Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr

some wounds don’t bleed

These are timely words. As we approach next week’s election the rhetoric has been as vitriolic as I have ever experienced in a presidential election. Both sides would have us believe the other candidate is Lucifer incarnate.

The sad truth is that both candidates are flawed, even as we all are. Neither of these two candidates will ever make it to top of the most likable list. But, that’s not the issue.

At the end of the day it isn’t about likability, is it? On November 8th we must vote for the candidate that we feel will do the best job at leading our nation in the direction we think is best.

I plan on casting my ballot for the candidate with a lifetime record of public service, the one easily the most qualified and most experienced. I could not in good conscience ever vote for someone that uncontrollably spews hatred, racism, bigotry in every conversation. I want a leader with plans, not an egocentric ass with nauseatingly-repeated one liners telling us how much everyone adores him.

We must vote. We must vote our conscience. We must not be afraid to do what is right. Otherwise, the wounds we will inflict on our country are small compared with the wounds will will inflict on our own souls.

a better distribution of wealth

I am not sure about democratic socialism. The sound of that is enough to cause me pause. History has taught us that socialism is a term and political system we all must fear.

But, I have no problem agreeing with both Dr. King and the Honorable Mr. Sanders. They are absolutely correct in calling for a better distribution of wealth for all of God’s children.

Income inequality in our country continues to grow, and the ever-widening chasm between the obscenely rich and the desperately poor is the most dangerous divide our nation faces. This is a clear and present danger that is actually far more frightening than the term socialism.

saved by love

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. — Reinhold Niebuhr

This is my third and final post in this series on Reinhold Niebuhr.  I began with saved by faith, and then yesterday was saved by hope. So it is fitting to conclude this morning with saved by love.

Niebuhr (1892 – 1971) was an American theologian, ethicist and professor at Union Theological Seminary for more than 30 years. Among his most influential books are Moral Man and Immoral Society and The Nature and Destiny of Man, the second of which Modern Library ranked one of the top 20 nonfiction books of the twentieth century.

Numerous politicians and activists such as Presidents Obama and Carter, Martin Luther King, Jr., Hillary Clinton, Madeline Albright, Hubert Humphrey and John McCain have cited his influence on their thought. Arthur Schlesinger described Niebuhr as “the most influential American theologian of the 20th century” and Time Magazine posthumously called Niebuhr “the greatest Protestant theologian in America since Jonathan Edwards.

Niebuhr’s appeal comes from the way he confronts us with the uncompromising demands of the Christian faith and way of life. He holds up the Christian ideal as the dominating principle in dealing with social problems and then attempts to show the direction Christian action should take. He always connects faithfulness to action, thus keeping Christianity from being remote and unrelated to the way we live.

In genuine prophetic Christianity the moral qualities of the Christ are not only our hope, but our despair. Out of that despair arises a new hope centered in the revelation of God in Christ. Christian faith, is, in other words, a type of optimism which places ultimate confidence in the love of God and not the love of man. It insists, quite logically, that this ultimate hope becomes possible only to those who no longer place their confidence in purely human possibilities. Repentence is thus the gateway into the Kingdom of God.

transforming the Jericho Road

We are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will only be the initial act. One day…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 is not haphazard and superficial. It understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

I call this transformation crossing the bridge from compassion to justice. It’s not enough to respond to the sight of the poor and hungry with a reactionary gift. It’s not enough to even give regularly to help feed and care for those we know are in need.

Both are good. And both make a real difference. But neither is what is truly needed.

An infection cannot be cured with bandaids.

We can end hunger in our lifetime. We can change the world forever. But to do so requires more than compassion.

Ending hunger in our lifetime requires us to take the bone away from the dog. It requires us to confront the systems that oppress the poor and hungry and say ” Enough. No more.”

We can transform the Jericho Road. It just requires justice.

hunger for spiritual leadership

As I was reading through my emails on New Year’s Eve I came across this well-written piece on Pope Francis and spiritual leadership. I found it thought provoking, and felt it was well worth sharing. Please let me know your response.

The following article was written by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism. It is unedited and reprinted in its entirety:

The Frances Phenomenon and America’s Yearning for Values, Leadership and God

 Posted: 12/31/2013 6:00 pm

There is much vigorous discussion about what the election of Pope Francis will mean for the future of the Catholic Church. Speculation about such matters and all matters of Church doctrine and theology are best left to Catholic believers to address. But of interest to us all is the impact that the Pope has already had on our country, and what the response to him says about religion in American society.

 This is a difficult time for America. Ours is a discouraged and disheartened country. Many of our citizens are experiencing what Martin Luther King called “the dark and desolate valleys of despair.” Families are struggling and unemployment is high. America is uncertain about what course to take at home and abroad. And meanwhile, political leaders disappoint us at every turn. They are long on doublespeak, bombast, and the intricate art of self-preservation, but short on solutions and inspiration.

