Who was MLK?
Rev. Michael King Sr. grew up a poor, Black sharecropper in Georgia at the turn of the last century. As a young man he moved to Atlanta, fell in love with a Baptist preacher’s daughter and eventually followed in his father-in-law’s footsteps and studied to become a minister.
In 1934, Rev. Michael King, Sr., attended the World Baptist Alliance in Berlin. He was so moved by the teachings and sacrifice of sixteenth-century German church reformer Martin Luther, that he changed his name from Michael King to Michael Luther King and finally Martin Luther King. His teen aged son chose to change his name to Martin Luther King Jr, after his father.
MLK Grew up in segregated Georgia during the Great Depression, but went on to become one of the greatest leaders of the civil rights movement. Now, on the third Monday in January, Americans observe the legacy of his contributions with a national holiday.
King Jr. studied sociology in college and then went to seminary to become a pastor like his father and grandfather. While serving in Alabama, Pastor King became involved with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group of mostly Black pastors committed to achieving racial equality through non-violence.
Many people either think of Martin Luther King Jr. as just a Black hero, with nothing to offer to the rest of us. Others take him for granted as just another pop-cultural icon along with JFK, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. For me, he is a hero of the faith. A courageous Christian leader like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who stood up to Adolf Hitler and the NAZIs.
One of my favorite books that I wish everyone on Earth would read is Dr. King’s “Strength to Love,” (1963) in which he explores the parable of the good Samaritan and what it means to love your neighbor and love your enemies, as Jesus taught. In it, he also wrote about the parables of the friend who knocked on his neighbor’s door at midnight and the rich fool who hoarded his wealth in his barns, only to have his soul required of him that night. King addresses fear and speculated on what sort of epistle the Apostle Paul might have written to America.
I think that even in mostly white, rural Iowa, it would be good to consider some of the lessons of Dr. King today in 2008. We forget that he was a Baptist minister like Mike Huckabee and a PhD who could analyze domestic and foreign and military policies just like like a Barack Obama or a Bill Clinton. We forget that King was a Nobel Peace Prize winner like Al Gore.
I recently found a speech that he made about Vietnam back in 1967 on April 4, 1967 at a meeting at Riverside Church in New York City. He was assassinated a year later on April 4, 1968 trying to help striking garbagemen in Memphis, Tennessee.
People wondered why a civil rights leader was suddenly turning into a war protester.
“I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for ‘the brotherhood of man.’…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?”
After three decades of supply-side economics, Americans have seen the high-tech bubble burst, and the real estate bubble burst, the stock market repeatedly crash and rebound, more millionaires than ever before yet a disappearing middle class, disappearing manufacturing jobs, jobs shipped over seas, high gas prices yet record profits for oil companies and a widening gap between the super rich and the working poor. No wonder so many voters in Iowa responded to the messages of John Edwards as he railed on big corporations and unfeeling insurance companies.
King talked about our problem with consumerism in his 1967 speech too.
“…We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…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.
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.”
Black , White, Red, Yellow, or Brown, Dr. King’s teaching may have as much to say to us today, as it did forty years ago.
Law & Order? Or LOVE & Community?
I know we’re not supposed to “cherry-pick” verses, but if anyone uses Romans 13:1-9 to teach “law & order,” just skip to verse 10; “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Oh, and in the United States, the First Amendment IS the law. The 14th Amendment IS the authority. Not any one leader, official, or party.
Whether Jesus says it, St. Paul says it or any Old Testament prophet says it- LOVE is God’s law.
Meanwhile, whether a Federalists like Adams & Hamilton said it, or Anti-Federalists like Jefferson & Madison said it, “We the people,” and the Constitution We ordained & established are the law & authority in the United States. That is what makes us “exceptional,” shared, collaborative, cooperative and limited power, not absolutist authorities.
Need a Summer Read?
No, it’s not like I suddenly wrote four books since March. Actually I’ve been blogging since 2002 and I’m compiling things I’ve written into self-published books you can order on Amazon or Goodreads.
Here’s micro-synopses on each one:
‘Cheesebread & Coffee’ are humor pieces from the Charter Oak-Ute NEWSpaper and Mapleton PRESS 2002-2008. Not political, not too religious.
‘Max Nix’ is a collection of poetry from 1985-2020. I know, poetry isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I’ve been told mine is short, approachable, relatable and keeps you reading.
‘Dear John’ is a series of reflections on the book of 1 John. Not exactly a devotional, not exactly a Bible study- somewhere in between. It deals with some current issues though, love and who is our brother?
