Would The Left Accept The Philosophy of Dr. King Today?

 

Most folks can tell you who Martin Luther King, Jr. was and recite his most famous quote, a wonderful one, that we should judge one another by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. They can also tell you he was shot to death, ironically, most likely due to the color of his skin.

Lost on many though is that Dr. King was a brilliant social theorist on more than just race – but on ethics and religion too. 

On this holiday, I ask that you take some time to read below Dr. King’s 1967 work “A Knock at Midnight.”

I wonder if we were to publish this work under the name of a conservative author if the left would not declare it racist and wrong and use all their other knee-jerk assessment words. The message fits well with today’s understanding of American conservatism.

Dr. King makes a strong case against moral relativism. He believes in a right and wrong. He rejects “black” and “white” institutions, arguing instead for unity. He is unwavering in the truth that a good life comes through Christ. He believes in the power of persistent prayer. He loves science but subordinates it as a route to happiness to the Church. He believes in the importance of individual journeys over collective ones. He even takes on the Church when it subordinates itself to being a servant of the state, instead of the conscious of the state.

Does the left today appreciate any of what Dr. King believed in 1967? I don’t think so.

Enjoy the work of Dr. King below:

 

Although this parable is concerned with the power of persistent prayer, it may also serve as a basis for our thought concerning many contemporary problems and the role of the church in grappling with them. It is midnight in the parable; it is also midnight in our world, and the darkness is so deep that we can hardly see which way to turn.

It is midnight within the social order. On the international horizon nations are engaged in a colossal and bitter contest for supremacy. Two world wars have been fought within a generation, and the clouds of another war are dangerously low. Man now has atomic and nuclear weapons that could within seconds completely destroy the major cities of the world. Yet the arms race continues and nuclear tests still explode in the atmosphere, with the grim prospect that the very air we breathe will be poisoned by radioactive fallout. Will these circumstances and weapons bring the annihilation of the human race?

When confronted by midnight in the social order we have in the past turned to science for help. And little wonder! On so many occasions science has saved us. When we were in the midnight of physical limitation and material inconvenience, science lifted us to the bright morning of physical and material comfort. When we were in the midnight of crippling ignorance and superstition, science brought us to the daybreak of the free and open mind. When we were in the midnight of dread plagues and diseases, science, through surgery, sanitation, and the wonder drugs, ushered in the bright day of physical health, thereby prolonging our lives and making for greater security and physical well-being. How naturally we turn to science in a day when the problems of the world are so ghastly and ominous.

But alas! science cannot now rescue us, for even the scientist is lost in the terrible midnight of our age. Indeed, science gave us the very instruments that threaten to bring universal suicide. So modern man faces a dreary and frightening midnight in the social order.

This midnight in man’s external collective is paralleled by midnight in his internal individual life. It is midnight within the psychological order. Everywhere paralyzing fears harrow people by day and haunt them by night. Deep clouds of anxiety and depression are suspended in our mental skies. More people are emotionally disturbed today than at any other time of human history. The psychopathic wards of our hospitals are crowded, and the most popular psychologists today are the psychoanalysts. Bestsellers in psychology are books such as Man Against Himself, The Neurotic Personality of Our Times, and Modern Man in Search of a Soul. Bestsellers in religion are such books as Peace of Mind and Peace of Soul. The popular clergyman preaches soothing sermons on “How to Be Happy” and “How to Relax.” Some have been tempted to revise Jesus’ command to read, “Go ye into all the world, keep your blood pressure down, and, lo, I will make you a well-adjusted personality.” All of this is indicative that it is midnight within the inner lives of men and women.

It is also midnight within the moral order. At midnight colours lose their distinctiveness and become a sullen shade of grey. Moral principles have lost their distinctiveness. For modern man, absolute right and wrong are a matter of what the majority is doing. Right and wrong are relative to likes and dislikes and the customs of a particular community. We have unconsciously applied Einstein’s theory of relativity, which properly described the physical universe, to the moral and ethical realm.

Midnight is the hour when men desperately seek to obey the eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt not get caught.” According to the ethic of midnight, the cardinal sin is to be caught and the cardinal virtue is to get by. It is all right to lie, but one must lie with real finesse. It is all right to steal, if one is so dignified that, if caught, the charge becomes embezzlement, not robbery. It is permissible even to hate, if one so dresses his hating in the garments of love that hating appears to be loving. The Darwinian concept of the survival of the fittest has been substituted by a philosophy of the survival of the slickest. This mentality has brought a tragic breakdown of moral standards, and the midnight of moral degeneration deepens.

