By Rev. Dr. Tommy L. Davis
Everyone realizes that society is rampant with violence and has all forms of depressing issues. There exist countless programs like therapeutic remedies that attempt to medicate the participant in hopes to improve their conditions. Faith-based counseling is a complex issue in that each counselor brings to the table religious traditions from his or her perspectives.
While there are many secular curative agendas that are highly effective in treating counselees, there are new problems that may surface in the end if only part of the person’s predicament is addressed. It must be stressed that people are not satisfied with their circumstance. Thus, some have determined that the finest way to deal with such condition is to eliminate oneself by perpetrating suicide. Others choose a less extreme position through isolation which leads to depression, and ultimately affect all future relationships. Our shelves are filled with publications dealing with these issues but there are few books that directly address the need for an adoption of a religious faith that can transform an individual God’s way.
The Honorable Rick Santorum, a Republican from Pennsylvania, stated: “Nothing is as powerful as religious faith in building character. Nothing is as powerful as religious faith in turning people away from drugs and violence, idleness and despair. Nothing is as powerful as religious faith in helping all of us to lead worthy, decent, compassionate lives.” There are four issues in this commentary to be expounded:
•Transferring the need of biblical faith as opposed to religious traditions.
•Chaplains should be salt to a bitter world.
•Remain emphatic that lasting change occurs by being indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
•Ministry should not be a waste of time.
Transferring the Need of Biblical Faith as opposed to Religious Traditions
One of the great turn-offs in interactive ministry is religious compulsion. There is loads of spiritual traditions in America and oftentimes workers in the mission field are more concerned about “converts” or counselees being a part of their particular church or denomination rather than becoming a Christian. The problem with this objective is confusion and competition that may impede a person truly accepting Christ as Lord and Savior. According to the Apostle Paul the essential ingredient in being a Christian is that a man has the Spirit of Christ, no matter what his “tag” may be (Chambers).
Christ said we shall be His witnesses. (Acts 1:8). Therefore, it would be wise to proclaim Christ’s name. Every denomination has offended others at some point. By promoting a denomination we may actually open old wounds unwittingly. Christ committed no wrong. The world is well aware of His public sacrifice but lack many witnesses of that fact. We must confirm Christ’s finished work at Calvary.
In the name of religion many have misrepresented Christianity by promoting slavery, bloody crusades, covetousness, and murder—- all in the name of religion. There is a statement that I recorded in my journal years ago that had an impression on me. Dr. R.G. Lee made a valuable point:
“I know some people who call the preacher who stands squarely upon the Bible teaching of Christ and His apostles, narrow, harsh, cruel. As being narrow, I have no desire to be broader than was Jesus. As to being cruel, is it cruel to tell the truth? Is a man to be called cruel who declares the whole counsel of God, and points men to their danger? Is it cruel to awaken sleeping people to the fact that the house is on fire? Is it cruel to jerk a blind man away from the rattle snake in its coil? Is it cruel to declare to people the deadliness of disease and tell them of the medicine to take? I had rather be called cruel for being kind than to be called kind for being cruel!”
Chaplains should be salt to a bitter world
Every denomination and most religious faiths have chaplains. Some have attempted to define the role of chaplain. Christian chaplains have the same responsibility as any other believer. We cannot expect godly results through worldly means in conflict with biblical revelation. Perhaps we shall revisit the term. The English word chaplain is from the Old French chapelain which has come down from a Latin word spelled capellanus which describes a person who acted as custodian of a cape. This person was responsible for guarding the cape or cloak of St. Martin who’s garb was stored in the local chapel. Since chapel and cape are from the same base, the guardian became known as chaplain.
In contemporary language we may as well be custodians of the Gospel and carry our cross rather than a cloak. We must defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ by preserving it and proclaiming it just as it is written down in Scripture. Ministry without evangelism is like putting money into the stock market and never expecting a return. By serving as an example is allowing others to see that we have a hope worth considering. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt.5:16).
When the visible church ceases to reflect her salvation experience, depart from Scriptural truths, and do not appear as lights in a dark world, she can no longer serve as a conscience or testimony to those who are perishing. If we fail in our living witness, then skeptics may be in a position to define our view. Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden underfoot of men” (Matthew 5:13).
Growing up on a pig farm in North Carolina, we slaughtered a hog at least twice per year. We would take salt and flavor our raw kill before hanging it in the smokehouse. The salt allowed our slay to “cure” rather than spoil. After its cure we would then chip off portions to add unique flavor to our foods. It is without doubt this tradition and use of salt was passed down from ancient times. Salt has been a vital part in food preservation for people who had no freezers or refrigerators, and added desirable taste to bland foods.
