Monday, January 31, 2011

Being Purposefully Grateful

The cousin of my good friend was just murdered. Another good friend is going to Liberia again to help set up an NGO to help former boy soldiers - those that have fallen between the cracks of systems that try to catch those who've fallen between the cracks in countries like Liberia (the third poorest in the world) that seem to be made of nothing but parched, burned earth.

adam4photo © 2011 Al Jazeera English | more info (via: Wylio)
And, across Northern Africa, thousands upon thousands are risking their lives for a more democratic form of power- and resource-sharing.

Meanwhile... my family just moved on the boulevard, across the corner from our preschooler's private school. Meanwhile... our families and friends really pulled through to help us with the funds, brawn, baby-sitting, and moral support necessary to make this move.

And for this - and hosts of other reasons - I'm grateful.

But that's got me to thinking about what it truly means to be grateful. Does having gratitude just mean that I thank God that I am not like that person? Or is there something more to it than that? Is it just a bit of self-absorbing acknowledgment? This idea that God must love me because I have a fairly stable job, my community isn't riddled with violence, I was born into a politically stable country with rich resources (made even richer by exploiting others with rich resources but political instability).

Gitmo protestorsphoto © 2009 Alan | more info (via: Wylio)Would being grateful also mean that I acknowledge that I have the power and ability to effect change? That even though I have more, even though my life is fairly stable, even though I have a gorgeous child and easy access to the internet and food, doesn't mean that I shouldn't do what's in my power to make sure that others can as well?

Work, call, phone, vote, bug, march, organize so that my neighbors aren't being displaced, so that quality jobs and education can reach ALL the neighbors and families in Chicago. So that each child can eat and eat well. So that my country would stop propping up bogus and oppressive leaders in SouthEast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America.

Recognizing my blessings, how can I not work to make sure others are similarly blessed? Wouldn't that be the true meaning (or at least the meaningful meaning) of gratefulness?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicago Tuesdays: Coffee with Miguel and the Rahm Effect

Of course the big news the last day has been the Is-He-Or-Isn't-He of the Emanuel campaign, having been forced off the ballot, then back on again. It's kind of a false hope, to be honest, to oust him on a technicality. It's the part of politics that I detest - the fact that it's a game of loopholes and stats rather than policy that affects millions and millions of people.

Rahm campaigns by throwing money around and shaking people's hands at L stops. There's nothing substantial about him or his candidacy. In fact, I argue that he's Daley 3.0 (and Gery Chico would be Daley 2.5). But since he has name-recognition and naval carriers of money, the press has already lazily anointed him to be our next mayor.

Alas, there's some serious questions about his campaign that nobody in the mainstream press is bothering to ask:
  • Who's giving him the money?
  • What are they asking in return?
  • What will be felt at the neighborhood level?
  • Can or will he bring in jobs to the West and South sides?
  • Will he reform TIFs that siphon off money from the schools and parks to create a control tool for the mayor?
  • What can he do for the homeless and those ABOUT to be homeless?
  • How can we expect him to further the interests of all Chicagoans when much of his funds come from outside sources (such as Hollywood)?
None of these important issues are being addressed. Instead, we're worried about technicalities. It does seem ironic, though. These technicalities tend to be the stock & trade of the Machine candidates.


In related news, I got a chance to go to a coffee with Miguel del Valle and I ended up tweeting much of it. (Take THAT, 20th Century!) It follows, in reverse order:
"Homeless veterans... Those are two words that should never go together, huh?"
CLC's topics would include computer, parenting, budgeting skills, etc. They would be in tandem with community organizations -
CommunityLearningCenters (CLC) would use local school facilities in the evening to teach valuable skills 2 parents in community
advos 4 CommunityLearningCenter, where comm orgs can partner w/ neighborhood schools to teach valuable skills to parents when ...
defines Progressive as Wanting progress for ALL
wants to bring more mass transit 2 city. We'll need to get rid of prking FAIL deal
Courts are allowing corporations to run gov't and silencing ordinary citizens
I will not allow anyone to buy and influence city gov't.
Our democracy is not served well if the only ones to b elected hv 2 spnd millions 2 do it

This is what politics should be about...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Those Pinko-Commie Packers

I know it's heresy to suggest this, but I may have to root for the Packers in February. Partly because of pride. After all, I want to be able to hang my head high and say that my team was barely beaten by the Super Bowl champions.