As in the parable, so in our world today, the deep darkness of midnight is interrupted by the sound of a knock. On the door of the church millions of people knock. In this country the roll of church members is longer than ever before. More than one hundred and fifteen million people are at least paper members of some church or synagogue. This represents an increase of 100 per cent since 1929, although the population has increased by only 31 per cent.

Visitors to Soviet Russia, whose official policy is atheistic, report that the churches in that nation not only are crowded, but that attendance continues to grow. Harrison Salisbury, in an article in The New York Times, states that Communist officials are disturbed that so many young people express a growing interest in the church and religion. After forty years of the most vigorous efforts to suppress religion, the hierarchy of the Communist party now faces the inescapable fact that millions of people are knocking on the door of the church.

This numerical growth should not be overemphasized. We must not be tempted to confuse spiritual power and large numbers. Jumboism, as someone has called it, is an utterly fallacious standard for measuring positive power. An increase in quantity does not automatically bring an increase in quality. A larger membership does not necessarily represent a correspondingly increased commitment to Christ. Almost always the creative, dedicated minority has made the world better. But although a numerical growth in church membership does not necessarily reflect a concomitant increase in ethical commitment, millions of people do feel that the church provides an answer to the deep confusion that encompasses their lives. It is still the one familiar landmark where the weary traveller by midnight comes. It is the one house which stands where it has always stood, the house to which the man travelling at midnight either comes or refuses to come. Some decide not to come. But the many who come and knock are desperately seeking a little bread to tide them over.

The traveller asks for three loaves of bread. He wants the bread of faith. In a generation of so many colossal disappointments, men have lost faith in God, faith in man, and faith in the future. Many feel as did William Wilberforce, who in 1801 said, “I dare not marry—the future is so unsettled,” or as did William Pitt, who in 1806 said, “There is scarcely anything round us but ruin and despair.” In the midst of staggering disillusionment, many cry for the bread of faith.

There is also a deep longing for the bread of hope. In the early years of this century many people did not hunger for this bread. The days of the first telephones, automobiles, and aeroplanes gave them a radiant optimism. They worshipped at the shrine of inevitable progress. They believed that every new scientific achievement lifted man to higher levels of perfection. But then a series of tragic developments, revealing the selfishness and corruption of man, illustrated with frightening clarity the truth of Lord Acton’s dictum, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This awful discovery led to one of the most colossal breakdowns of optimism in history. For so many people, young and old, the light of hope went out, and they roamed wearily in the dark chambers of pessimism. Many concluded that life has no meaning. Some agreed with the philosopher Schopenhauer that life is an endless pain with a painful end, and that life is a tragicomedy played over and over again with only slight changes in costume and scenery. Others cried out with Shakespeare’s Macbeth that life

is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

But even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope.

And there is the deep longing for the bread of love. Everybody wishes to love and be loved. He who feels that he is not loved feels that he does not count. Much has happened in the modern world to make men feel that they do not belong. Living in a world which has become oppressively impersonal, many of us have come to feel that we are little more than numbers. Ralph Borsodi in an arresting picture of a world wherein numbers have replaced persons writes that the modern mother is often maternity case No. 8434 and her child, after being fingerprinted and footprinted, becomes No. 8003, and that a funeral in a large city is an event in Parlour B with Class B flowers and decorations at which Preacher No. 14 officiates and Musician No. 84 sings Selection No. 174. Bewildered by this tendency to reduce man to a card in a vast index, man desperately searches for the bread of love.

When the man in the parable knocked on his friend’s door and asked for the three loaves of bread, he received the impatient retort, “Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” How often have men experienced a similar disappointment when at midnight they knock on the door of the church. Millions of Africans, patiently knocking on the door of the Christian church where they seek the bread of social justice, have either been altogether ignored or told to wait until later, which almost always means never. Millions of American Negroes, starving for the want of the bread of freedom, have knocked again and again on the door of so-called white churches, but they have usually been greeted by a cold indifference or a blatant hypocrisy. Even the white religious leaders, who have a heartfelt desire to open the door and provide the bread, are often more cautious than courageous and more prone to follow the expedient than the ethical path. One of the shameful tragedies of history is that the very institution which should remove man from the midnight of racial segregation participates in creating and perpetuating the midnight.