In biblical times salt was very important. The Roman soldier valued the use of this precious commodity — for a fraction of his salary was measured out in salt. This ration (or payment) was called “salarium.” This is where we get the term “salary”. The Roman soldier kept a small bag on his person to store his salt in order to flavor his daily portion of food.
Salt is comprised chiefly of sodium chloride. Without this it ceases to be called salt. So how can it lose its flavor? Similar to other substances, salt can be saturated with foreign material. When this happened in ancient times, this flavorless mineral was taken to the Temple and sprinkled on the slippery marble in the courtyard during the rainy season to increase traction (trample underfoot). The point that Jesus’ hearers understood is this: When we become so much like the world with all its lusts of the flesh and pride of life, we are no longer a use to it. When the visible church cease to exist as a moral conscience and mature stewards of an invisible kingdom, we become viewed as a people with more rules without life — salt without taste, wells without water, and worship without Spirit, ministry without converts.
Therefore, when the miserable seeks to make sense out of life, the church may not be their first option. Who wants to turn to a church in spiritual decay, worldliness, and hypocritical in her witness? The world must not define the Christian’s ministry.
There is not one condition that Christ cannot handle that threatens the visible church’s testimony; it is her infidelity, her clinging to foreign material by letting the world influence her without her being an influence in the world. The content of faith is important, but believers must also be educated to live out their faith in meaningful discipleship (Aleshire, p.19).
Remain emphatic that lasting change occurs by being indwelled by the Holy Spirit
In our age we are vulnerable to the notion of self-improvement without a salvation experience. We have become too concerned with self-esteem while neglecting the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Dr. John Walvoord pointed out that two contradictory systems began in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. One was the possibility of self-improvement as suggested by the Serpent; and the other, the revelation by God of sin and degeneracy and the incompetent state of man apart from God’s salvation.
I commend our many therapeutic programs but such sessions only offer physical solutions that leave one exposed to supplementary addictions. What has led to the habit in the first place was a spiritual problem. Thus, when a person is freed from such dependence it puts them back at square one. In Bible College, we were taught that the fabric of any organization should be the element of flexibility and the agreement of the fact that transformation is not the exception but the rule.
Jesus said, “When an unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none (Matt.12:43). Here we have a man who was relieved of evil spirits. This does not necessarily mean that the spirits were cast out. It simply states that the evil spirits went elsewhere to find rest. I’m sure that this man was enjoying his freedom from all kinds of habits due to evil influence. Demons are not omnipresent. Therefore, they wander about seeking to destroy lives by taking up residence in humans and use them as instruments of unrighteousness.
Jesus also went on to say: “Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept and garnished (v.44). Here we have an unoccupied house (body) that has been swept clean. The man pictured here got his life on track only to be left at risk to be re-engaged by the Enemy of mankind. Unfortunately, the evil spirits returned “and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (v.45).
We marvel at the suicide of those who sought help and received a temporary fix. If the Holy Spirit does not take up residence in a person’s life, there is only one other alternative—-vulnerability. It is not benefiting to the kingdom of God to see a person enter into eternal judgment garnished or with an empty house swept clean. If we dismiss the significance of eternal life in Christ, we are not stewards of the Gospel. Paul wrote, “…for ye are the temple of the living God; as God has said, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them…”(2 Cor.6:16).
We must have compassion and at the same time be fully convinced of our own salvation experience and always ready to share that same hope with others. We ought to offer as an eternal cure the saving power of Christ. To the Romans, Paul declared: “Now if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his”(Rom.8:9). When a person accepts Christ as Lord and Savior, they can no longer be inhabited by evil spirits, but their bodies become the temple of God. As the Apostle Paul affirmed to the Corinthians: “..know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God,…?”(1 Cor.6:19).
Ministry should not be a waste of time
My most irritating experience in public ministry is the realization that some have extinguished the fire that was poured out at Pentecost; and sadly, some have shown that they never experienced a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Men and women have entered the ministry with inappropriate intention. Even though Christ warned that we would know them by their fruits (see Matthew 7:15-17), scores of Christians do not regard this admonition. Ministries have become another get rich scheme or a political tool, or a journey of pride.
On the same note, some have entered the “service of Christ” with such “good intentions” that they bargain or water down the gospel for the sake of being a friend to the world. Scripture is emphatic in this regard: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). The apostle James is speaking about compromising the Word of God for the sake of the present world-system in all its forms of covetousness. What we must realize is that we are not really the world’s friend if we are willing to watch them perish without Christ; and we are God’s enemy by not obeying Him because of the fear of the world.
