Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, has done excellent work (as is his reputation) in compiling this list of “10 Things Martin Luther King Would Have Done about Iraq“. He analyzes King’s anti-war speech “Beyond Vietnam” of April 1967 in New York City in terms of what’s going on and what’s been going on in Iraq.

[See Cole’s blog about Iraq.] [See other excerpts from this King speech here.] [See also: Short Quotes: Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.]

Cole is well qualified. First, he has obviously carefully read King’s speech. Second, he gets up very early every day to read, in the original languages, on-line newspapers from that part of the world (the “Middle East”). Third, he actually paid attention to what was going on during “our” Vietnam years.

The real Christian and intellectual substance of King’s perspectives is very important for Christian Americans, and is very carefully avoided by mainstream culture in this country. Do we want to see a more real and thorough Christianization of American culture? Let’s study Dr. King more carefully.

Connie asked an elementary school teacher the other day if anything special would be going on in that teacher’s classroom in honor of Martin King. “No. That’s all way overdone. By the time kids get to my level they’ve had way too much of that already.” Well, Juan Cole’s list helps correct costly misunderstandings like that.

First, here’s a sentence from Cole’s first paragraph.

He dreamed other dreams, of the end of exploitative materialism and relentless militarism, of an America devoted to social justice and creative non-violence, which our mainstream media do not dare repeat over and over again …

See why many Americans get “tired” of hearing over and over about King? Because they (we) don’t get to hear the bulk of his great moral and intellectual insights. Our media and our institutions don’t want to talk about those things. As the Hebrews of old, we honor our prophets, but not by listening to what they actually said.

Here are Cole’s last two sentences.

We cannot in any simplistic way extract a template from Martin’s sermon that we can apply to Iraq today. We can, however, explore his wisdom for inspiration in how to go foward, end the quagmire, and make amends for the horrors of the way we have waged this illegal war of choice.

Here are “10 Things” King said we should do about our quagmire in Vietnam; the applications to our mess in Iraq are pretty obvious, at least in general.

  1. Martin urged the end of the offensive bombing raids:
  2. Martin suggested that the US begin, on its own account, a cease fire:
  3. He urged that the widening of the war be stopped:
  4. He insisted that the US recognize the widespread political support for the NLF:
  5. Martin supported a timetable for withdrawing US troops.
  6. [These last five points have more to do with general moral strategy, as against specific tactical necessities.]

  7. It is necessary to understand the common people among the “enemy” if anything is to be accomplished:
  8. Concern to save US troops from creeping cynicism must be paramount:
  9. The initiative belongs to the US:
  10. A revolution in American values away from consumer materialism and militarism is needed if we are not to go on having one Vietnam after another:
  11. Love and justice, not aggression and exploitation, hold the real hope for a peaceful and prosperous future:

“Love and justice.’ Some think that’s almost as naive and silly as “liberty and justice for all.”

Now please hear this:

King was right! But we did not listen for several more very costly years. Americans and Vietnamese are still suffering this very day because of our moral stubbornness back then. We invested another 6 years, scores of thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives, the early end of one American Administration and the collapse of another, and a profound loss of confidence in our leaders’ willingness or ability to lead with integrity. THEN we, in our acts, finally submitted half-heartedly and under duress to the moral and strategic accuracy of King’s insights.

That’s how prophecy works. A nation listens, or it pays. The prophets do not enforce that; they just point it out.

Here are quotes from Cole’s paper, some from King, some from Cole:

Cole:

The US has increased the number of its bombing raids in Iraq from 25 a month last summer to 150 in December. Bombing raids are very bad counter-insurgency tactics and should be rethought.

King:

Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.’

Cole:
If we applied that to Iraq, I think it implies that the US should seek better relations with Syria and Iran and cease menacing the latter with an air attack.

King:

My mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

King:

I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else … We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.’

Cole:

In Iraq, too, virtually “none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved.” Not weapons of mass destruction, not international terrorism, not Swedish style democracy, not social justice, are actually on the agenda of the present administration.

King:

‘This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man.

When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.

This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another (Yes), for love is of God. (Yes) And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. . . . If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.’

Wow. Now there’s a good solid chunk of moral theology to sharpen our moral, spiritual, social, and intellectual capacities on.

Featured Articles

The Moral Priorities of Jesus – What Did Jesus Teach?

He said, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' but do not do what I say?" Maybe he meant it. This short book (40 pages) is available as a free pdf, or as a paperback at LULU.com (see the links below). It treats the following issues.  Here, each chapter title is followed by...
Read More
Neighbor

If You Do Not Love Your Neighbor Whom You CAN See – Can You Love God?

The author of "1 John" makes a simple, blunt, very logical analysis of our emotional attachments - or professed attachments. (1 John 4:20) If you do not love your brother whom you can see, how can you love God whom you cannot see? Well, John, that's easy! We do it all...
Read More
hand writes with a pen in a notebook

The Quiet Places in Our Lives Make Our Public Activity Safer

Contemplation and Public Action The public good is most in danger when the voluntary visits to contemplation are neglected in favor of immediate communitarian action. We don't have to go off and become full-time contemplatives. But times of stepping aside from the...
Read More
Gun on Bible

Christians Should Not Enforce the Bible.