In the terrible midnight of war men have knocked on the door of the church to ask for the bread of peace, but the church has often disappointed them. What more pathetically reveals the irrelevancy of the church in present-day world affairs than its witness regarding war? In a world gone mad with arms buildups, chauvinistic passions, and imperialistic exploitation, the church has either endorsed these activities or remained appallingly silent. During the last two world wars, national churches even functioned as the ready lackeys of the state, sprinkling holy water upon the battleships and joining the mighty armies in singing, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” A weary world, pleading desperately for peace, has often found the church morally sanctioning war.

And those who have gone to the church to seek the bread of economic justice have been left in the frustrating midnight of economic privation. In many instances the church has so aligned itself with the privileged classes and so defended the status quo that it has been unwilling to answer the knock at midnight. The Greek Church in Russia allied itself with the status quo and became so inextricably bound to the despotic czarist regime that it became impossible to be rid of the corrupt political and social system without being rid of the church. Such is the fate of every ecclesiastical organization that allies itself with things-as-they-are.

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. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause men everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men, imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. Men far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travellers at midnight.

While speaking of the laxity of the church, I must not overlook the fact that the so-called Negro church has also left men disappointed at midnight. I say so-called Negro church because ideally there can be no Negro or white church. It is to their everlasting shame that white Christians developed a system of racial segregation within the church, and inflicted so many indignities upon its Negro worshippers that they had to organize their own churches.

Two types of Negro churches have failed to provide bread. One burns with emotionalism, and the other freezes with classism. The former, reducing worship to entertainment, places more emphasis on volume than on content and confuses spirituality with muscularity. The danger in such a church is that the members may have more religion in their hands and feet than in their hearts and souls. At midnight this type of church has neither the vitality nor the relevant gospel to feed hungry souls.

The other type of Negro church that feeds no midnight traveller has developed a class system and boasts of its dignity, its membership of professional people, and its exclusiveness. In such a church the worship service is cold and meaningless, the music dull and uninspiring, and the sermon little more than a homily on current events. If the pastor says too much about Jesus Christ, the members feel that he is robbing the pulpit of dignity. If the choir sings a Negro spiritual, the members claim an affront to their class status. This type of church tragically fails to recognize that worship at its best is a social experience in which people from all levels of life come together to affirm their oneness and unity under God. At midnight men are altogether ignored because of their limited education, or they are given bread that has been hardened by the winter of morbid class consciousness.

In the parable we notice that after the man’s initial disappointment, he continued to knock on his friend’s door. Because of his importunity—his persistence—he finally persuaded his friend to open the door. Many men continue to knock on the door of the church at midnight, even after the church has so bitterly disappointed them, because they know the bread of life is there. The church today is challenged to proclaim God’s Son, Jesus Christ, to be the hope of men in all of their complex personal and social problems. Many will continue to come in quest of answers to life’s problems. Many young people who knock on the door are perplexed by the uncertainties of life, confused by daily disappointments, and disillusioned by the ambiguities of history. Some who come have been taken from their schools and careers and cast in the role of soldiers. We must provide them with the fresh bread of hope and imbue them with the conviction that God has the power to bring good out of evil. Some who come are tortured by a nagging guilt resulting from their wandering in the midnight of ethical relativism and their surrender to the doctrine of self-expression. We must lead them to Christ who will offer them the fresh bread of forgiveness. Some who knock are tormented by the fear of death as they move toward the evening of life. We must provide them with the bread of faith in immortality, so that they may realize that this earthly life is merely an embryonic prelude to a new awakening.

Midnight is a confusing hour when it is difficult to be faithful. The most inspiring word that the church must speak is that no midnight long remains. The weary traveller by midnight who asks for bread is really seeking the dawn. Our eternal message of hope is that dawn will come. Our slave foreparents realized this. They were never unmindful of the fact of midnight, for always there was the rawhide whip of the overseer and the auction block where families were torn asunder to remind them of its reality. When they thought of the agonizing darkness of midnight, they sang:

Oh, nobody knows de trouble I’ve seen,

Glory Hallelujah!

Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down,

Oh, yes, Lord,

Sometimes I’m almost to de groun’,

Oh, yes, Lord,

Oh, nobody knows de trouble I’ve seen,

Glory Hallelujah!

Encompassed by a staggering midnight but believing that morning would come, they sang:

I’m so glad trouble don’t last alway.

O my Lord, O my Lord, what shall I do?

Their positive belief in the dawn was the growing edge of hope that kept the slaves faithful amid the most barren and tragic circumstances.