Our purpose in ministry is to offer the same hope to others that we have in Christ. Ministry is service as a result of our relationship with Christ. The Holy Spirit (if we are saved) empowers us to serve Christ by serving others while at the same time attempting to transfer the hope that we have in Christ. An ancient bishop stated: “The person who can cure such an infirmity and because of avarice refuses his medicine, can with reason be condemned as a murderer.” It is not up to us who we serve, it is who we should serve with our talents and the message of the Gospel.
The corporate church in America has some shameful history because some have misunderstood the nature of ministry. In her speech, Mary Church Terrell spoke October 10th in 1906 what it meant to be colored in the Capital of the United States:
“As a colored woman I may enter more than one white church in Washington without receiving that welcome which as a human being I have a right to expect in the sanctuary of God. Sometimes the colorblindness of the usher takes on that peculiar form which prevents a dark face from making any impression whatsoever upon his retina, so that it is impossible for him to see colored people at all. If he is not so afflicted, after keeping a colored man or woman waiting a long time, he will ungraciously show these dusky Christians who have had the temerity to thrust themselves into a temple where only the fair of face are expected to worship God to a seat in the rear, which is named in honor of a certain personage, well known in this country, and commonly called Jim Crow.”
I am sure if Jesus appeared during this time with pigmentation in his skin he would have been placed in the back of the church if ever the usher recognized Him. In our contemporary setting we have it more offending when African-Americans spew racial slurs from the pulpit and build grievances against those who are better fortunate –economically– and call it racism. I have heard statements like “whites don’t know how to praise God” ; and when I resigned my ministerial position at an all African-American church and joined an interracial congregation, I was told: “Now you are going over there with those whities…..remember what Jim Jones did.”
The fruit of our relationship with others illustrate what form of connection we have with the Savior. It will be a sad day for the religionists who preached a gospel they did not live by. A gospel that wasn’t allowed to transform themselves (see Matthew 25:31-46).Thus, having imbibed a correct understanding of service, may we continue to function in love growing spiritually in our bond with Christ.
The average ed school, we found, has a multiculturalism-to-math ratio of 1.82, meaning that it offers 82 percent more courses featuring social goals than featuring math. At Harvard and Stanford, the ratio is about 2: almost twice as many courses are social as mathematical. At the University of Minnesota, the ratio is higher than 12. And at UCLA, a whopping 47 course titles and descriptions contain the word “multiculturalism” or “diversity,” while only three contain the word “math,” giving it a ratio of almost 16.
Some programs do show different priorities. At the University of Missouri, 43 courses bear titles or descriptions that include multiculturalism or diversity, but 74 focus on math, giving it a lean multiculturalism-to-math ratio of 0.58. Penn State’s ratio is 0.39. (By contrast, the ratio at Penn State’s Ivy League counterpart, the University of Pennsylvania, is over 3.) Still, of the 71 programs we studied, only 24 have a multiculturalism-to-math ratio of less than 1; only five pay twice as much attention to math as to social goals.
Several obstacles impede change. On the supply side, ed-school professors are a self-perpetuating clique, and their commitment to multiculturalism and diversity produces a near-uniformity of approach. Professors control entry into their ranks by determining who will receive the doctoral credential, deciding which doctoral graduates get hired, and then selecting which faculty will receive tenure. And tenured academics are essentially accountable to no one.
On the demand side, prospective teachers haven’t cried out for more math courses because such courses tend to be harder than those involving multiculturalism. And the teachers know that their future employers—public school districts—don’t find an accent on multiculturalism troubling. Because public schools are assured of ever-increasing funding, regardless of how they do in math, they can indulge their enthusiasm for multiculturalism, and prospective teachers can, too.
Accrediting organizations also help perpetuate the emphasis on multiculturalism. In several states, law mandates that ed schools receive accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). NCATE, in turn, requires education programs to meet six standards, one entirely devoted to diversity, but none entirely devoted to ensuring proper math pedagogy. Education schools that attempt to break from the cartel’s multiculturalism focus risk denial of accreditation.
Ensuring quality math instruction is no minor matter. The Programme for International Student Assessment’s latest results paint a bleak picture: U.S. 15-year-olds ranked 24th out of 30 industrial countries in math literacy, tying Spain and surpassing only Greece, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, and Turkey, while trailing Iceland, Hungary, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and all of our major economic competitors in Europe and Asia.
The issue isn’t whether we should be teaching cultural awareness in education colleges or in public schools; it’s about priorities. Besides, our students probably have great appreciation already for students from other cultures—who’re cleaning their clocks in math skills, and will do so economically, too, if we don’t wise up.
Jay P. Greene is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He is also the endowed head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, where Catherine Shock is a research associate.
January 25, 2008
by Sheldon Richman
Sheldon Richman is the editor of The Freeman and “In brief,” and a contributor to The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. TGIF appears Fridays. Comments welcome.
