Friday, September 3, 2010

How Glenn Beck distorts the Christian teachings that inspired the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

By John Fea. Here.


As a historian, I can't help but comment on the irony of it all. Like Beck, King loved America. And like Beck, King also promoted the idea of a Christian nation. King believed that such a Christian nation was rooted in equality for all.

But, unlike Beck, King believed that this necessitated a strong, morally empowered federal government.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

The definition of "Christian" is the question. Definitions determine the boundaries and understanding of groups.

Is American morality the issue, or is "God" the issue? One adheres to certain behavior, in regards to law, while the other adheres to a supernatural interventional "God".

The former doesn't have to be necessarily "Christian", in that, law is the determinor of what is "appropriate" or moral (the social norm). MKL, Jr. was asking that the law be expanded to include those of color.

Glenn Beck believes in individual liberty, while MKL, Jr. believed in collective power to make change for social justice.

Glenn Beck believes that voluntary service of mercy is the Christian response, while MLK, Jr. believed that without the federal government demanding change in how the law was understood, there would be no change.

Today, we find that there are those that oppose the "nation state" as a sovereign entity and want to promote global government, or world concerns. Such has been tried with the U.N., but with prejuidicial outcomes, I believe.

To quote C.S.Lewis: "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be 'cured' against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we 'ought to have known better,' is to be treated as a human person made in God's image."

Phil Johnson said...

It's easy to see that Beck has the ability to sucker a lot of people into understanding reality according to his framing.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Perhaps, a better example of federal power is in our immigration policy today. The feds have over-powered the State of Arizona in determining the rights of immigrants...

MLK, Jr. did not use co-ercive power, but used protests, and other means to 'stand for justice". He wanted his character to show moral courage, in the face of opposition.

The exact opposite has happened with healthcare reform and immigration policy, as far as the federal government is concerned. The people have not petitioned the government for change, as did the people of color in the 50's and 60's. These changes have come because of an elite opinion about what is "the good" for the "whole".

Phil Johnson said...

Angie writes, "The feds have over-powered the State of Arizona in determining the rights of immigrants..."
Let's see, Angie, what does the Tenth Amendment actually say?

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
How is it that the Federal Government doesn't have the authority of ALL the people of the United States against the single set of people of the State of Arizona?
Get real and knock off the B.S.
Immigration is a National concern.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Yes, it is a national concern, as without our borders being defended, we might as well not have them. Dissolution of borders, means the dissolving of our identity, as citizens. And our Constitution is irrelavant, when the nation-state is dissolved.

Arizona has a right, as a State, to protect its local population from intrusion from those that would undermine the State's health and welfare. ( and many think that Arizona's concern also supports national interests as well)...

Tom Van Dyke said...

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The attacks on Beck are just as partisan and not quite telling the whole story either.

It's true that the famous 1963 march was organized by a labor leader and was called "The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." However, the "jobs" part seems to be left out of most critiques of Beck, possibly because of the Obama administrations current troubles with unemployment.

If you examine both the Letter from Birmingham Jail and the "I Have a Dream" speech, the progressive [economic] politics are left out: MLK's focus is on the race inequality part.

What's left out is that after achieving the victory of the 1964 and 1965 civil rights and voting rights acts, MLK "jumped the shark" and largely became irrelevant when he turned his attention to more [partisan] progressive politics. His opposition to the Vietnam war put him on the other side of LBJ and the Democratic party, so he was abandoned by the white liberals.

Black militancy was also on the rise, and MLK's non-violence was passe and too tame for many in the black community.

[In 1966, John Lewis himself was replaced as head of the Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee by Stokely Carmichael!] This stuff seems to have fallen through the memory hole.]

So although it's accurate that MLK was indeed a progressive, that's not what he was known for, and not why he was followed.

Phil Johnson said...

I think you are correct in your statement, "Arizona has a right, as a State, to protect its local population from intrusion from those that would undermine the State's health and welfare."

