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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dulling Down Dr. King’s Message

Dulling Down Dr. King’s Message

By Gary G. Kohls
January 19, 2013

Where did Martin Luther King draw his courage to risk martyrdom
for the cause of black liberation, to keep on going despite the
daily death threats against him and his family?

King was motivated by his unshakable faith in the practicality of
the non-violent gospel ethics of Jesus of Nazareth, teachings that
had also inspired a multitude of similarly silenced courageous and
embattled prophets.

Those prophets include such inspirations as Hindu Mohandas Gandhi
of India and Russian Leo Tolstoy, both anti-imperialist and anti-war

But such whistle-blowers always get marginalized, demonized or
disappeared by the Principalities and Powers.

Those shadowy-elite One Percenter groups are usually very adept
at censoring out, via their media empires, the unwanted truths
that hinder the agendas of state, corporate and even church elites,
most or all of whom utilize the violence of racism, militarism,
poverty, brain-washing, fear, ignorance and suspicion to keep the
increasingly impoverished and brain-washed masses under control.

The anti-Vietnam war stance of King, when combined with his
leadership efforts demanding the liberation of blacks, minorities
and poor people, was so intolerable to the powers-that-be that he
and his radical left-wing message had to be eliminated.

The suspicion that King’s gospel-based nonviolent message has
been effectively scrubbed from our consciousness, a view widely
held in the Christian faith-based peace-and-justice movement,
was reinforced for me a few years back when my wife came back
from a trip that included Atlanta’s King Center and all I got out
of the trip was an official tee shirt that had printed on it the,
“seven steps to social change.”

That tee shirt was the most radical one available at the center,
and it totally ignored King’s oft-repeated message about the
ethics of Jesus.

Any non-religious social justice advocate could have authored the

Clearly something is going on behind the scenes to silence the real
voice of the prophet.

As black poet Carl Wendell Hines wrote:

Now that he is safely dead let us praise him

build monuments to his glory

sing hosannas to his name.

Dead men make such convenient heroes:

They cannot rise to challenge the images

we would fashion from their lives.

And besides, it is easier to build monuments

than to make a better world.

So, in support of the assertions above, I submit some quotes from
King’s writings. Most of them won’t even get honorable mention in
the media reports about this Monday’s National Holiday celebrations,
“honoring” King.

We can only hope that some of the events will talk about King’s and
Jesus’s disappearing truths about Christian nonviolence, the reality
that is perhaps the last and only hope for real peace on earth.

“We have power, a power that cannot be found in bullets and guns,
but we have power. It is a power as old as the insights of Jesus of
Nazareth and as modern as the techniques of Mahatma Gandhi. …
The Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian
method of nonviolence is one of the most potent weapons available.”

“Evil may so shape events that Caesar may occupy a palace and
Christ a cross, but one day that same Christ will rise up and split
history into AD and BC so that even the life of Caesar must be
dated by His name … God is more fundamental than sin or evil.
Good Friday must give way to Easter Sunday.”

“I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi
and all the other southern states. I have looked at her beautiful
churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld
the impressive outlay of her massive religious education buildings.
Over and over again I have found myself asking: ‘What kind of
people worship here? Who is their God?’”

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the
servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It
must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.
If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become
an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”

“In recent months several people have said to me ‘Since violence is
the new cry, isn’t there a danger you will lose touch with the people
and be out of step with the times if you don’t change your views on nonviolence?’ My answer is always the same. Occasionally in life one
develops a conviction so precious and meaningful that he will stand
on it till the end. That is what I have found in nonviolence.

“I have decided I am going to do battle for my philosophy. You ought
to believe something in life, believe that thing so fervently that you
will stand up with it until the end of your days. I can’t believe that
God wants us to hate. I am tired of violence. What kind of nation is
it that applauds nonviolence whenever Negroes face white people in
the streets of the United States but applauds violence and burning
and death when these same Negroes are sent to the fields of

“A time comes when silence is betrayal … but the calling to speak is
often a vocation of agony.”

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on
military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching
spiritual death.”

“We must pursue peaceful ends by peaceful means. Many people cry,
‘Peace, Peace’ but they refuse to do the things that make for peace.
… The stage of history is replete with the chants and choruses of the
conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace.”

“We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to
endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force.
Do to us what you will; we will still love you. We cannot in conscience
obey your unjust laws. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral
obligation as cooperation with good.”

“We must pursue peaceful ends by peaceful means. I’m committed to
nonviolence absolutely, I am just not going to kill anybody, whether
it’s in Vietnam or here at home. … If nonviolent protest fails this
summer, I will continue to preach and teach it. … I plan to stand by
nonviolence (because) only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to
the chain of violence in the world and lead toward community where
people live together without fear.”

“Violence and nonviolence agree that suffering can be a very
powerful social force. But there is a difference. Violence says
suffering can be a powerful social force by inflicting it on somebody
else, so this is what we do in war. … The nonviolent say that
suffering becomes a powerful social force when you willingly accept
the violence on yourself, so that self-suffering stands at the center
of the nonviolent movement. …

“There is no easy way to create a world where people can live
together … but if such a world is created … it will be accomplished by
persons who have the language to put an end to suffering by willingly
suffering themselves rather than inflicting suffering on others. …
Unearned suffering is redemptive.”

“Those who adhere to or follow the philosophy of nonviolence must
follow a consistent principle of non-injury. They must consistently
refuse to inflict injury upon another.”

“Humanity is waiting for something other than blind imitation of the
past. … If we want truly to advance a step further, if we want to turn
over a new leaf and really set a new man afoot, we must begin to
turn humanity away from the long and desolate night of violence. May
it not be that the new person that the world needs is the nonviolent
person. … A dark, desperate, sin-sick world waits for this new kind of
person, this new kind of power.”

“I am in eternal opposition to poverty, racism and militarism … and
committed to nonviolence absolutely.”

“What is the summum bonum of life? I think I have discovered the
highest good. It is love. This principle stands at the center of the
cosmos. As John says, ‘God is love.’ He who loves is a participant
in the being of God. He who hates does not know God.”

“There is no graded scale of essential worth (among people); there
is no divine right of another. Every human being has etched in his
or her personality the indelible stamp of the Creator. Every person
must be respected because God loves him or her. The worth of an
individual does not lie in the measure of his intellect, his racial
origin or his social position. Human worth lies in relatedness to
God. An individual has value because he or she has value to God.”

“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own

“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.”

“War is not the answer. We still have a choice today; nonviolent
coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision
to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace 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

“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 (and daughters) of God, and our brothers (and sisters)
wait eagerly for our response.”

Gary G. Kohls is a retired physician, a co-founder of Every Church
A Peace Church, and an anti-war activist from Duluth, Minnesota.

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