But more because they're a darned good organization even though, from a financial standpoint, they're the underdogs. Unlike baseball's Yankees, they don't have nearly the funds nor nearby fans to pull off all the championships and championship appearances that they have. Five Super Bowls in fifteen years. The only other comparable team in major league football is the Patriots. But they have all of New England rooting for them (much like the Red Sox, who also have immense funds from which to draw). Greater Boston alone has four and a half million people. All of Wisconsin has roughly five and a half million, with Green Bay's Brown County clocking in at a quarter million.

Green Bay, however, owns their football team. Although their players and staff make a decent amount of money, it's (to the shock, I'm sure, of most fans ) a socialist* enterprise.
This is the same Packers that sport the lowest median salary in the NFL at $440,520. The ousted Seattle Seahawks are at $959,200, the departed Dallas Cowboys are at $699,000, and those nasty Giants are at $724,000.

Somehow despite the small market, somehow without paying the highest salaries, somehow the Green Bay Packers will sit atop the National Football Conference Sunday night on their way to the biggest market share of the year, an appearance in the Super Bowl.

Based in a city of 100,000, the Packers are owned by 112,000 shareholders and the stock is worthless.

Packer stock has never paid a dividend, it cannot appreciate in value, and anyone who buys a share does it for sentiment, not their retirement.

It is a non-profit company.

The Green Bay Packers have won more Championships than any other NFL team and their total championships equals that of about half the league.
Packers vs. Raiders 2007photo © 2007 Chad Davis | more info (via: Wylio)
Take a good look, Timmy. They's un-Americans....

And from David Sweet:
Though the majority of sports franchises in the United States are owned by a group of private investors, with one serving as the public face, control of the Green Bay Packers is divvied into about 4.7 million shares with no chance of anyone taking over. No person can buy more than 200,000 shares. Four stock sales have priced shares from $5 in 1923 to $200 in 1997 — the last one helped increase the capacity of Lambeau Field by 10,000 seats.

Despite their popularity, the Packers’ stock would never be touted by brokers. In 85 years, a dividend has never been paid and the stock does not appreciate in value. Shares can only be sold back to the team, and then at a fraction of the original purchase price. Who would ever assign a buy rating with that kind of historical return?

Yet shareholders would not trade their illiquid investment for anything. Who can beat the annual meeting? In 2006 and 2007, owners could gather in the summer at Lambeau Field (general admission seating) to hear about the state of the non-profit company. Concession stands were open, private boxes were toured and — even though the meeting started at 10 a.m. — Curly’s Pub didn’t close until 12 hours later. Even Warren Buffett can’t offer such amenities.
That's some smart socialism there, buoyed by some more socialistic endeavors within the NFL. Can't argue with success, though...

* Post-Note:
Obviously, a word like 'socialism' has a mighty history behind it. Many people confuse the general term with certain specifics under which it applies. When I use the term here, I'm referring to its most basic form. As Wikipedia puts it:
Socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dishing on the Cheeseheads

Note: Some of these Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers jokes have been around longer than the NFL. Some are more-or-less standard redneck jokes. Normally I would be averse to publishing such jokes... But this is Green Bay we're talking about here. And we the Bears haven't played with them in the post-season since we before Daley the First was mayor.
Other jokes were introduced or made up by myself or Facebook friends. If you want credit, claim it.

Q: What do you call a good looking lady in Green Bay?
A: Tourist

Q: What is the difference between a Packer fan and a baby?
A: The baby will stop whining after awhile.

