This chapter is substantially more challenging that those that preceded it. Dr. King's call to racial reconciliation and brotherhood is not only morally right, and in agreement with scripture, it is now also now a rather popular idea. However, the radically ideas which gave birth to King's demand for civil rights are unpopular as ever. There remains much work to be done.
|Photo by Dick DeMarsico|
In obedience to the words of Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:43-47), King called for people of all races and nationalities to love not only their kin, but their enemies as well. He encouraged dialogue; he preached forgiveness. When his enemies would not submit themselves to an ideology of peace and equality, he did not throw up his hands and say that diplomacy had failed. He employed no secondary strategy after love. He did not preach the unconditional love of God as a means to an end, or a tactic to use before resorting to violence. Instead, King rightly taught that the work of God's unconditional love was the very purpose of human existence (2 Corinthians 16:21).
I know that opinions on the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq are intensely divided, and tempers can flare up quickly when they are discussed. I don't intend to discuss them here. There are some who may find such fault with King's speech in this chapter, that they cannot listen to the good word it does contain. For this reason I've excerpted what I believe to be essential, true, and worthy of Christian consideration. If you find yourself enraged by the idea of objecting to any of these wars, please know that King spoke respectfully of our soldiers; however, please spare yourself undo excitement, and do not read this speech in it's entirety. I will leave you to apply the following excerpt as wisely as you may.
“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 am 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?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. 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, for those it calls "enemy," for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.….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. [sustained applause] 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. [applause] ” - Beyond Vietnam, King 1967