Faith in the dawn arises from the faith that God is good and just. When one believes this, he knows that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate. He can walk through the dark night with the radiant conviction that all things work together for good for those that love God. Even the most starless midnight may herald the dawn of some great fulfillment.

At the beginning of the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, we set up a voluntary car pool to get the people to and from their jobs. For eleven long months our car pool functioned extraordinarily well. Then Mayor Gayle introduced a resolution instructing the city’s legal department to file such proceedings as it might deem proper to stop the operation of the car pool or any transportation system growing out of the bus boycott. A hearing was set for Tuesday, November 13, 1956.

At our regular weekly mass meeting, scheduled the night before the hearing, I had the responsibility of warning the people that the car pool would probably be enjoined. I knew that they had willingly suffered for nearly twelve months, but could we now ask them to walk back and forth to their jobs? And if not, would we be forced to admit that the protest had failed? For the first time I almost shrank from appearing before them.

When the evening came, I mustered sufficient courage to tell them the truth. I tried, however, to conclude on a note of hope. “We have moved all of these months,” I said, “in the daring faith that God is with us in our struggle. The many experiences of days gone by have vindicated that faith in a marvellous way. Tonight we must believe that a way will be made out of no way.” Yet I could feel the cold breeze of pessimism pass over the audience. The night was darker than a thousand midnights. The light of hope was about to fade and the lamp of faith to flicker.

A few hours later, before Judge Carter, the city argued that we were operating a “private enterprise” without a franchise. Our lawyers argued brilliantly that the car pool was a voluntary “share-a-ride” plan provided without profit as a service by Negro churches. It became obvious that Judge Carter would rule in favour of the city.

At noon, during a brief recess, I noticed an unusual commotion in the courtroom. Mayor Gayle was called to the back room. Several reporters moved excitedly in and out of the room. Momentarily a reporter came to the table where, as chief defendent, I sat with the lawyers. “Here is the decision that you have been waiting for,” he said. “Read this release.”

In anxiety and hope, I read these words: “The United States Supreme Court today unanimously ruled bus segregation unconstitutional in Montgomery, Alabama.” My heart throbbed with an inexpressible joy. The darkest hour of our struggle had become the first hour of victory. Someone shouted from the back of the courtroom, “God Almighty has spoken from Washington.”

The dawn will come. Disappointment, sorrow, and despair are born at midnight, but morning follows. “Weeping may endure for a night,” says the Psalmist, “but joy cometh in the morning.” This faith adjourns the assemblies of hopelessness and brings new light into the dark chambers of pessimism.

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  1. Profile photo of CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member

    Great question Tommy — I was wondering the same thing this morning while I watched this video this morning. 

    His murder robbed our country of a great voice and visionary. How history might have been different if he had remained to contribute to the national conversation!

    • #1
    • January 21, 2013 at 10:24 am
  2. Profile photo of Misthiocracy Member

    Essays like this, I convert to epub for later access on my ereader.

    • #2
    • January 21, 2013 at 10:47 am
  3. Profile photo of Owl of Minerva Member

    You’d be surprised how much academic work has gone into reconstructing MLK as a secular prophet for progressivism. Or maybe you wouldn’t be.

    • #3
    • January 21, 2013 at 10:50 am
  4. Profile photo of Freesmith Member

    I assume the belief here is that MLK’s political stance had more in common with today’s conservatism than with today’s secular progressivism. The implication is that Dr. King would sympathize with the contemporary Right and oppose much of the contemporary Left.

    Pardon me while I laugh.

    This is on a par with the many conservative citations of FDR’s opposition to public sector labor unions – it is ridiculous. Every Democrat knows that if FDR were alive today he would be 100% in favor of public sector labor unions and would do nothing to curb their power. It wasn’t clear at the time how well such unions would enhance Democrat Party power and influence, but it is now.

    King was the leader of an outsider political movement in 1967. That status has long since ended for American blacks. They are part of the inside now, and their views – typified by the positions of John Lewis, Andrew Young, RD Abernathy, Julian Bond and many others – have adjusted to the new status. 

    There is no reason to think King would be any different. Like FDR and like Obama, MLK would simply “evolve.”

    • #4
    • January 21, 2013 at 10:50 am
  5. Profile photo of Owl of Minerva Member

    Star Parker has something on this at Townhall.

    http://townhall.com/columnists/starparker/2013/01/21/could-dr-king-have-given-the-inaugural-benediction-n1492225/page/full/

    EDIT: Freesmith has a point. MLK understood the future of African American freedom as tied up in the withdrawal of American imperialism in Vietnam and the fusion of labor unions with the civil rights movement. MLK gave his most famous speech, “I have a dream,” at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and included several prominent African American labor union activists, some of whom are still with us today. Part of this is the result of the age; during the last 50s and early 60s, labor unions were at their peak of influence, and members were making excellent wages as participants in the only industrialized nation to retain its infrastructure and workforce.