Q: Did you hear about the fire at the Packers’ library facilities?
A: Both books were burned, and one of them had not even been colored in yet.

Q: How do you save a drowning Packer fan?
A: Take your foot off his head.

Q: What does a hunter without a gun in the middle of a forest and Green Bay have in common?
A: Neither of them can stop the Bears

I love cheese and you ?photo © 2010 Cornelia Kopp | more info (via: Wylio)

A Bears fan, a Packers fan, and a Vikings fan get shipwrecked on an island and some natives take them to their king. At first, the king plans to execute them, then, he decides to grant them one wish, twenty lashes on the back, and let them go.
The Vikings fan wishes for a pillow strapped to his back. It doesn’t hold well during the whipping and broke after 5 whips, leaving 15 painful marks on his back.
The Packers fan wishes for 2 pillows. It lasts for ten whips and he ended up screaming in pain. When it was the Bears fan’s turn though, a smile came across his face.
“I wish for 300 whips,” the king thought the Bears fan was being very brave and noble, so he gave him another wish. “I wish the Packers fan was strapped to my back!”

A first grade teacher explains to her class that she is a Cheesehead. She asks her students to raise their hands if they are Cheeseheads too. No one really knowing what a Cheesehead was, but wanting to be like their teacher, their hands explode into the air like flashy fireworks. There is, however, one exception. A girl named Kimberly who has not gone along with the crowd.
The teacher asks her why she has decided to be different. “Because I’m not a Cheesehead.” “Then”, asks the teacher, “what are you?” “Why, I’m a proud Bears Fan,” boasts the little girl. The teacher is a little perturbed now, her face red. She asks Kimberly why she is a rebel. “Well, my mom and dad are Bears Fans, so I’m a Bears Fan too.” The teacher is now angry. “That’s no reason,” she says loudly. “What if your mom was a moron, and your dad was a moron. What would you be then?” A pause, and a smile. “Then,” says Kimberly, “I’d be a Cheesehead”

A Bears fan, a Packers fan and a Seahawks fan Are Climbing A Mountain And Arguing About Who Loves His Team More. The Seahawks Fan Insists That He Is The Most Loyal. "This Is For The Seahawks!" He Yells, And Jumps Off The Side Of The Mountain. Not To Be Outdone, the Bears fan Is Next To Profess His Love For His Team. He Yells, "This Is For The Bears!" And Pushes The Packer Fan Off The Mountain.
It's Like Making A Trip To Mecca If You're A Bears Fanphoto © 2007 Codo | more info (via: Wylio)

Q. Superman, an intelligent Packers fan, and Santa Claus are walking down the street and see a twenty dollar bill on the street. Who picks it up?
A. No one does. None of those persons exist.

Q: What do you call a pig walking around in downtown Green Bay?
A: Junior. Or Bubba. Or whatever names they use up there...

Q: What's the difference between a Packer's fan and year old cheese?
A: Not much.

Q: What do you call a good looking woman with a Packer fan?
A: A hostage

Cutler in the huddle: Forte. You have blood on you. Are you injured?
Forte: No. Packers keep bleeding on me.
Cutler: Alright! Who cut the cheesehead?

Q. Why doesn't the city of Green Bay just slide off into Lake Michigan?
A. The Packers suck.

Q. What do you call 32 female Packers fans in the same room?
A. A full set of teeth.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Polar Beers pt. 1

Krugman on the political polar chasm in the US:
One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

There’s no middle ground between these views.

cock fight (aka election 2008)photo © 2008 Derek Baird | more info (via: Wylio)
Experience tells me otherwise, though. Maybe not with the cynics in Washington. Because of the peculiarity of running for office in these days, they're less in tune with their electorate than they should be (though I'm not so sure they have been. Lobbyists have had extraordinary power in legislative circles long before the Supreme Court decided that corporations should have freer speech than other citizens) and are more beholden to corporate interests. Which means they're less willing or able to listen to the struggles of their constituents than they should be. But that's only one part of the problem. A big part of the problem. But only one facet.