“It’s like taking a bucket of water from the deep end of a pool and dumping it into the shallow end. Funny thing — the water in the shallow end doesn’t get any deeper.”
That’s how George Mason University economist Russell Roberts describes the logic — rather, illogic — of the economic “stimulus” proposals that everyone and his uncle are proposing.
If we needed further demonstration of the folly that is the American political-economic system, there it is. The leaders of the interventionist state and the candidates who aspire to command it will continue to produce this inanity until people see it for the balderdash it is and resoundingly reject it.
The problem is that most people don’t see it for what it is. When told economic activity is slowing down, they demand that their “leaders” and candidates assure them there is a Plan to keep them safe. The politicians are more than happy to oblige. Details don’t matter much. As long as the president and the presidential aspirants adopt a somber yet hopeful and determined tone, pepper their speeches with big-sounding numbers and reassuring words, and promise to hand out money, most voters will be satisfied. They won’t think about what’s being said long enough to realize that none of it makes sense. They just want someone to make them feel safe, and there will be no shortage of such someones.
The illogic of stimulus packages makes the mind boggle. It isn’t difficult to see when you free your thinking of the biases so many people bring to economic questions. (As I’ve pointed out before, Bryan Caplan describes those biases in his book, The Myth of the Rational Voter. To hear his take on the silliness of politicians talking about stimulating the economy, click here.)
For starters, any package of proposals would take a long time to go through a political-legislative process marked by haggling, compromise, and political posturing. It is particularly ludicrous for presidential candidates to make promises about stimulating the economy. A new president won’t even take office until a year from now! By the time any package is passed and checks are sent out, conditions will have changed. So-called counter-cyclical measures are notoriously late, which is not to say they would work if they were timely.
Next, the size of the packages — which range from $25 billion to $145 billion — is dwarfed by the size of the economy: $14 trillion. Why would anyone who knows this believe that a puny stimulus would work? One answer is that most people don’t know how big the economy is. The politicians who do know this are demagogues who want to gain or hold power.
These two objections would apply even if the idea of an economic stimulus were coherent. But it is not. Besides the swimming-pool analogy quoted at the top of the article, Russell Roberts showed the futility of what’s being proposed in another vivid way. Noting that politicians love to talk about “injecting” money into the economy, like a doctor giving a patient a transfusion, Roberts writes, “But where does the economic injection come from? It has to come from inside the system. It’s not an outside stimulus like … the transfusion. It means taking money from someone or somewhere inside the system and giving it to someone else.”
Again, this is simple stuff if one really thinks about it. But few people do. If the government uses fiscal means to goose the economy, the money has to come from somewhere. There is no free lunch. The president and the top-tier candidates do not propose to cut spending — quite the contrary. So, since the budget is already in deficit, any tax “rebates” and new government spending will have to come from borrowing. But government debt doesn’t create wealth; it only transfers it. The lenders won’t be able to spend the money or invest it in private endeavors. And the new debt will have to be repaid with interest through taxation in the future, suppressing economic activity then. Likewise, if taxes are raised to provide the stimulus — well, you can finish the thought.
If the government increases some people’s ability to spend by decreasing other people’s ability to spend, where’s the stimulus? Maybe these measures aren’t really intended to stimulate anything but a candidate’s popularity with appropriate constituencies. Has anyone told President Bush he’s not up for reelection?
Populist candidates want the cash transferred from the wealthy to lower-income people because they will spend rather than save it. But that’s not how things have worked before: people used a lot of their mini-windfalls to pay down credit-card balances. Moreover, the kind of spending they do engage in — on groceries and sundries — is not the kind that would revive the housing or automobile industries. “Increasing the generosity of unemployment benefits, home heating subsidies, and food stamps is no help to such cyclical industries,” Alan Reynolds writes.
While the purpose of production is indeed consumption, it doesn’t follow that the government can create economic growth by stimulating consumption (even if it could do it without taking other people’s resources). You can’t consume what hasn’t been produced. “Without an increase in real earnings brought about by rising real income from increased productivity, an economic boom on the back of consumption will be an illusion,” Christopher Lingle wrote in The Freeman. Expanded production requires savings and investment, but government transfers impede those activities.
Thus giving people money and urging them to spend it won’t improve their economic prospects. As usual, what looks like a political favor to low-income people is just a cruel hoax. Their well-being depends on genuine and sustained economic growth, which would maximize job opportunities and lower prices. But that requires a radical freeing of the economy — which politicians are not wont to favor.
Who Runs the Economy?