‘Prophet, Priest & Pirate,’ 2004-2020 essays on politics & religion. Yep, more progressive than most voters in Iowa’s 4th District, but more moderate/conservative than most of the rest of the U.S. Basic thesis: Democrats can be Christian too, and while we’re at it- let’s be careful not to make either political party or their candidates into false idols.
I hope that at least one of these will interest you. I have another three or four “in the pipeline,” but I’d better take a break and focus on school for the rest of the Summer. Hopefully I’ll try to get another one or two out later this Fall of Winter.
Saying BLM Doesn’t Mean you Hate All Cops
Supporting Black Lives doesn’t mean hating all law enforcement officers or opposing “Blue” Lives.
Supporting criminal justice reform; for excessive force, for for-profit corporate contracts, for over-militarization, for more, longer & better training, for excessive incarceration, and yes- for systemic, institutionalized racism does not mean you’re “anti-police.”
Wearing a mask in public & being careful & concerned about Covid is not a “liberal” thing, it’s certainly not a hoax.
Opposing & criticizing Trump isn’t anti-American or sour grapes for a Democrats. Republicans, including President Bush, & several Generals & former Secretaries of State- most Republicans, a few Trump appointees oppose him.
Sharing our positions & opinions and responding to, disagreeing with, and even calling-out errors in each other’s opinions DOESN’T mean anyone hates you or you’re “bad,” or that you’re dumb or always wrong about everything. It means you’re in community. If you love your community, you want it to improve. You want it to be the best it can be.
I have several former students who are cops. I carr about their safety & well being. One of them is one of my dearest friends. I had an uncle who was a cop. I always admired him. I also have a nephew who protested recently. I’m tremendously proud of them.
I also have lots of former students who are Black. Some of whom are are very dear to me. I’d say at least one of them is another of my dearest friends. And several friends in inter-racial marriages. I cannot ignore their fears and concerns and the experiences they’ve shared (and how many they’ve never shared).
These are difficult times. Please be patient & kind with each other. Maybe be even MORE kind & patient with those you disagree with. They don’t hate you, they aren’t attacking YOU. They’re passionate about their beliefs. They’re resisting your positions & opinions, not you as a person, not everyone like you or EVERYTHING you know, believe in or stand for- just what you embrace that they see as hurtful, hateful or divisive.
Isn’t that what you think you hate about them? Not THEM, but some of their ideas? Not WHO they are but a lot of what they seem to stand for that you disagree with or are afraid of or that makes you mad or doesn’t make sense to you. Right?
Two things to try: Ask yourself WHY are hey so passionate about their views? WHY are the opposed to my views? Now ask WHY am I so bent outta shape by what they support? And WHY exactly am I so zealous about what I think. Is there ANY chance whatsoever that maybe either of us don’t know everything?
Words & Pictures Matter
What is Fundamental Anyway?
I’m sorry. I just don’t get it.
To me, the fundamentals, the very foundation of the United States is equality, human rights, and community. Participating and compromising for the common good.
I got these ideas from Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and if they weren’t enough, also from Lincoln and both Roosevelts. And yes, Doctor King too.
But people who call themselves patriots, and nationalist and pro-America laud leaders who don’t believe in, let alone value, respect or protect any of those things.
And they let their anger, ignorance and disdain for the rest of us rage like a prairie fire.
But if I snap back, I have to consider relations and treat people better than that. If want to remind everyone of what our fundamentals are, I’m warned that I’ll offend someone, that they’ll think I’m too radical.
To me, the very heart, the basics, the absolute fundamental foundations of Jesus and the whole Bible, Old and New, is love.
Love the Lord your God with all your strength and all your heart and all you mind. AND love your neighbor as yourslef.
Love your neighbor? Who is your neighbor?
Love your enemies, pray for those that persecute you.
If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Seems clear. Seems fundamental.
But if you say that, they look at you suspiciously.
Who are you listening to? What are you reading?
Um, Jesus, the Prophets, judges, and teachers of the Torah and Jesus, Paul, John, the Apostles and Epistle writers of the New Testament.
That’s heresy. That’s reduction-ism. That’s liberation theology. That’s too liberal. That’s watered down.
Here I was thinking it was distilled, concentrated, liquor, jet fuel.
Essence. Spirit. Anything BUT diluted.
Accepting anyone into fellowship who doesn’t submit to every jot and tittle of the law would be like condoning their every error.
Grace itself becomes a work, after having been reminded over and over that our own works are worth nothing.
Not just adherence to orthodoxy, but allegiance to homogeneity is the only safety.
I think to much. I feel too much. I talk too much.
My fundamentalism is the wrong kind of radical.
I’m stupid. I’m crazy. I’m a problem. I hate our heritage.