    In today’s context, it is hard to know if MLK would be so interested in tying the fates of African Americans to unions, but we know that those who continued after King’s tragic death certainly were. When MLK was at his best, however, he didn’t really engage in zero-sum political demagogy. He transcended it.

    • #5
    • January 21, 2013 at 10:58 am
  6. Profile photo of Misthiocracy Member

    Question: Did the radical left even accept Dr. King’s teachings at the time? Was he not derided in radical circles as a black man who was “non-threatening” to whites?

    • #6
    • January 21, 2013 at 11:00 am
  7. Profile photo of Devereaux Inactive
    Freesmith: 

    There is no reason to think King would be any different. Like FDR and like Obama, MLK would simply “evolve.” · 0 minutes ago

    I would disagree.

    MLK was hardly a socialist, nor a secularist. He had strong faith beliefs, and indeed felt that the movement was supported by God.

    The black community has been co-opted by the Left, as so many things have. The blacks of today have forgotten the words, thoughts, or ideas of the times. They have forgotten the community they had, the respect they had, the self-respect they had. It is sad, but it is the socialist/communist way – pretend that those things that others might value were really your ideas, then adjust things to work for you. You forget that the South was wholly Democrat at the time – not hardly reason for the blacks to embrace that party.

    Yet they have.

    But to your question, Tommy, I don’t believe the liberals have EVER embraced any of the concepts of MLK – then or now. It was merely convenient – a way to convert a loss to a victory. They seem to do that well.

    • #7
    • January 21, 2013 at 11:00 am
  8. Profile photo of Owl of Minerva Member
    Misthiocracy: Question: Did the radical left even accept Dr. King’s teachings at the time? Was he not derided in radical circles as a black man who was “non-threatening” to whites? · 5 minutes ago

    Stokely Carmichael hated King’s guts, and SNCC had leaders who referred to MLK as “De Lawd” to mock MLK’s persona of the religious founder. Part of this is King’s fault. He often arrived in towns with racial problems to draw attention to his SCLC, raise funds, and then roll out without having done anything to relieve the tension. Instead, things would get worse when the press left. In his defense, MLK was trying to keep civil rights in the news, but he was alienating the grassroots efforts to register African Americans to vote in the process, allowing lesser men to exploit their frustrations and target them at MLK.

    • #8
    • January 21, 2013 at 11:10 am
  9. Profile photo of Mark Member

    I grew up as a liberal Democrat in the 1960s and we did embrace MLK’s concepts and greatly admired the physical and moral courage of those who fought for civil rights. What I did not dream of was that the day would come when it would be liberals who believed you should judge a person not on the content of their character but on the color of their skin, just as if you had asked me 40 years ago to bet on which party I thought would be more likely to nominate for the Presidency a candidate who had found Jesus through the preaching of a race-baiting anti-Semite in whose congregation he had sat for most of his adult life, I would not have bet it would be the Democrats. Times have changed. It’s a world turned upside-down.

    • #9
    • January 21, 2013 at 11:26 am
  10. Profile photo of jetstream Inactive
    Mark: I grew up as a liberal Democrat in the 1960s and we did embrace MLK’s concepts and greatly admired the physical and moral courage of those who fought for civil rights. What I did not dream of was that the day would come when it would be liberals who believed you should judge a person not on the content of their character but on the color of their skin, just as if you had asked me 40 years ago to bet on which party I thought would be more likely to nominate for the Presidency a candidate who had found Jesus through the preaching of a race-baiting anti-Semite in whose congregation he had sat for most of his adult life, I would not have bet it would be the Democrats. Times have changed. It’s a world turned upside-down. · 8 minutes ago

    It’s possible I remember the details incorrectly, but, the Civil Rights act was passed with a majority of Republicans and significant opposition within the Democratic Party.

    • #10
    • January 21, 2013 at 11:52 am
  11. Profile photo of Edward Smith Inactive

    Let’s get the cliche out of the way: Excellent Post.

    I do not know what Martin Luther King’s positions would have evolved into. His philosophy allowed much more room for what Conservatives advance than people who pretend to be his successors admit) would have evolved into.