But I think we're divided and politicians have the ability to side-step and ignore us because the rest of us are so willing to listen to the myths that we hear about The Other Side.

Conservatives don't care for or about poor people. They're racist.

Liberals think that government is the solution for everything. They're not realistic and want lazy people to take over the world.

And the arguments just keep spinning until you can't have a decent conversation with your neighbor anymore because a trigger buzz word ("accountability"', "freedom", "equity") sets one or both of you off. As long as we continue to frame the debate in simplistic polar terms we're not going to find common ground. If I look at everything based on that rubric, what common ground could I possibly share with anybody else? That we're both on the same stick? Of course we won't find solutions. We can't even agree on a common language.

But complex problems call for complex problem-solving. And we can't get that if all of our energies are spent finding and making enemies and then cock-fighting them. Especially if many of those enemies are really going for the same thing you are.

It doesn't help to look at myriad, multi-dimensional, sociological views as if they were just points on a simple, one-dimensional line. And to equate one person with all the views that their supposed leaders supposedly hold* is shutting down before we start. Sometimes we need to shut down, but it doesn't help us to find solutions.

I am, and this may be obvious to many of my Facebook friends, speaking from a lot of experience. I tend to be the first to rush to judgment. But I've learned that Rush Limbaugh doesn't speak for any of my conservative friends (and I thank God). I've learned that many of my 'conservative' friends may have solutions, may have ideas, just may care more than we on the left have given them credit for.

Just need to listen... and maybe grab some beers together and hammer stuff out.

And stop worrying about who's drinking who's Kool-Aid.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Come on, vamonos! Let's explore!

- Theme song

A couple years ago, eeeeveeeerything was about Elmo. Elmo toys, Elmo movies, Elmo videos, roughly four Elmo plushies, Elmo dishes... Our daughter has since diversified, but the big game winners here, in terms of merchandise, are the Disney princesses* and Dora the Explorer.

Dora... has her weaknesses. She's bossy. She's always telling the kids what to do ("Say, 'Delicioso'!") and she treats her animal friends a bit patronizing. And then there's the coying, pat-on-the-backs for every little effort. I mean, seriously? Some kids repeat "Vamonos" and Dora and Boots treat them like some kind of liberators! And my kid hardly even repeats the phrase. So not only is it hyped and unmerited praise, it's totally false and unearned.

One recent episode had Dora and her monkeyfriend Boots warn their woodland friends about an impending storm cloud - which was personified as a bratty eight-year old bully. Each time the cloud would surface, he'd rain a little bit and then Dora would lead all the others into singing the "Rain, rain, go away song." And then little Rain Cloud would go, "Ohh! I hate that song!" (He's not alone) and go scampering off, as rainclouds are wont to do when they hear children taunting them. Now, it made sense to do this until all their friends could find appropriate (and even build) appropriate shelter - but then, at the end, when everybody is safe and dry inside, she has the whole county teasing the misunderstood cumulus until it vows to never return.

Ain't that just messed up? She totally destroyed the ecosystem that she lives in just to show him who's the bigger bully!

But then...

Complaints about kids shows are superfluous, of course. The best shows are no replacement for decent parents. But sometimes, they can be a little extra. I've heard, for instance, that it takes nine positive encouragements to make up for one negative harsh statement. If that's the case, a lot of children are running a large deficit in appreciation, and characters like Dora help to fill in the gaps for some of them. It'd be nice if we could expect a television show to give realistic expectations to the children, but... um... it can't. That job belongs to the parents and the community (which implies, yes, we're *all* involved).

El Alto Parade, Boliviaphoto © 2007 Pedro Szekely | more info (via: Wylio)

Furthermore, in a time when White American children throughout the country witness their parents' apprehension of a new terror (Fear of a Brown Planet), they are becoming encultured to Spanish language, Latino foods, and dark-colored heroines. Latino culture is being normalized in the children at the same time it's being villainized on the radio. And that gives me a ray of esperanza.

I believe the children are the future...

*As per the Disney princesses, well... I'm conflicted. Of course I don't want her waiting around for her prince to come, but I see a level of empowerment and activism (and sensitivity to nature and the little ones) in the 'princesses' that I think is rather inspiring. But enough about those, they've been dissected so much by feminists and pop-cult analysts that I hardly think it's worth breathing the formaldehyde.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The AngelAlien Abductions - aka - They Wish We'd All Been Ready

Courtesy of Jesus Needs New PR:

First off, I love this style of animation. I'm not sure what it's called, but it's cheap, obviously inspired by anime, and highly stylistic. But then, what's up with the angels or aliens or whatever they are straight jacking people in the middle of the road? Is that how the filmmakers interpret the "swept away" phrase in Matthew 24?

Wherein do these abducted people meet Jesus? Halfway in the sky is the literal translation, right? So, if the filmmakers took the passage saying that Christians are going to be 'taken away' literally, they'd also have to accomodate that Jesus would meet all the Christians somewhere in the air. But where? Is everyone gonna fly over Budapest or O'Hair or LAX or Jerusalem?

They're supposed to see Jesus, right? Everybody can see him... So... Giant TVs? Or is the earth flat? Because that would be my option. The earth is flat so all the raptured folks can go *up* to see Jesus when he's coming down on clouds from his giant space ship - aka, heaven.

But yet, we all know that heaven isn't just literally up there in the clouds. So why do we read all the other stuff as if it were going to happen as we literally interpret it to happen?

Confused? Angered? Frustrated?

But beyond the logical fallacies are also problems in theology, history of theology, biblical exegesis, orthodoxy, etc, etc. I wrote a series on Teh Rapture a few months back. A quick recap on some of the main points, for your study, perusal, anger-management, flights of boredom...

From pt. 1:

I believe that we misread a lot of the Bible because it wasn't written specifically for us. The case of the rapture is a major misunderstanding that affects how we treat the world around us as well as our neighbors and, thus, needs major correcting.
From NT Wright:
In I Cor 15:23-27 Paul speaks of the parousia [Jesus' royal presence, a sort of political image, where Jesus is the true king and the emperor is a fake] of the Messiah as the time of the resurrection of the dead, the time when the present but secret rule will become manifest in the conquest of the last enemies, especially death. Then in verses 51-54 he speaks of what will happen to those who, at Jesus's coming, are not yet dead. They will be changed, transformed. This is clearly the same event he is speaking of in I Thess 4; we have the trumpet in both, and the resurrection of the dead in both; but whereas in I Thess he speaks of those presently alive being "snatched up in the air," in I Cor he speaks of them being "transformed." So too in Phil 3:21, where the context is quite explicitly ranging Jesus over against Caesar, Paul speaks of the transformation of the present lowly body to be like Jesus' glorious body, as a result of his all-conquering power.

This idea that heaven is far away and above us is really a Greek concept. This idea that we all leave this cursed planet and live as body-less beings on some celestial clouds is not only immensely boring, but woefully dangerous and erroneous (suggesting that our bodies and the material world is irrefutably broken beyond even God's hand is Platonism - not Jewish and not Christian). There's a reason why so much of the language of Revelations echoes the language of the Garden of Eden.

We are not leaving this corrupted planet to destruction. We are called to redeem it; the same work that Christ began at his resurrection, the same work that is being done on us, is the same work that God is calling us to do throughout his creation. And has already begun doing. And will see to completion with the new heaven.

Then I found that I needed to clarify contextual understandings with a 2.5...

I cannot understand how we've come to read the Bible in some kind of rarefied air where it needs to be understood in some sort of literal and lineal phase. As if the writers of the ancient texts were writing out of space and time. No one ever writes or speaks in a vacuum. The trick is to figure how the Bible wants to be read. For example, when Jesus told a story, he did not mean for it to be taken literally, as if the things he said actually happened; they illustrate a (or a few) point(s) that he makes about, say, the Kingdom of Heaven (his favorite topic, btw). When we read the beginning of Revelations, the author says that he witnesses one as the "Son of Man" with "white hair like wool." The images are from Daniel 7. If the question is, "Did John the Revelator literally see a wooly-white haired man that looks like an improved version of humanity in front of him?" we're asking the wrong questions. We focus too much on the literal, but not enough in what it all means, and what the signs are pointing to (in this case, the established and eternal Kingdom of God through Jesus).

And then finishing with a reading of the Matthew 24 passage, where this video seems to come from (with the alienangels "taking away" the "elect" to escape God's wrath, or something...):

There's nothing in this passage to support the theology of the rapture. Verse 31 speaks about "gathering the elect from the four corners." But there's nothing in there to express a disappearance from the earth, or a raising, even. (My initial thought is that it has to do with a type of reverse exodus based on my reading of the corresponding Zechariah passage). Verses 41 and 42 are where the phrase "Left Behind" (of those horrific 'thrillers') are taken from. But a closer look at the immediate context reveals that it's not those who are left behind who are unfortunate, but the other way around.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lazy Sunday Reading: Beyond Vietnam - A Time to Break the Silence

Many people claim the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the same way they claim the legacy of Jesus. Which is to say that they focus on a couple of phrases without looking at any of the context of the words. So you have Glenn Beck suggesting that King would be an ally of his particular brand of wingnutism. But more prominently, opponents of affirmative action and White nativists use the phrase, "content of character" and rip it so far out of its immediate context (a history of slavery and oppression that has yet to halt in this country. A call to stand together to sing an "old Negro spiritual" of freedom rather than some supposedly 'colorblind' song that doesn't speak of that history of slavery and oppression) that it has been deprived of its prophetic power.

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking.], 08/28/1963photo © 1963 The U.S. National Archives | more info(via: Wylio)In order to understand and honor King - just as in order to understand and honor Jesus - we need to go beyond what we learned in third grade social studies class. We need to read and study them and meditate on how to apply what they have to teach us into our modern days - rather than trying to force their legacies to fit our agendas*

King was not only concerned about the African-American in the segregated, Jim Crow South, but of the working class African American (he was assassinated in Memphis, where he came to support garbage workers in their strike), the displaced Americans in the segregated North (Chicago and Detroit, specifically), the impoverished young men who went to war for US means that didn't directly affect them, and increasingly, he was wary of an economic system that kept so many at the mercy of so few...^

Stretching beyond that, his concern was with all who suffered at the hands of oppression, including the oppressors. His primary focus was on the US (of course, he was much too bright to only concern himself with the doings of one country and saw a global pattern of yoking and yoke-breaking), though. And, as his popularity was waning, he spoke increasingly against the culture of violence that the US was promoting through its wars.**

One of his most famous latter-day speeches was given in New York City and addressed the oppression of the VietNam War. It was called "Beyond Vietnam - A Time to Break the Silence" and was inspired, in part, by the Jesus parable of the Good Samaritan. I am particularly indebted to this sermon because it reminds me what it takes to be a good neighbor.

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us.*** If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: "Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?" "Why are you joining the voices of dissent?" "Peace and civil rights don't mix," they say. "Aren't you hurting the cause of your people," they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation... [This is not] an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans.

Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath --
America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be -- are -- are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1954; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I'm speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

And finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls "enemy," for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1954 -- in 1945 rather -- after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony. Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination and a government that had been established not by China -- for whom the Vietnamese have no great love -- but by clearly indigenous forces that included some communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.

After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States' influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America, as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.

So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing... of the nation's only non-Communist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.

Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon, the only solid -- solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call "fortified hamlets." The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.

Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front, that strangely anonymous group we call "VC" or "communists"? What must they think of the United States of America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem, which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the South? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the North" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent communist, and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam, and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will not have a part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them, the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French Commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which could have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered.

Also, it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva Agreement concerning foreign troops. They remind us that they did not begin to send troops in large numbers and even supplies into the South until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than... eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak... for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism (unquote).

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.

I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do [immediately] to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.

Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.

Five: Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country, if necessary. Meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is a path now chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing.

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala -- Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin... the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

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.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions.

It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch antirevolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain."

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing -- embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about... ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: "Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love." "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us." Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says:

Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word (unquote).

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood -- it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on."

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message -- of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ‘tis truth alone is strong
Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood^. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when "justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

While preparing for this post, I came across this video from an FB friend's wall. It's particularly relevant, I think, to the first paragraph of my introduction. This time, it's the military itself which is using King's legacy to confirm their pursuits...

Post-Note II: Jarrod McKenna of ABC's Religion & Ethics (and Dr. West and Stearns) is making the same points I was trying to make upstairs (via Scot McKnight):

Princeton University professor Cornel West insists that we "domesticate, disinfect, deodorise, sanitise, and make safe" the prophetic words and witness of King - a process he refers to as the "Santa-Claus-ification of Martin Luther King Jr," whereby we embrace a manageable, smiling, jolly fellow and abandon the man of history and his passionate call to a liberating love and a healing justice. We do to King, in other words, precisely what we have done to the radically nonviolent Christ of the New Testament.

So how can we take the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr seriously without making him in our own image? How can we, informed by his witness, confront problems he never faced without sanitising or co-opting the voice of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who described himself as "first and foremost a preacher of the Gospel"? How can we deconstruct the hagiographies of a super-saint or "Santa Claus figure" and truly hear from this exceptional follower of the way of the cross?

Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision United States, offers an extremely helpful model for engaging Dr King 's legacy. In his book The Hole in Our Gospel, Stearns bravely confesses how World Vision United States nearly abandoned the call "to defend the poor and the needy" because doing so wasn't popular. What prevented this disastrous move and encouraged him to be faithful was Stearns's sense of history and the witness of Martin Luther King. Stearns admits he felt chastened by what King said to the church of his day:
The contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.
As Stearns writes, "One of the disturbing things about Church history is the Church's appalling track record of being on the wrong side of the great social issues of the day." Though he could have been speaking about the issue of climate change, the issue Stearns was dealing with was the AIDS epidemic.

I wish I had thought to use Cornel's famous words on how we've domesticated and sanitized Dr. King. But I'm excited to see other Evangelicals - and ones so prominent as Stearn finding solace in King's true legacy. Please read the article and give me your thoughts on it...

*Knowing that you're asking the same thing about me, I've actually changed my politics based on deeper readings of Jesus and, subsequently, King. Although I am not a big fan of the Great Men theory of history, I do make exceptions for Jesus, being a Christian and all... As per King, he was in a truly unique point of history that, I argue, made him into a great person (but a person nonetheless, who failed in private matters and was in many other ways, well, only human).

**King notes in the speech that northern leftists and minorities - who were embracing violence as a means of protest - made a point in referencing violence as the language of resolution that the US employs. Of course, what's blowing up some people-less property compared to burning and murdering entire villages? The problem, from my point of view, is that these instances of violence (however small they may be in contrast to the thing they are protesting) is based more on frustration (which I could understand, certainly) than on coalition-building.

*** Judging by American churches acceptance and trumpeting of the War on Terror, I would venture it did not adequately.

^ Truth be told, I am a bit saddened that I see no evidence that King did not join the feminist movement of his time. If anybody can prove me wrong in this regard, please share. I'd love nothing more, because it seems to me a tragic missed opportunity and oversight, to say the least.