Don’t point out our ignorance, our apathy, our inconsistency, our mental illness, our stubbornness.
I get it.
Judge not, let ye be judged.
I must have logs in my eyes.
What I thought was fundamental, the fundamentalists find too progressive.
I thought evangelical meant having a personal relationship with God and wanting to share the good news of His love. Isn’t to evangelize, to share, to witness? But the more I speak or share, the more I’m isolated and marginalized. Muffled. Stimied.
What I thought was egalitarian and democratic and just is apparently “socialist” and “elitist” and “unamerican.”
Do I really not understand the fundamentals?
“Indeed I tremble for my country when reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!”
— Thomas Jefferson
” Jesus wept.”
Memorial Day Sentimentalizing
Here are a collection of Instagram and Facebook posts from this weekend. They’re more sentimental than angry or political, but because they’re so personal and passionate, I decided to post them under the “rant” banner rather than “Civics 101.” This isn’t about teaching or encouraging thought or discussion, this is about sharing my personal feelings and beliefs. That said, I hope I didn’t just scare you off. Original posts are regular and new comments are blue and in italics.
Do leave your comments in below, but don’t be a jerk or a troll even if we disagree- especially if you’re a Russian bot.
This weekend remember, if we’re not dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, then we’ve let those who gave their last full measure of devotion so that any nation so dedicated might live, have died in vain. It’s not the flag, it’s the “liberty and justice for all” that needs our allegiance and respect. Otherwise we’re just going through the motions.
Must be because in Civics class I just taught about the Gettysburg Address and passage of the 13, 14 7 15th Amendments. maybe because I just take myself and history and holidays all WAY too seriously.
Sure, I honor those who served and those who gave their last full measure, but it’s not about flags or ceremonies or even about those who fought. It’s about the principles they were fighting & sacrificing for. When we forget that, that’s when we truly dishonor them. That’s when we allow them to die in vain. If we allow government of, by and for all people to perish, then all our pride and patriotism is nothing more than vanity. #Lincoln #GettysburgAddress #mashup #MemorialDay #equal #equality
Lots of WWII movies on this weekend. Know what I’ve noticed? NAZIs are evil and Americans oppose them. American’s don’t trust Russia. Ah, simpler times.
Most Summers you see ‘Midway’ on all weekend. This year I saw ‘Patton’ and ‘Battle of the Bulge.’ Both excellent films, although- with all due respect, George Patton was a narcissistic piece of work!
I suppose it’s because Memorial Day ceremonies are so similar to the military rites
of internment that I think about losing my dad more this weekend than on his birthday or on the anniversary of his passing, even though he was always humble & never made a big deal about his service.
Some of why I miss my Dad is that he’s the one who taught me about treating ALL people with dignity and respect, about equality. He’s the one who taught me to be respectful yet scrutinize those with power and authority. He taught me the value of military service, but also of civilian service, duty and responsibility. He helped instill in me a love for history and reading and learning. He’s the one who taught me to respect and honor women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, workers & unions, and immigrants too. And he’s the one who taught me how to see through political BS.
Dissent is not ridicule.
Scrutiny is not persecution.
We indeed allow them to have died in vain not so much by failing to recognize their sacrifice, but when we are not dedicated to and devoted to that same proposition that Lincoln and Jefferson both claimed that our nation is dedicated to- that all men are created equal.
Honor and duty certainly are noble, but how much more noble are liberty and justice- especially livery and justice for ALL?
Certainly we should honor all those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, but venerating veterans shouldn’t become the idolatry of militarism.
Being proud of our patriotism will only be hollow if it is about mere nationalism rather than striving and working and continuing to sacrifice for the principles for which our flag stands, not just for the flag itself: Equality, rights, social contract, unity, justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare, perpetual democracy, freedom of religion, of speech, of media, of assembly, association, to protest, to criticize and scrutinize our government and to petition for redress of grievances.
If it’s not about these principles, for everyone- even those different than us, even those we disagree with, then what good people is it?
This, no doubt was partly in response to the Address at our town’s Memorial Day ceremonies put on my the American Legion. Their guest speaker was one of our State Assemblymen. I really prefer it when they invite veterans or officers on active duty rather than politicians.
did a good job for the most part. He spoke mostly about a speech Genera MacArthur made on honor, duty and country. It’s not so much that as a history student, I prefer Eisenhower and Truman to Mac- it’s probably that this legislator and I went rounds about confederate statues on facebook a few months ago and he called me “stupid” and “crazy.” Maybe it’s because he’s such a huge Trump supporter or that he’s screwed teachers and public worker unions.