I have a right to protect my property from intrusion under those same conditions, Angie, and so do you. Do we thereby conclude that our right means we can round up anyone who doesn't have proper papers and evict them from the United States?
The law seeks justice for all.
I'm no lawyer and have very little respect for those legal dogs; but, we do have laws and some supersede others.
Doncha know?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The problem with illegal immigrants has many real implications for them, as human beings, and for us, as a society.

If one is an illegal immigrant, one is always having to skirt the laws of the land to survive. And continuing in such behavior inevitably leads to risk of some kind. And many times, the risk will involve others. Demoralization of these immigrants as human beings is not what America stands for.

At the same time, our society suffers in many dimensions. Healthcare, education, welfare, etc are all stretched beyond measure, when illegals take advantage of our "moral high road". Besides the economic disadvantages, one cannot be ignorant of how illegal immgrants are used for low paying wages, which decrease job opportunities for citizens. Employers who use such cheap labor use their profit to undermine those that seek to do their business "above board".

Thank you, Tom for educating us on a broader view of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Phil Johnson said...

These are difficult times.
I'll be 80 next July. Of course, I'm looking forward to that. I hope to live to a ripe old age.
As I look back over the decades, I recall much more pleasant and easy times when our worries were so small. Even World War II was nothing compared to what we're facing today. These are really bad times because a certain class is gaining power over the rest of society.
What we are refusing to face up to is the fact that some of us--an extremely small faction--have so much to say. They hate democracy and they especially hate liberal democracy--except that they are able to use it for their selfish purposes.
It's time for us to get a handle on who it is that we are as individual persons. Are you a billionaire? Are you? Do you bank billions of dollars in profits each year? Do you bank hundreds of million dollars a year? How about a few million? A Million? Do you even bank $250,000.00 a year after deductions and living expenses? No? Then, get a handle on who you are for crying out loud.

America is at sea and our ship of state is listing. The super wealthy have luxurious life boats and we hardly have a life vest to keep us afloat. And, if we did, who would come to save us?

We need to put taxes on excess incomes that are destroying our way of life.
We need to save America from the super wealthy--the ones who can afford to get us out of our economic troubles as a nation.
Worrying about some poor immigrants isn't going to do it.
Does that make illegal immigration okay? No. But, it does put things in some order of importance.

King of Ireland said...

Pretty powerful article. I do think the quote in the post here it taken kind of out of context. Even most Liberatarians acknowledge the wisdom of Federalism. In which case they almost all understand that the federal government had to step in here to protect individual rights.

Right grounded in imago dei and teachings on it from AQUINAS and AUGUSTINE. Sorry Brad but MLK brought it up not me!:)

None of this precludes individuals turning to their state governments for protection to these same rights from the federal government. Madision spoke of both. He believed in both. Look at the fact that he worked with Hamilton on the Federalist Papers and years later joined Jefferson in penning the Resolutions of 98.

So let not get carried away here.

jimmiraybob said...

Angie - Glenn Beck believes in individual liberty, while MKL, Jr. believed in collective power to make change for social justice.

You do realize that Beck is organizing so as to focus collective power to make change for what he/followers perceive to be social and/or political injustice?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It is none of my business what anyone else makes or what they do with their money, as long as they do not use it to further illegal the wealthy have a right to their private property, too, without being unduly taxed.The problem when it comes to money and politics is how much influence money has upon thsoe in office...

I recognize that any collective power does influence politics. Any movement seeks to restore what they think is important in society. I personally don't think that "God" is what is needed, so much as character in our politicians....maybe when I spoke of social justice, I was really speaking of economic justice. Beck and his followers believe in individual responsibility, and each person being equal before the law, not just ethnic or other socially defined groups having their rights defended....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

OOPS, I was NOT speaking of economice justice, but legal justice...

jimmiraybob said...

Hello, is this thing turned on? Test.

jimmiraybob said...

Angie - Beck and his followers believe in individual responsibility, and each person being equal before the law, not just ethnic or other socially defined groups having their rights defended....

King too was a believer in individual responsibility and character and was completely in favor of each individual being equal before the law. That was his point exactly. That was the point of the civil rights movement.