Here's another example of the misunderstanding and misuse of Scripture by the 'religious right'.  This was quoted to me to show that no Christian could ever vote for Democrats. "Don't you realize that if even one person is allowed to go on sinning, soon all will be...
Read More
Threat leads to assault. Hate leads to violence.

Hitler Defended Christian Morality and Family Values

Current prominent figures, speaking words the "Christian Right" wants to hear, are not the first national leaders to use Christian morality as a rallying cry. These words are from 1933: "The National Government will preserve and defend those basic principles on which...
Read More
100 quotes

100 Quotes

Nerd alert! This is a list that used to be behind the quote widget on the upper right of the page. They are from various places, maybe half from my personal reading (books). I'm not documenting sources because I don't have time or did not record them. There's good...
Read More
Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II

John Paul II: Private Prayer and the Dangers of Public Life

Connie and I recently watched Karol: A Man Who Became Pope. It portrays Karol Wojtyla's life from his late teens, when the Nazi's invaded his city and nation, through WWII, then through decades of Communist rule (as a satellite of the Soviet Union), up to the day he...
Read More

The Civilized Are Responsible

Originally published in 1976. My how times have not changed. The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless...
Read More
Moral economic behavior stressed by Isaiah

Are Economic Matters a Moral Issue? Isaiah Thinks So.

In spite of Isaiah, and other Bible sources, we’ve all heard this - something like: I. It is NOT the government’s place to interfere in economic matters - tell people how they should spend their money or how they should treat their employees. That warps economic...
Read More

German Christians Sold Out to Power and Glory

[A Review of Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Charles Marsh, 2014] This book is not written to coddle nor to discomfort whatever our self-image is as American Christians today; Marsh is trying to show reality. To me, two eras of Bonhoeffer's life seem...
Read More
Religion Running Government, Theocracy, We would regret it

Theocracy (Religion Runs the Government) – We Would Deeply Regret It

I am a church person, a person of faith. But I don't think we need a government that rules as if it were the voice of God. This nation's Constitution was written partly in order to help us avoid theocracy. Unfortunately there are Americans today who clearly think the...
Read More
fish racism

Jesus and Racism – Samaritan Lives Matter – Black Lives Matter

Samaritans in Jesus' day were both religiously and racially despised. The phrase "Samaritan lives matter" would have been very offensive to the Jewish culture in which Jesus was raised and in which he was a teacher and doer of good. But to Jesus, clearly Samaritan...
Read More

Is Jesus’ Style “Judge Thy Neighbor”? Is That Jesus’ New Commandment?

Jesus was a highly respected teacher of morality and of the spiritual life. So, logically enough, a man asked him to take a stand on a moral issue between the man and his brother (Luke 12:13-15) - Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide...
Read More
brick-layer at work

The Kingdom of God. God’s New Economy. We Are Called To Do It.

"Over and against these senseless modern myths ... there is the "myth" of the God of goodness who has chosen people to prepare a kingdom of justice, truth, and love on earth. This myth dies hard. Why should we refuse to admit that Christ taught it to us?" [from Andre...
Read More

Prophets MUST Improvise, In and For Our Cities.

The prophet’s task is to “reorder” and “refashion” the urban environment to be more just and peaceable. Yet ... the work of social transformation must be based on a deep inner transformation. That's the burden of this excellent book (quote from p97). Resurrection City...
Read More

Turn the Other Cheek – means Resist Them NonViolently

I. THE PROBLEM: Jesus says to turn the other cheek. [See a summary of this post.] Is it ever appropriate for Christians to resist authority? Many of us feel there is much in the behavior of our national leaders that cries out for criticism and resistance. Are...
Read More

Two Types of Religion – Authority, Love

Sometimes I feel there are obviously two primary modes for religious practice in this world. That amazement is the opposite of complacency and self-satisfaction. And that gentleness is very different from constant critique and...
Read More
Jesus - What Does He Want?

Is Trump a Christian? How Could We Tell?

There was some excitement among certain Republican Christians when Dobson said Trump had become a "baby" Christian and should be cut some slack on that basis. Two problems with that: A novice at practicing the Christian faith is not someone we should automatically...
Read More

"THIS IS HOW they made the pleasant land desolate."

The Bible fairly often makes a direct connection between the desolation of a land (and its people - and, obviously, its economic life) and moral corruption in the people's prior social, legal, and economic patterns. Here's an example from Zechariah 7. The residents...
Read More

On War – and Its Effects on Humans

Quotes from the e-newsletter I get from Information Clearing House. ... the United States, for generations, has sustained two parallel but opposed states of mind about military atrocities and human rights: one of U.S. benevolence, generally held by the public, and the...
Read More

Why Many Christians Do Not Vote Republican

This was written about 12 years ago (as of today, in February 2017). Wow. And the problems remain, and have grown; which means these things still need thinking and talking about. References and Bible quotations...
Read More
Jesus - What Does He Want?

Why I Pay Attention to Jesus Christ

WHY? Why should we focus any more on Jesus Christ than on Abraham or Moses or Isaiah? Or on the laws in the Bible, or prophecy, or the end of the world? Is focus on Jesus more needed than pointing out sins – especially other people’s sins? Is Christ actually more...
Read More