Whatever the case, I know I’m a hypocrite for being so angry and judgmental about him- but if he genuinely thinks that Democrats, progressives or immigrants are actively trying to destroy America or our treasured way of life, he is very insecure and doesn’t trust democracy.
To say that people who criticize politicians or their policies are “ridiculing” patriotism is about like Evangelicals, who are in power and in the majority somehow imagine that they are being “persecuted” and denied religious freedom.
Anyway, it seems such a shame that we have the Gettysburg Address read every year, but no one seems to have a clue about what Lincoln was saying. At least if they do, they don’t agree with him. Perhaps those disagreements about confederate war memorials were still too fresh in my mind. How can you serve in the USMC for 20 years and want to honor men who, in direct violation of the Constitution, wanted to destroy this country? Especially so that they could owning human beings as property? If that makes ME a “radical” and a “liberal,” I can live with that.
Yeeeeah… I guess this post has now earned it’s “rant” label. I apologize for that. It’s hard for me to not be indignant when people are offended by Black football players reverently taking a knee to draw attention to racial injustice, but when ICE lost almost 1,500 children of immigrants, they coldly say “shouldn’t ta broke the law,” or when the Mueller investigation is bringing in dozens of indictments and it’s clear that Russia DID hack our election, they shrug it off with “all politicians do it on both sides…”
Okay- I know that last paragraph alone will incite TONS of angry comments- May I just say, I know that this politician loves our country, and I absolutely value and honor his decades of military service- my problem is that he does not acknowledge that people who disagree with him politically can ALSO love our country and want what’s best for it.
I know its Memorial Day, not Veterans Day or Armed Forces Day, but I can’t help thinking of, praying for, worrying about and thanking not just the members of our community who served but have since passed away, but peers who enlisted after 9/11.
Former students who served already and students who are about to begin their service.
Thank you for the sacrifices you & your families make.
Please remember as you work for “Uncle Sam,” that it’s not the branch you serve in or even our flag you serve under, but the ideals and principles our nation was founded on that you are working to uphold and protect. Equality, Liberty and Justice are not just words, or even ideas or abstract concepts, they are self-evident truths worth sacrificing for.
God bless you & keep you safe as you do your duty to keep us all safe.
Lessons from Doc
I realize that MLK Day was a couple of weeks ago but this blog post has kind of been nagging at me ever since then.
Everyone knows him from his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from 1963 and as an important civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968. But how many of us have ever took the time to really read, study or digest that speech?
History buffs and civil rights advocates may know more about him. They may know that he’s also remembered for his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ for leading protests there and a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to draw attention to state discrimination in voting rights.
They may credit him with helping to put pressure on President Johnson and Congress to pass both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They know that after fighting so long against legal segregation and political equality in the South, he had begun campaigning for economic justice nationwide.
But we forget that he was a pastor, a theologian, an intellectual, a husband and father, a reader, thinker and writer. “Rev. Dr.” means that he was ordained and had a PhD. He wasn’t just a gifted speaker, activist and organizer. He was a ridiculously prolific writer.
He’s one of my personal favorite writers.
As a History/Social Studies teacher, I think his most fascinating piece, in therms of political science, sociology and philosophy has to be his 1967 speech ‘Beyond Vietnam.’
Two of my favorite books aren’t political speeches or editorials though, they’re sermons, devotions and essays on spirituality, love, and King’s trademark non-violence. Strength to Love from 1963 and The Measure of a Man , from 1968.
Without having open copies by my side, or a tab open to search for quoted from MLK, I want to share some principles I’ve gleaned from Doctor King’s writings that I try to apply as life lessons. Full disclosure; I’m a white male that grew up in the middle-class suburbs of Phoenix in the 70’s (‘Leave it to Beaver,’ only not in the 50’s).
Maybe that’s the point though- while as a progressive it ticks me off to see right-wing extremists and conservative Republican pundits and politicians try to co-opt Dr. King’s quotes or use his image to try to evoke pretend inclusion or phony compassion- much of King’s teaching really does transcend race, gender, and era.
King made no secret that he was influenced by Mahatma Ghandi, Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther, and Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I bet he was also influenced a lot by Mahalia Jackson and Cloretta Scott-King too. What positive role models? We could all use some role models like those today.
When I read King, I see much of his ideas and beliefs echoed in secular authors like Viktor Frankl and Christian authors like C.S. Lewis. white And in white evangelicals like Tony Campolo and black activists like John Lewis and Cornell West. Most of all, I hear echoes of Saint Paul and of Jesus.
If I could pass anything on to my children or my students, I wish I could plant these lessons in their hearts and minds, but I know they have to read Kings books for themselves, listen to his speeches for themselves, study history, read scriptures and encounter God all for themselves. I can’t do it for them. Be that as it may, here are some things I learned from Dr. King.
