contamination in Vietnam and Laos, as well as in so many impoverished and abandoned areas around the United States, this hell was being created.
- As he watched, the promise of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty was betrayed by massive investments in what President Dwight D.
- Unfortunately, the decades that followed would, in a variety of ways, confirm his misgivings.
- Though it is commendable that ARPA has invested in low-income and minority areas, the issue remains as to why the Biden administration’s Covid-19 law is so historic and unique.
- It’s baffling to me how we’ve become so ingrained in a militarized economy that we don’t blink an eye when politicians propose more funding for the military, despite the fact that they claim spending on human welfare is irresponsible and unaffordable.
- Senator Marco Rubio wrote an opinion piece for National Review in which he criticized rising welfare expenditure as “not pro-family” and reiterated the hackneyed idea that assistance, by allegedly encouraging dependency, really causes the breakdown of the nuclear family.
- Meanwhile, Lawrence Summers, a long-time top Democratic economic consultant and former Treasury Secretary, claimed that the Covid-19 law was the “least prudent” policy in four decades and that it should be repealed.
- A large number of other economists strongly disagree with his assertion.
Since the time of King, pro-austerity and anti-poor economic policies espoused by important leaders such as Rubio and Summers have played a role in keeping America in a spiritual death spiral.
Another mass massacre fueled by wrath, hatred, and desperation, or the increased militarization of the border, or the use of militarized police brutality to sweep out the most vulnerable from homeless encampments, are examples of real physical violence.
And, as King would have pointed out if he were giving his lecture today, there is always the brutality of America’s never-ending wars, which have devoured trillions of dollars and killed and displaced countless numbers of people in far-off nations.
In Flint, Michigan, I remember listening to a long-time organizer explain that “before they took away our water, they had to take away our democracy.” That was something I will never forget.
After all, at least 45 states have introduced voting suppression legislation since 2020, with the most recent instance being in Georgia being merely the most flagrant and well known.
Activists and radical politicians are proposing and passing such laws because they recognize that limiting access to the vote box via racism and demonization of the poor is the most effective method to block true and lasting change.
A Moral Revolution of Values
In that legendary speech of his, King took an unexpected and hopeful turn, telling his audience that a moral revolution of values was urgently required and that “America, the richest and most powerful nation on the face of the earth, can and should lead the way in this revolution of values,” as he put it. Only a catastrophic death desire stands in the way of our rearranging our priorities such that the pursuit of peace takes precedence over the pursuit of war,” he writes. He was intensely aware of the narrative of Jesus since he was both a preacher and a theologian.
To do this, however, society would have to be turned upside down, which, whether in Jesus’ time, King’s time, or our own time, constitutes a monumental effort that is unlikely to be accomplished via the benevolence of those in power.
Please, at this moment after Easter Sunday 2021, 53 years after the killing of Martin Luther King Jr., may we hear his concerns and honor his continuing dreams by committing ourselves to the creation of just such a movement, right here, right now.