The most objectionable side of the stimulus frenzy is the assumption that government can and should run the economy. The reports of the death of Keynesianism were apparently exaggerated. Most people still believe the economy is a vehicle and the government the driver, precisely adjusting the gas pedal and brake as needed. But really there is no “economy.” There are only people pursuing ends and the property they use and exchange in the process. If the government tries to “run the economy” it has to run us. It is a dangerous mistake to think the would-be driver could know what he is doing. He can’t possibly know. The system is too complex, the necessary information — much of which is never articulated — scattered too far and wide. In contrast, the market process solves the problem of how to coordinate the productive activities of countless people in order to satisfy consumers.
Those who are biased against freedom will proclaim that our economic problems show that the free market has failed. What free market? Do they mean the “free” market which for ages and in myriad ways the government has straitjacketed and skewed on behalf of favored interests?
We are in our present position because government has burdened us with taxes, spending, debt, regulations, subsidies, guarantees (to lenders, for example), trade restrictions, fiat money, and other impositions. Between the endless domestic schemes and war, we are being crushed by the weight of the state. We don’t need a stimulus. We need freedom.
By Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
With recession looming or already here, the time has arrived for finding scapegoats. Expect a long list of these. Here is the target of the day: tightfisted consumers. A decline in personal consumption, writes the New York Times, “would be the first since 1991, and it would almost certainly push the entire economy into a recession in the middle of an election year.”
This recalls Bush’s advice after 9-11, when he assumed the mantle of the nation’s personal financial planner. He told everyone to go out and spend money so the economy could avoid recession. Even then, there was confusion about whether he was right or wrong. Some sensible voices pointed out that economic expansion is based not on spending but on capital expansion rooted in savings. That is to say, the only path to future prosperity is delaying current consumption in favor of future investment.
One only needs to think of the household budget here to see the point. If you are planning for the future for your family, what is the wisest course? Does one go into debt as much as possible, buy the largest house and the biggest car, throw lavish parties, hand out all existing liquid funds to friends and strangers? Based on the view that consumption is the way to avoid economic problems, this would indeed be the right course.
But this also defies everything we know about family finance. The path to a secure prosperity is delaying consumption. One should spend as little as possible and save as much as possible for the future, and let that money be used in the service of investments that yield a solid rate of return. Those who have chosen a different path now see the folly: they are being burned in the soft housing market, for example.
The lesson is also true for the nation at large, because the logic doesn’t magically change when moving from the family budget to the national stage. Just because something involves “macroeconomics” doesn’t mean that we should throw out all good sense. But that is precisely what people have done with regard to the economy, since J.M. Keynes somehow convinced the world that up is down and left is right.
In a recession or a crisis, the right approach for individuals is to save. So too for the national economy. A looming recession will prompt a pullback in consumer spending as a rational response to the perception of economic troubles. This action does not cause the economy to fall into recession any more than more spending can save it from recession. The downturn is a fact that cannot be avoided. We don’t blame umbrellas for floods, and, in the same way, we shouldn’t blame tightfisted consumers for recessions.
There is no question that this is what is happening. American Express reports that the rate of spending by its cardholders fell 4% in December. Surveys of consumer satisfaction with the economy report a 15-year low. Retailers report that December was a “blood bath” (NYT’s words) for them, with sales growing at the slowest rate in seven years. Market watchers are mostly concerned that high-income buyers are bailing out.
Again, it is critical to keep cause and effect in mind. The pullback on spending is not going to cause a recession. If we think about the long term, this is not a dangerous trend but a hopeful one. The more people pull back and save, the more the foundation is laid for a recovery after the current correction takes its course.
To see that requires that we take a long view. Government, however, seems constitutionally incapable of seeing the long term, much less doing the right thing to prepare for it. Making matters worse, this is that dreaded event called an election year. Prettying things up to make the economy palatable to voters is priority number one.
What does this mean? More monetary expansion. More government spending. We can fully expect the Bush administration to resort to its old program of sending checks out to every American family with the proviso that the money has to be spent, not saved.
No doubt that many people would be thrilled by this. But look beneath the surface. Government has no money to spend on anything that it doesn’t extract from the pockets of you and me and the whole American public. This is easy enough to see concerning taxes. It is not so easy to see when the government runs up debt that is guaranteed by the printing presses.
The monetary issue can be understood by analogy to orange juice. The more water you add, the less substance it has. If you keep adding, eventually you come to the point when you can no longer tell that it was ever orange. This is the same with money. If you print enough — literally or electronically through the credit markets — it will continue to lose value. If money grew on trees, it would be about as valuable as autumn leaves.
So long as we have a central bank, government will be tempted to take the easy path of easy money. There do not need to be any secret phone calls from the White House to the Fed. The culture of policymaking itself is capable of broadcasting the right signals to all important players.
In any case, it is a myth that the Fed makes policy independent of political pressure. It is subject to the screams and hollers for looser credit in the same way that bureaucracies are responsive to demands for more regulation.