Off the top of my head, & from the well of my heart-
Lessons I’ve learned from Doctor King
- Meet physical force with soul force
- Peace isn’t just an end, it’s a means to many ends
- Forgiveness is hard, but it shouldn’t just be a habit, but a way of life
- Be a thermostat, not just a thermometer
- Better to be tough minded and soft hearted than hard-hearted and soft-minded!
- Never give up hope, seek to become a prisoner of hope
- Undeserved suffering is redemptive
- ALL of our destinies are inextricably tied together
- Injustice ANYWHERE is a threat to justice EVERYWHERE
- Never stop; if you can’t fly, run, if you can’t run, walk, if you can’t walk crawl- but keep moving forward.
- Hate can’t drive out hate, only love can do that
- Just a sneeze can change history
- Just because something is a law doesn’t make it just and unjust laws sometimes may even need to be broken to draw attention to the fact that they ought to be changed
- Change comes from faith, prayer, love, community, and sacrifice
- Words are powerful
- It’s one thing to claim to believe something, it’s another to live out the true meaning of those beliefs
- Love others, even your enemies
How to not waste your shots
“Emotion is your enemy… Losing control of your emotions, at work as much as anywhere, is a losing proposition. As a leader, it’s important that you manage your emotions instead of letting them manage you.” ~John Wooden, UCLA Basketball Coach
“Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.” ~Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States
Gotta tell ya, some politicians irk me. I mean make me so angry I just want to shout expletives. But my wife reminds me that I’m a Civics teacher, and a Sunday School teacher, and a parent.
Part of me is so full of angst when I see the groundwork for authoritarianism being laid that I feel like I HAVE to say something. After all, as a History Major in college I had British parliamentarian Edmund Burke’s words pounded into me- “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
But I think about the poor “spaz” on the elementary playground. So full of frustration that they must lash out at their bullies, but all they manage to do is flail around spasmodically- only giving the bullies and their schoolmates more material to ridicule, instead of injuring their tormentors.
Wouldn’t you rather get in one good knockout punch, thus delivering a powerful lesson in who not to mess with?
So, some advice, and believe me, this is a case of “physician heal thyself,” but nevertheless, advice on when and how to exercise one’s First Amendment rights rather than to abuse them.
- Be articulate
- Be specific
- Avoid being coarse or profane
- Attack policies, positions and actions- NOT persons, personalities, or appearances
- Back up you assertions with facts (even though your opponents may not use them, or may believe in “alternative” facts).
- Allow trolls to troll (and make themselves look ignorant and angry), or delete their comments, but don’t engage them.
- Above all, speak out of your passion FOR something, based on principles, rather than get carried away with your anger against someone or something.
Granted, “do as I say, not as I do” may indeed apply here plenty of times. But this is still advice that I recognize that I myself need to follow.
For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.” ~Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States.
My recent Facebook Status
I’ve tried to stay off facebook, and I’ll keep trying. Let’s face it, sometimes it’s inflammatory for people you disagree with, sometimes it’s an echo-chamber for people you agree with and the rest of the time it’s an inane time waster at best and a vast wasteland (like TV) at worst.
I just want to let my family & friends know, that I don’t want to be obnoxiously inflammatory, and my political positions are not arbitrary or deliberately intended to offend you- they’re informed, reasoned and motivated by a life long love of country and passionate concern for democracy. I may have biases, but I’ve studied history, I try to read as much as I can and critically analyse facts and information.
Please keep all this in mind. Even when we disagree, please don’t just write me off with contempt. Even if I’m wrong, I’m not your enemy and I’m not stupid. I will try to offer you personally the same dignity and respect, even if I ridicule national figures and officials whom you defend.
It’s not a matter of conservative vs. liberal, libertarian vs. socialist, or old-fashioned vs. progressive. The current administration may not be as fascist as many on the left warn- but it is autocratic, hypocritical, and irresponsible. They are leaning toward authoritarianism and/or kakistocracy, not the centrist, democratic-republic we’ve enjoyed for 240 years. This isn’t just abnormal, this isn’t just change or the swing of the pendulum.
I will try to be speak out less often and with less vitriol (like I have for the last week or so), but please don’t expect me to remain silent as the Constitution, constitutional processes, constitutional principles and constitutional rights are eroded, ignored, and violated.
If things I share or comment on annoy, offend or disturb you, please consider un-following me. If I upset you that much, unfriend or even block me. I won’t be offended. Or, try what I’m going to try- moderate your engagement on Facebook. Who know, maybe some of us (myself included) could stand to give it up for Lent!