    I suspect he would not have been at all happy with the results of the Great Society programs, and would have spoken bitterly of the results LBJ anticipated as far as buying the votes of the majority of Blacks.

    This speech is problematic in that I can see any number of specific references made by Dr. King that not only reflect their time but no longer reflect ours, but …

    I know of one Liberal who would latch onto these specific points to turn your argument on its head and call it refuted.

    Reading and listening with discernment is a rare skill, too often neglected in favor of reading and listening selectively.

    We all do it. The best among us at least acknowledge that we are prone to that particularly pernicious intellectual vice.

    I’d like to say I am among the best of us, but that would be arrogant.

    • #11
    • January 21, 2013 at 11:55 am
  12. Profile photo of DocJay Member

    I’m pretty sure the racist party has no idea they are racists even when presented with facts.

    • #12
    • January 21, 2013 at 11:57 am
  13. Profile photo of Mark Member

    That is correct but the party alignments regarding liberals and conservatives was different then as both parties had liberal wings. Liberal Democrats and Republicans voted in favor of it while conservative Ds and Rs opposed it. Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act. He was personally not a bigoted man and actually helped fund local desegregation lawsuits in Arizona but opposed action on the federal level.

    jetstream
    Mark: I grew up as a liberal Democrat in the 1960s and we did embrace MLK’s concepts and greatly admired the physical and moral courage of those who fought for civil rights. · 8 minutes ago

    It’s possible I remember the details incorrectly, but, the Civil Rights act was passed with a majority of Republicans and significant opposition within the Democratic Party. · 1 minute ago

    • #13
    • January 21, 2013 at 11:57 am
  14. Profile photo of Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno Post author
    Mark
    Tommy De Seno: As usual, the conversation among the members is more enlightening than the post. I love Ricochet. · 7 minutes ago

    It’s a good topic you raised. The question as you posed it versus some of the comments make me realize there is a big difference between how today’s liberals would react to Rev King’s philosophy of 1963 or 1967 and the question of whether Rev King would have “evolved” if he had lived as so many other civil rights leaders did. · 14 minutes ago

    Agreed. Whether today’s left would agree with King of 1967 is a different topic than whether King would evolve into today’s left (but that’s a fascinating topic too).

    • #14
    • January 22, 2013 at 1:06 am
  15. Profile photo of Douglas Member
    Freesmith: Coretta Scott King, all but one of the King children, Benjamin Hooks, Ben Chavous, Jesse Jackson…the list goes on and on of associates and contemporaries of Martin Luther King Jr. who evolved from the Christianity-based civil rights of the 50’s and 60’s to the secular progressivism of today. It was no trouble at all.

    I really don’t understand this silly myth that King was some kind of conservative. King openly flirted with socialist groups, thought the US military was a force for evil in the world, and advocated, in his own words, “radical redistribution of economic power”. King was never a conservative, neither in the political or religious tradition. He preached a version of liberation theology… the same that James Cone would teach to Jeremiah Wright, and openly asserted that there was no life, liberty, or happiness without a guaranteed government income. He only used the soaring rhetoric of the founders when he knew the white rubes were watching, 

    Everything you need to know about King’s actual positions can be found in his own speeches. He was socialist in economics and left liberal in social policies.

    • #15
    • January 22, 2013 at 3:42 am
  16. Profile photo of Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno Post author
    Douglas
    Freesmith: Coretta Scott King, all but one of the King children, Benjamin Hooks, Ben Chavous, Jesse Jackson…the list goes on and on of associates and contemporaries of Martin Luther King Jr. who evolved from the Christianity-based civil rights of the 50’s and 60’s to the secular progressivism of today. It was no trouble at all.

    Everything you need to know about King’s actual positions can be found in his own speeches. He was socialist in economics and left liberal in social policies. · 59 minutes ago

    I’m not going to disagree with your assertion, but note that the video doesn’t support it.

    I heard nothing in any speech that called for a government solution to poverty.

    • #16
    • January 22, 2013 at 4:59 am
  17. Profile photo of Owl of Minerva Member

    Ricochetti here are showing their unfortunate knack for reading their personal ideology back into history as a sort of purity test.

    MLK was certainly in favor of centralized redistribution of wealth. He spent a decade fighting for civil rights only to see progress for racial justice move slowly, if at all. Over time, MLK lost much of his political capital, especially after denouncing the Vietnam War. Left in his place were radical, violent racial separatists, while white politicians nationally often did the minimum to provide greater economic access to African Americans.