I don't understand what you mean by "not just ethnic or other socially defined groups having their rights defended." Racism, segragation, the object of the civil rights movement, was institutionalized against an ethnic or other socially defined group. King and the civil rights leaders were not just defending the rights of a group, they were trying to throw off the chains of an institution that included local and state government as well as the economic engines of Jim Crow that denied equal rights to that group.

In order to get to a point of practicing individual rights and responsibilities you have to have a level playing field - equal representation and protection of the law.

Read King's speeches. Study the movement. Taylor Branch has three great volumes on King and the civil rights movement. It was about everyone's civil rights (Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire, and At Canaan's Edge).

What oppression is Beck or his followers suffering from? What is their point? What are they reclaiming?

jimmiraybob said...

This is about the third attempt. Again, apologies if this shows up more than once. I've made a couple of modifications in case I was tripping a filter.

TVD - If you examine both the Letter from Birmingham Jail and the "I Have a Dream" speech, the progressive [economic] politics are left out: MLK's focus is on the race inequality part.

I’m not sure what your point is. Economic justice is an integral part of MLK, Jr.’s message. And, if you do examine his Letter from Birmingham Jail it’s explicitly called out:

“We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark 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 and even kill your black brothers and sisters; 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 ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "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 "nig[...]," 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 tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go 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 the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”


“Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful.”


“In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, on Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.”

jimmiraybob said...

The sentiments expressed in the Letter is wholly consistent with King’s leaning toward the left/liberal/progressive end of the social spectrum – the Social Gospel ministry - and is consistent with his views starting as early as his seminary education in the late 1940s (Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters; America in the King Years 1954-1963, p. 73-74):

“Among the theologians and philosophers king studied during his first year at Croser [Theological Seminary, Philadelphia] was Walter Raushenbusch, a German Lutheran-turned-Baptist whose experiences as a minster in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York at the close of the nineteenth century led him to write Christianity and the Social Crisis, the publication of which is generally regarded as the beginning of the Social Gospel movement in American churches. [The book was among the few King would ever cite specifically as an influence on his own beliefs.] Raushenbusch rejected the usual religious emphasis on matters of piety, metaphysics, and the supernatural, interpreting Christianity instead as a spirit of brotherhood made manifest in social ethics. He saw the Christian ministry as an extension of the Old Testament prophets, who denounced pride, selfishness, and oppression as transgressions against the divine historical plan, which was to culminate in the Christian ideal of ‘love perfection’ among all people. Raushenbusch was not the first theologian to see the similarity between the Second Coming and Marx’s vision of a classless, stateless society, but he was the first to tie them together boldly as both the essence of biblical religion and the goal of Enlightenment progress. The minister’s job, he declared optimistically, is ‘to apply the teaching functions of the pulpit to the pressing questions of public morality.’ Critics denounced him as a utopian or a Communist. But to generations of followers, Raushenbusch rescued religion from sterile otherworldliness by defining social justice as the closest possible human approximation of God’s love.”

It should be noted that King too was hounded by the Right and the FBI as a Communist.

Branch continues, “George W. Davis, the [Crozen] professor who introduced King to Raushenbusch, was the son of union activist in the Pittsburgh steel mills. …[less a discussion of pacifism which King apparently rejected at the time]…but [King] did otherwise adopt Davis as a mentor and faculty adviser, taking nearly one third of his Crozer courses from him. The pairing made sense, as Davis was the embodiment of Raushenbusch’s Social Gospel, and King, in his own words, ‘found it easy to fall in line with the liberal tradition’ at Crozer.”

jimmiraybob said...

As to the I Have a Dream Speech, King starts out once again disparaging the lack of economic justice:

“But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”

One of the themes in both letter and speech is economic justice. Is this progressive [economic] politics? Is it not consistent with the founding tradition?

Tom Van Dyke said...

You found some passing phrases, but that's not the thrust, JRB.

Neither is the poverty of Black America of that time necessarily cured by progressive politics.