 In the past, religion was an answer in times such as these; when life was hard, we found comfort and community in our churches and synagogues. But according to conventional wisdom, this time around Americans are looking in other places. Seemingly more secular, wary of dogmas and distrustful of institutions, 20% of Americans assert that they have no religious identity at all; these are the famous “nones.” And among those ages 18 to 29, an astonishing 32% are “nones.”

 America is a religious country. Never, since modern polling began, have Americans distanced themselves in such large numbers from formal religious identification. And commentators have seized upon this data to suggest that America is at a watershed. The preferences of the young, it is argued, foreshadow the coming collapse of organized religion as we have come to understand it. Tradition, religion and devotion are categories of the past; Americans are setting aside the great religious systems and hierarchies of our day and searching for answers elsewhere,

 Enter Pope Francis, whose sky-high popularity upends all of these theories.

 Not only does the Pope have an approval rating of almost 90% among American Catholics, but among all Americans, nearly 3 in 4 view him favorably. In the very early days of his papacy, the interest and excitement in his selection could be seen as a media-generated blip; but, 10 months later, there is clearly something more at work here. What could possibly account for the affection and regard in which this man — the ultimate “establishment” religious figure, head of the largest religious bureaucracy in the world — is held?

 It is not, I suggest, primarily a matter of his political views. Those on the left have applauded what they see as a dramatic leftward turn in the Pope’s statement; those on the right claim a change in political style rather than substance. While I like the political dimensions of his message, I don’t exaggerate their significance. His political positions are not that different from what his predecessors have said, and in any case, Americans as a whole — and Catholics too, I suspect — do not see Francis primarily as a “political pope.”

 What they do see, I think, is the profound authenticity of his leadership. Hungry for role models and desperate for authority figures with credible values and a true moral center, Americans are drawn to Pope Francis because of their sense that he speaks from principle and actually lives the values that he teaches. And not only that; he also radiates compassion and humility, as well as respect for those in our human family with whom he differs. The result is that for Americans, he generates hope among the murk and morass of everyday life, keeping us facing, even in tough times, in the direction of humanity.

 That the Pope has done this in such a brief time is a tribute to his leadership and his understanding of the human condition. That he has done so as the head of a massive religious bureaucracy that, until recently, was seen as scandal- and corruption-ridden, is nothing short of astonishing.

 But there is more to it. Yes, Americans crave leadership, but there is no way to separate Pope Francis from the spiritual values that he embodies. The Pope is not just a leader; he is a religious leader who, precisely because of his religious vitality, has succeeded in touching human hearts. The Pope Francis phenomenon is a reminder, yet again, that spirituality and not secularity is the driving force of modern life; it is his spiritual intensity that sets him apart and that provides the best answer to the spiritual emptiness of our time.

 It is simply impossible to understand the reactions of Americans to the Pope without recognizing the religious undercurrents that remain deeply embedded in American culture. Americans — whatever their religious affiliation, or lack thereof — sense his spiritual power. And that spiritual power is the key to comprehending his remarks on capitalism in Evangelii Gaudium: I read them not as a left-wing political platform, but as recognition that any society built solely on market values and individual effort will steadily erode the bonds of solidarity, morality, and trust that flow from a commitment to the sacred and a belief in God.

 None of this should be taken to mean that we should embrace religious institutions and creeds as they are. Pope Francis, it seems to me, has caught the imagination of the American public by suggesting the opposite. I cannot say what his papacy will mean for the Catholic Church, but among the American people, he is seen as both deeply rooted in an ancient religious tradition while also open to retrieving and transforming old symbols and beliefs. And he has caught the attention of Americans, and especially young Americans, who affirm modernity but are amenable to a more spiritual way of perceiving the world.

 Pope Francis is a man of incomparable gifts. All of us who do religious work in this country can learn from his example.


the curse of poverty has no justification

I just read a wonderful article by Bishop Sandra Steiner Bell in the March 22nd issue of the UNITED METHODIST REPORTER. Entitled “Faith in Christ calls us to seek justice, end poverty,” the piece uses child poverty statistics in West Virginia to introduce the larger issue of people of faith working toward peace and justice.

The good bishop states that believers are responsible for leading works of charity and justice that will alleviate the injustice that fills our world. In her words, “This is the body of Christ engaged in action that creates structural change in society to reduce and eliminate poverty.”

The bishop points out that there is no “purely spiritual answer to the pain of the poor.” Amen! We have to take action if we are to achieve a world where justice reigns. Faith, advocacy and action on behalf of the poor and hungry are all necessary ingredients in achieving justice.

She quotes the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr who once said:

The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization…The time has come to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.

We need to thank this enlightened episcopal leader for her call to action. Again, in her words, “As the people of faith, may we be bold!”