    MLK had to handle the situation given to him. He saw how well blue-collar white workers were doing, and he saw how many people were benefiting from government transfer programs. Those two, for him, were the most likely ways African Americans could better themselves. He had no way of knowing the unintended consequences of public welfare, and he had no way of knowing that unions were at their peak rather than not on a constant rise. Moreover, he had to win his audience back over from left-wing extremists. So he fought for policies he thought would work.

    • #17
    • January 22, 2013 at 5:33 am
  18. Profile photo of Owl of Minerva Member

    MLK was not doctrinaire in theology. He hoped to resurrect the Social Gospel in his church but used the personalism taught at Boston University as an initial theological grounding and understood the limits to social action by way of Niebuhr. MLK was a postmillennialist, that is, a person who believed the activity of the church on earth could usher in the kingdom of God. He was also not much of a supernaturalist, though it depends on whether you read more into MLK’s political speeches–which are decidedly more secular and ecumenical than sermons meant for Christian groups. So MLK sounded liberationist sometimes, even though he wasn’t. He couldn’t be; it didn’t exist when MLK was in seminary or during much of his ministry.

    MLK very famously argued against communism throughout his life, relying on that great gospel passage that says the law was made for man not man for the law. Nevertheless, one of his closest advisers was a communist, a man named Bayard Rustin, but Rustin was much more of an operations guy. He helped put together events and organize communities. Needless to say, the relationship between MLK and communism was complicated.

    • #18
    • January 22, 2013 at 5:42 am
  19. Profile photo of Douglas Member
    Owl of Minerva: Ricochetti here are showing their unfortunate knack for reading their personal ideology back into history as a sort of purity test.

    No, I’m showing my unfortunate knack for telling the truth about the man and not buying into the grade school lies that were peddled to me. King was a leftist progressive, full tilt. His idea of racial equality was not Ward Connerly’s idea. King’s ideas track almost exactly with contemporary liberals: use the power of the government to redistribute wealth, enforce quotas (or “affirmative action” if you prefer), and, in short, generally reject our founding ideas all while selectively using the words of the founders to win the suckers over in the crowd. Meanwhile, the right has tried to co-opt the guy by making him into something he never was. I see Republican politicians talk about the man all the time as if he was one of the founders, just black and 200 years late. Its’ BS, though. King was what Europeans would call a Democratic Socialist, through and through. He would have been delighted at the mishmash of government set asides for minorities, and likely would have demanded even more.

    • #19
    • January 22, 2013 at 7:11 am
  20. Profile photo of Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno Post author

    Well, Dr. King is the first “O” in Google today.

    That’s more than I’ll ever be.

    • #20
    • January 22, 2013 at 7:21 am
  21. Profile photo of Freesmith Member

    Correct, Douglas, as the record of King’s family, contemporaries and followers clearly demonstrates. Progressives all.

    • #21
    • January 22, 2013 at 7:22 am
  22. Profile photo of Owl of Minerva Member

    RE: Douglas and Freesmith:

    It’s a worthwhile exercise to read what I write before you disagree with it. I conceded all that you mention, but my larger point was: so what? MLK’s ideas concerning redistribution and government intervention were relatively commonplace in the post-FDR world, even if they are not now. What was controversial was his insistence is that African Americans be part of what many thought was the the constant, government-led progress of the American century. He was wrong about the policy, but how could he know that?

    And that is what I mean about the retroactive purity test–you project your ideology onto historical figures who are situated in an intellectual milieu far different from your own and condemn them for–what exactly?–not agreeing with the future you of 2012? Who cares?

    When MLK wasn’t failing to meet a future standard of ideological purity, he led a movement that changed how Americans understood African Americans. He used non-violence and the more widely held Christian concepts of sacrificial love and forgiveness of sins. These are the two things that conservatives love about MLK. And they should. They’re MLK’s real legacy.

    • #22
    • January 22, 2013 at 7:28 am
  23. Profile photo of Owl of Minerva Member

    Also, to point to MLK’s family as somehow indicative of MLK’s contemporary trajectory is absurd. Two words: Ron Reagan.

    • #23
    • January 22, 2013 at 7:34 am
  24. Profile photo of Devereaux Inactive
    Owl of Minerva: RE: Douglas and Freesmith:

    And that is what I mean about the retroactive purity test–you project your ideology onto historical figures who are situated in an intellectual milieu far different from your own and condemn them for–what exactly?–not agreeing with the future you of 2012? Who cares?