Yes, government can increase consumption, but by doing so it does nothing to care for the long term. The long-term health of a nation is not different from that of a household budget. Tough times require cutbacks and a beefing up of savings.
So let’s not demonize the consuming public for doing what it should be doing. It’s a good rule of thumb that when the government tells you to spend money, you should close your wallet.
|Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, editor of LewRockwell.com, and author of Speaking of Liberty. See his Mises.org archive. Send him mail. Comment on the blog.|
By Deneen Borelli
January 23, 2008
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – “unalienable rights” cited by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence – are now at risk as left-wing activists seek to curtail our liberties and personal choices to save the planet from supposedly man-made global warming.
No one is saying global climate change doesn’t exist. We all know the hot era of the dinosaurs later gave way to the frigid Ice Age. Throughout recorded human history, with and without the presence of factories and other factors blamed for today’s alleged rising temperatures, there have been many warming and cooling trends.
What is unresolved is the role man actually plays in climate change. It is easy to be skeptical of the man-made global warming hysterics when the scientific data remains inconclusive and uncontrollable events, such as volcanic eruptions, can do more harm to the atmosphere than man.
Despite all the ambiguity, our liberties are at the peril of this dubious theory.
Cars and trucks are at the top of the leftist hit list. Special interest groups’ attacks, particularly on the SUV, spurred lawmakers to dictate the type of cars and trucks available for consumers in the new energy bill by mandating increased vehicle gas mileage. To meet the proposed increase in the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard of 35 miles per gallon, vehicles will inevitably become smaller and lighter. Consumers who need or prefer bigger and safer vehicles will have fewer choices as manufacturers struggle to meet new government fuel mandates. As a result, the freedom of consumer choice will be greatly diminished.
Even lighting your house is now in the crosshairs. Politicians and activists want to invade our homes and empty our wallets when they call for replacing incandescent light bulbs with more costly and energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). To remove any element of consumer choice in the matter, the recent passage of the energy bill will phase out the old bulbs and force consumers to purchase only the federally-approved CFLs. While CFLs are said to last longer and reduce power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, they have a number of drawbacks. Not only is the initial cost of a CFL bulb up to ten times higher, but they emit far less light. CFLs also contain the toxic element mercury, which means they may require special means of disposal and pose a health risk should they break.
In touting its concern for the environment, General Electric – which manufactures both types of bulbs – is aggressively promoting CFL use. While the changeover may be profitable for GE as a company, its American workers will suffer because CFLs are not manufactured in the United States. As incandescent bulb use diminishes, so will American jobs.
What you eat is also a target. Animal rights groups want people to adopt a vegan diet because they consider farm animals a significant source of “greenhouse gases.” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is even criticizing Al Gore – who just won the Nobel Peace Prize for his global warming activism – for ignoring this alleged connection. The ads show an image of Gore holding a chicken drumstick with a tagline: “Too Chicken to Go Vegetarian? Meat Is the No. 1 Cause of Global Warming.”
Despite the numerous flaws and ambiguities in trying to link human behavior and global warming, activists and their allies in government use emotion and alarmism to make their case. They are seeking to cut off any reasonable debate and silence their critics by saying these people are motivated by corporate and personal greed and don’t care about pollution. That, however, is hardly the case.
Critics of the global warming agenda are motivated instead by a love of freedom and civil liberties. They want a discussion based on logic and facts that will address any problems without depriving us of liberty and personal choice. They do not want to sacrifice our way of life based on fears of an unproven theory.
After all, the loss of liberty is a greater cause of alarm than global warming.
Deneen Borelli is a fellow with the Project 21 black leadership network. Comments may be sent to DBorelli@nationalcenter.org.
April 16, 1963
MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN:
While confined here in the Birmingham City Jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine goodwill and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliate organizations all across the South–one being the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Whenever necessary and possible we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago our local affiliate here in Birmingham invited us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented and when the hour came we lived up to our promises. So I am here, along with several members of my staff, because I have basic organizational ties here.
Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere in this country.
You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being. I am sure that each of you would want to go beyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects, and does not grapple with underlying causes. I would not hesitate to say that it is unfortunate that so-called demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham at this time, but I would say in more emphatic terms that it is even more unfortunate that the white power structure of this city left the Negro community with no other alternative.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: 1) Collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive. 2) Negotiation. 3) Self-purification and 4) Direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community.
Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of this country. Its unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts is a notorious reality. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than any city in this nation. These are the hard, brutal and unbelievable facts. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the political leaders consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
Then came the opportunity last September to talk with some of the leaders of the economic community. In these negotiating sessions certain promises were made by the merchants–such as the promise to remove the humiliating racial signs from the stores. On the basis of these promises Rev. Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to call a moratorium on any type of demonstrations. As the weeks and months unfolded we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. The signs remained. Like so many experiences of the past we were confronted with blasted hopes, and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us. So we had no alternative except that of preparing for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and national community. We were not unmindful of the difficulties involved. So we decided to go through a process of self-purification. We started having workshops on nonviolence and repeatedly asked ourselves the questions: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?” We decided to set our direct-action program around the Easter season, realizing that with the exception of Christmas, this was the largest shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this was the best time to bring pressure on the merchants for the needed changes. Then it occurred to us that the March election was ahead and so we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that Mr. Connor was in the run-off, we decided again to postpone action so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. At this time we agreed to begin our nonviolent witness the day after the run-off.
This reveals that we did not move irresponsibly into direct action. We too wanted to see Mr. Connor defeated; so we went through postponement after postponement to aid in this community need. After this we felt that direct action could be delayed no longer.
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, etc.? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as a part of the work of the nonviolent resister. This may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word tension. I have earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. So the purpose of the direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. We, therefore, concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
One of the basic points in your statement is that our acts are untimely. Some have asked, “Why didn’t you give the new administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this inquiry is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one before it acts. We will be sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Mr. Boutwell will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is much more articulate and gentle than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to the task of maintaining the status quo. The hope I see in Mr. Boutwell is that he will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from the devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was “well timed,” according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the words [sic]”Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tip-toe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.”
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority, and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes and “I-it” relationship for an “I-thou” relationship, and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Isn’t segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? So I can urge men to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.
Let us turn to a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.
Let me give another explanation. An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting or creating because they did not have the unhampered right to vote. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up the segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout the state of Alabama all types of conniving methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters and there are some counties without a single Negro registered to vote despite the fact that the Negro constitutes a majority of the population. Can any law set up in such a state be considered democratically structured?
These are just a few examples of unjust and just laws. There are some instances when a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. Now there is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust.
I hope you can see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law as the rabid segregationist would do. This would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly, (not hatefully as the white mothers did in New Orleans when they were seen on television screaming “nigger, nigger, nigger”) and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.
Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks, before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman empire. To a degree academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience.
We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws. I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice, and that when they fail to do this they become dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is merely a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, where the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substance-filled positive peace, where all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all of the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
In your statement you asserted that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But can this assertion be logically made? Isn’t this like condemning the robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical delvings precipitated the misguided popular mind to make him drink the hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because His unique God-Consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to His will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, that it is immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.
I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth of time. I received a letter this morning from a white brother in Texas which said: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great of a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost 2000 years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” All that is said here grows out of a tragic misconception of time. It is the the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually time is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively. I am coming to feel that the people of ill-will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy, and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.
You spoke of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of the extremist. I started thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency made up of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, have been so completely drained of self-respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation, and, of a few Negroes in the middle class who, because of a degree of academic and economic security, and because at points they profit by segregation, have unconsciously become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness, and hatred comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up over the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. This movement is nourished by the contemporary frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination. It is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incurable “devil.” I have tried to stand between these two forces saying that we need not follow the “do-nothingism” of the complacent or the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. There is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I’m grateful to God that, through the Negro church, the dimension of nonviolence entered our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, I am convinced that by now many streets of the South would be flowing with floods of blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who are working through the channels of nonviolent direct action and refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes, out of frustration and despair, will seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies, a development that will lead inevitably to a frightening racial nightmare.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come. This is what happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom; something without has reminded him that he can gain it. Consciously and unconsciously, he has been swept in by what the Germans call the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa, and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, he is moving with a sense of cosmic urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. Recognizing this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand public demonstrations. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations. He has to get them out. So let him march sometime; let him have his prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; understand why he must have sit-ins and freedom rides. If his repressed emotions do not come out in these nonviolent ways, they will come out in ominous expressions of violence. This is not a threat; it is a fact of history. So I have not said to my people “get rid of your discontent.” But I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channelized through the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. Now this approach is being dismissed as extremist. I must admit that I was initially disappointed in being so categorized.
But as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist for love — “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice — “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ — “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist — “Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist — “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist — “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice–or will we be extremists for the cause of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill, three men were crucified. We must not forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thusly fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. So, after all, maybe the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
I had hoped that the white moderate would see this. Maybe I was too optimistic. Maybe I expected too much. I guess I should have realized that few members of a race that has oppressed another race can understand or appreciate the deep groans and passionate yearnings of those that have been oppressed and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too small in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some like Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden and James Dabbs have written about our struggle in eloquent, prophetic and understanding terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of angry policemen who see them as “dirty nigger lovers.” They, unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.
Let me rush on to mention my other disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Rev. Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a non-segregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.
But despite these notable exceptions I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say that as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say it as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.
I had the strange feeling when I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery several years ago, that we would have the support of the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be some of our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of the stained-glass windows.
In spite of my shattered dreams of the past, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause, and with deep moral concern, serve as the channel through which our just grievances would get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed. I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshippers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers say, “follow this decree because integration is morally right and the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, “Those are social issues with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely other-worldly religion which made a strange distinction between body and soul, the sacred and the secular.
So here we are moving toward the exit of the twentieth century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail-light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice.
I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at her beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlay of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over again I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave the clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when tired, bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”
Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church; I love her sacred walls. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of being nonconformists.
There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.” But they went on with the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.
Things are different now. The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.
But the judgement of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. I am meeting young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust.
Maybe again, I have been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to status-quo to save our nation and the world? Maybe I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ecclesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone through the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been kicked out of their churches, and lost support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have gone with the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. These men have been the leaven in the lump of the race. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the Gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope though the dark mountain of disappointment.
I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are presently misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched across the pages of history the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence, we were here. For more than two centuries our fore-parents labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; and they built the homes of their masters in the midst of brutal injustice and shameful humiliation–and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.
I must close now. But before closing I am impelled to mention one other point in your statement that troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I don’t believe you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its angry violent dogs literally biting six unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I don’t believe you would so quickly commend the policemen if you would observe their ugly and inhuman treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you would watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you would see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you will observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I’m sorry that I can’t join you in your praise for the police department.
It is true that they have been rather disciplined in their public handling of the demonstrators. In this sense they have been rather publicly “nonviolent”. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the last few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Maybe Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather publicly nonviolent, as Chief Pritchett was in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of flagrant racial injustice. T. S. Eliot has said that there is no greater treason than to do the right deed for the wrong reason.
I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of the most inhuman provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, courageously and with a majestic sense of purpose, facing jeering and hostile mobs and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two year old woman of Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride the segregated buses, and responded to one who inquired about her tiredness with ungrammatical profundity; “my feet is tired, but my soul is rested.” They will be the young high school and college students, young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders courageously and nonviolently sitting-in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’s sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, and thusly, carrying our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Never before have I written a letter this long, (or should I say a book?). I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else is there to do when you are alone for days in the dull monotony of a narrow jail cell other than write long letters, think strange thoughts, and pray long prayers?
If I have said anything in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a patience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.
I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader, but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our Better Angels: Martin Luther King’s Legacy
But there would have been no debate at all had it not been for the change taking place in the hearts and minds of the American people — and Rev. King was the one man chiefly responsible for that change.
It is hard for many Americans to understand what life was like before Rev. King and the civil rights movement. Otherwise good and decent people simply accepted the traditions and, in many cases, laws that treated blacks like second-class citizens unable to vote, attend school with whites, or even sit at the same lunch counters. Many people took it for granted that employers gave the best jobs to whites, even if there were better-qualified blacks who could fill them. The violence perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan and other virulently racist groups and individuals repulsed most Americans, but they didn’t often stand up to fight it.
Rev. King changed this complacency. He brought these struggles into Americans’ living rooms — and he did it with non-violent protest. It was hard to avert your eyes when confronted with scenes of ordinary people peacefully marching and singing hymns as they faced club-wielding police, snarling dogs and powerful water hoses to stop them. I remember my father sitting in our living room saying, “This should not happen in America.”
It wasn’t just King’s magnificent voice or soaring rhetoric that inspired people. It was his challenge to the consciences of millions like my father. Americans knew that what they were seeing on their TV screens was simply wrong.
They knew that you cannot have a democracy in which some citizens are deprived of their most basic rights simply because they happen to be born with dark skin. They knew that a country that would deprive many of its children a good education or close off competition for jobs based on skin color could not stay for long the world’s undisputed economic leader.
Changes might have come had Rev. King not mobilized his army of earnest men and women, young and old, black and white, but the pace would have been agonizingly slow and, perhaps, grudging. Without the reminder to all Americans — especially those in the North who thought of themselves as more enlightened than their Southern neighbors — that blacks were daily being subjected to degrading, inhuman treatment, many people would simply have chosen to ignore discrimination. They would have consoled themselves that, so long as they didn’t personally hold prejudiced feelings, they were not responsible for the acts of others.
But Rev. King wouldn’t let Americans off the hook so easily. Like Lincoln, he appealed to “the better angels of our nature.” It was his unambiguous moral message that helped Americans change themselves for the better.
|Mrs. Chavez is president of Stop Union Political Abuse.|