A classic from theologian Obery Hendricks, re-posted from (May 2, 2014).
I speak the password primeval…I give the sign of democracy; By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpoint of on equal terms.
Recently on The Huffington Post I explored Martin Luther King’s rejection of capitalist logic and his endorsement of Democratic Socialism as an antidote to the ills and injustices inherent to the capitalist system he so fervently opposed. These include capitalism’s subordination of human welfare to the pursuit of profits; its transformation of greed from Christianity’s Third Mortal Sin to the preeminent capitalist virtue (based on a selective reading of Adam Smith); and its rejection of the biblically-mandated responsibility to “love your neighbor as yourself,” i.e., to care for society’s poor and vulnerable. In addition to the consternation that I would dare to use Martin Luther King and “socialism” in the same sentence, a number of readers also seized on King’s endorsement as confirmation of the old charge that he was a Communist sympathizer. Continue reading
Day 28 of our Lenten Journey through Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech.
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.
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. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.
Excerpting Obey Hendricks (photo above) in “Why Martin Luther King had to Die” (April 4, 2014):
The indictments King offered of capitalism and the class inequality that bedeviled American society during his travels were considered extremely inflammatory by members of the power elite. To one audience he said, “We’re dealing in a sense with class issues, we’re dealing with the problem between the haves and the have-nots.” He told a New York Times reporter, “In a sense, you could say that we’re involved in a class struggle.” Elsewhere he declared, “we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power.” King was now no longer talking about civil rights; he was talking systemic change, even structural revolution: “I think we must see the great distinction here between a reform movement and a revolutionary movement.” He made it clear that what he advocated was a revolutionary movement and revolutionary action that would “raise certain basic questions about the whole society…. [T]his means a revolution of values” that for him went beyond issues of race. To King that meant, as he said more than once, that “the whole structure of American life must be changed.” Continue reading
From Obery Hendricks in The Politics of Jesus (2007), on Jesus’ command to love our neighbors:
In practical terms this means that when we who claim to know God become aware that any of God’s children are caught in webs of oppression in mind, body, or spirit, it is our divine duty to struggle for the liberation and deliverance of our suffering neighbors in the same way that we would struggle for our own. In this sense, the only true evidence of one’s love for God—and the only true evidence of real spirituality—lies not in retreating to a private prayer closet, although it is important to go there to gather strength and guidance by communing with God undistracted. The only authentic evidence of spirituality is that we have personally sought and struggled for the health, wholeness, and freedom of others.