    When MLK wasn’t failing to meet a future standard of ideological purity, he led a movement that changed how Americans understood African Americans. He used non-violence and the more widely held Christian concepts of sacrificial love and forgiveness of sins. These are the two things that conservatives love about MLK. And they should. They’re MLK’s real legacy. · 2 hours ago

    Very much like viewing Jefferson or Lincoln through modern society.

    • #24
    • January 22, 2013 at 10:06 am
  25. Profile photo of Freesmith Member

    You’re getting it all backwards.

    I didn’t criticize MLK because he was not a conservative according to my lights. I didn’t mention his legacy.

    I criticized those who want to see him as a conservative according to their lights. Because King was not a conservative and, by the example of his family, allies, contemporaries, followers and loyalists today, would not be one today.

    I stated that those who do think he was conservative do so out of a fantasy, one promulgated by much of our eager-to-please right wing media and those who make money selling pleasing nostrums. 

    The same people who think they are making a point by quoting FDR on public sector unions to “prove” that Roosevelt would be against them today.

    It is the conservative fantasy land that is my point, not MLK.

    Devereaux:

    View MLK through the prism of “modern” society? He’s only been dead 45 years. Many of his associates are still alive – good liberal Democrats all, aren’t they?

    On what issue do you think King would’ve broken with Abernathy, Lowery, Bond, Jackson, Lewis and Young?

    Name it.

    • #25
    • January 22, 2013 at 10:59 am
  26. Profile photo of captainpower Member

    The Three Dimensions of Complete LifeThe Street Sweeper

    What I’m saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.” If you can’t be a pine on the top of a hillBe a scrub in the valley—but beThe best little scrub on the side of the hill,Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.If you can’t be a highway just be a trailIf you can’t be the sun be a star;It isn’t by size that you win or fail—Be the best of whatever you are.And when you do this, when you do this, you’ve mastered the length of life.

    More:

    • #26
    • January 22, 2013 at 11:16 am
  27. Profile photo of Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno Post author

    As usual, the conversation among the members is more enlightening than the post. I love Ricochet.

    • #27
    • January 22, 2013 at 12:20 pm
  28. Profile photo of Freesmith Member

    Coretta Scott King, all but one of the King children, Benjamin Hooks, Ben Chavous, Jesse Jackson…the list goes on and on of associates and contemporaries of Martin Luther King Jr. who evolved from the Christianity-based civil rights of the 50’s and 60’s to the secular progressivism of today. It was no trouble at all.

    Dr. King remains an idol in the black community, the community that votes monolithically 90-to-95% for the Democrat Party, the party which has no values and doesn’t actually believe a word that it says. 

    Yet conservatives in their fantasy land want to imagine that King would be one of them were he alive today. And FDR! And JFK too, I’d wager. After all, that serial adulterer and deflowerer of virgins, who had the morals of a pimp, was in favor of tax cuts – remember?

    Hey folks! Anybody interested in a poll that says that Romney is going to beat Obama in the presidential election? I got a slew of them right here in my trunk…. 

    • #28
    • January 22, 2013 at 12:46 pm
  29. Profile photo of Mark Member
    Tommy De Seno: As usual, the conversation among the members is more enlightening than the post. I love Ricochet. · 7 minutes ago

    It’s a good topic you raised. The question as you posed it versus some of the comments make me realize there is a big difference between how today’s liberals would react to Rev King’s philosophy of 1963 or 1967 and the question of whether Rev King would have “evolved” if he had lived as so many other civil rights leaders did.

    • #29
    • January 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm
  30. Profile photo of G.A. Dean Member

    My what a fine essay. Goodness but that man had a talent for words.

    With hindsight we can see that the left, attentive perhaps to Dr. King’s work and words, took the wrong lessons. As King recounts, the Federal authority, principally the courts, were instrumental in many of the victories against local abuses of civil rights. The courts acted to enforce the Constitution, and rightly so. But the proper lesson to draw from the specific battles of that era is the special power of the Constitution, not the Federal authority.

    At other times and on other issues, the roles have been reversed, and local powers have protected Americans against Federal abuse, again relying on the Constitution as a shield. How strange, then, to hear some who call themselves “progressive” dismiss as an impediment the document that has been the source of so much human progress. Federal power was successfully wielded in the civil rights struggle, and the left fell in love with that power, and not with the principals it was enforcing.

    And of course, the left is embarrassed by the Reverend Dr. King’s religious language and ideas. Some quite explicitly cannot forgive him his faith.

    • #30
    • January 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm