Monday, January 16, 2006

America's King

On this day in which we celebrate the life of one of the greatest Americans, I thought, rather than add to the well-meaning glut of things being written about him, I'd let him speak in his own words--the very words that changed a nation and perhaps even a world...

I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: - 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Was not Jesus an extremist for love -- "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice -- "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ -- "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist -- "Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God." Was not John Bunyan an extremist -- "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist -- "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice--or will we be extremists for the cause of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill, three men were crucified. We must not forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thusly fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.

Our nettlesome task is to discover how to organize our strength into compelling power.

A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.

If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fabulous.....just fabulous!

1:43 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

A compalation of quotes from Martin Luther King:

"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 hands 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 people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handi-capped 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...

"Don't let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgement and it seems I can hear God saying to America "you are too arrogant, and if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name...

"I call on Washington today, I call on every man and woman of goodwill all over America today, I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today: Take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late; a book may close...

"I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. America has strayed away, this unnatural excursion has brought only confusion and bewilderment. It has left hearts aching with guilt and minds distorted with irrationality...

"It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to come back home. Come home America."

10:54 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Fantastic Jonathan. What a man he was. What a prophet.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...

And then he got killed.

Violence against the one teaching others how to not be violent. I look at the 50's, 60's and other times with my "enlightened," 2006 eyes and judge those in the other times as racist and violent.

Hypocritical, I know. What would happen to such a person now? What is happening to such people as MLK Jr. was for us. Who are they?


1:57 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

The comic strip/now cartoon "Boondocks" actually dramatized that very hypothetical: What if MLK were alive today. I didn't see the actual episode, just a clip on Nightline when they were interviewing Aaron McGruder, the creator.
The funniest part was when a spokesman for the presidential administration, when asked at a press conference about some sort of call for peace and nonviolence made by MLK (possibly in regards to Iraq?), the spokesman (a stand in for Ari Fleischer I assume) says, "Some people need to watch their f***ing mouths."

When pressed on this by the anchor, McGruder didn't back down. That's exactly how it would be today, he said, and I kind of think he's right.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Deon said...

Brandon, Jon, and Nate,all of your passages and or comments were equally moving, very well written. I honestly believe that, that would be the exact comment one would get regarding someone speaking up for peace in our current society. It is sad that our country, has such hateful ways, we are so backwards, there are people still teaching hate in the homes, when we can get rid of such ignorance in the home then we can look to ending it in our society as a whole (i.e. the KKK, Supremmist, etc...)

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Laura said...

Hey, Brandon-Thanks for such a great blog entry. I'm a reader of your friend Josh's blog (both when he was in Afghanistan and now that he's back in the States). Your entry struck a chord with me because just four days ago, on Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, my boyfriend, a white 28-year-old, was robbed and brutally beaten by four men as a result of a hate crime. The ironies of his unfortunate experience are endless: my boyfriend is a seminary student; he was walking in broad daylight to the seminary where he is a student; he was carrying a Bible in his hand; he moved to an area of our city that is heavily populated by minorities so that he could attempt to be an agent for racial reconcilliation; etc. I could go on. By the grace of God, he was not killed--only physically hurt (badly, though). Please keep him and his family (and me, please) in your thoughts and prayers. The physical damage will heal, but the emotional and psychological pain that has been endured by him and those around him who love him will take years to mend. And please pray that the men who did this to him are caught and that justice is served.

I am so saddened and overwhelmed by the world in which we live, but I will continue to have hope and pray that someday Dr. King's message will consume the hearts of every individual.

Thanks for your thoughts...


5:24 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

As always your blog was interesting, challenging and entertaining. The comments by King surpass "inspiring" by a mile. His words prove that it was not his black skin that got him killed but rather his sold-out life style that pushed weaker men beyond their ability to live and let live.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

This is almost certainly none of my business, but don't be so quick to seek justice against those who do you or those you love wrong. Remember that if God was simply a just God we would all be on our way to hell. Be quick to give mercy and forgivness. It may prove to be far more instrumental in witnessing than justice. Additionaly it may help heal mental and emotional wounds that would otherwise fester and alter one's peronality. Think of the play Les Miserable. Sometimes we make the biggest impact when we have every right to demand justice on those who wrong us and instead bestow mercy and love.


6:03 AM  

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