Shutting out the Black man from full economic participation [job discrimination, housing and educational discrimination] was a matter of justice, not "social justice" as used today as a synonym for progressive politics.

This isn't to say that MLK's politics didn't become progressive, but that when they did, he lost his following and became largely irrelevant.

I get this from Michael Eric Dyson, not Glenn Beck.

Tom Van Dyke said...

And for the record, the Great Society poverty programs, started by LBJ and continued by Nixon, did alleviate the worst poverty in America. I'm not dogmatically against them.

However, after lowering the poverty rate from 30 to 20%, it rather froze there, despite more and more welfare resources thrown at the problem. Poverty is more than just money, or the lack of it.

jimmiraybob said...

TVD, they are far more than passing phrases. They represent a theme at the heart of MLK,s vision for radically transforming America.

- Neither is the poverty of Black America of that time necessarily cured by progressive politics.

Something that is often overlooked is that King was not against black poverty and hunger, he was against poverty and hunger. He was for empowerment of the dispossed. He led a civil rights movement that was for civil rights and equal opportunity and equal protection under the law. "Black America" was only the most conspicuous and agregious face of institutional injustice.

Progressive policies may not have been (be) perfect but they are far better than doing nothing or as King would point out, better than deferring justice until some time in the mythical future.

- was a matter of justice, not "social justice" as used today as a synonym for progressive politics.

Semantics. King and the civil rights movement then and now were and are progressive politics. King fought for social justice. I don't know what his strategies would be today and they may differ from some of today's progressive leadership - same old same old.

King did not "become" progressive. His message and vision were always the same. His "Vietnam Speech" in 67 created a firestorm. His message was that the war was in opposition to social justice. But he was still in dialogue with America and America’s leadership. The severe reaction is the strongest indicator that he was still relevant. It is a complex story. Tavis Smiley did a special, “MLK, a Call to Conscience” that helps shed light.

jimmiraybob said...

I think that you are misreading Dyson.

King always struggled to lead even within the civil rights movement. His strategy of non-violence was always at odds with those who wanted more direct and confrontational action - King recognized this as is spoken of in his Birmingham letter. And his politics were the same in 1963 as they were in 1968. His popularity has waxed and waned but his relevance has only grown. King was not working for popularity.

He was assassinated not because he was irrelevant but because he was relevant and effective. King was in Memphis when he was assassinated to give a speech supporting striking sanitation workers.

That speech, his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, viewed as one of his greatest, was given to a packed audience of enthusiastic supports, most black, some white, some old and some young.

When Dyson speaks of King being at his low point - his nadir - in popularity he is speaking of his popularity in a white, establishment and increasing conservative America. In an America increasingly polarized over the escalating war in Vietnam King chose sides and the establishment mood was moving toward a conservative backlash to what was then the progressive movement. King’s vision was wildly resonant on one side of this divide but wildly threatening to the other - the emerging Nixon law and order conservative contingent. He was hounded and vilified by conservative groups and media who branded him a communist and traitor, the popular media, and the FBI who branded him as a communist. He was increasingly scrutinized by the popular press, what sister Sarah today would refer to as the lamestream media.

When Dyson speaks of King and relevancy the following exchange does not suggest that King was irrelevant during his time but speculates about his relevance today had he not been murdered and martyred:

Tavis [Smiley]: Did he die too soon? Only the good die young? You know where I'm going. I'm going there because you make the point that, had he lived, all of his shortcomings, his failings, his foibles - because he was human. You've argued in this book and before that that's what made him so great.

He was human, that he overcame that anyway, that he would not let them blackmail him into changing his point of view. But had he lived and all that stuff that we know now had come out in his lifetime, would we not respect Martin the way we did forty years later?

(cont below)

jimmiraybob said...

Dyson: Absolutely not. There would be no national birthday. He'd be sitting here talking to you, "Now, young man Tavis, I'm so glad you're having me on your program." He'd be here acknowledging that (laughter). "For an old eighty-year-old man, I'm doing fair to middling, but I'm passing on the highway." That's what he'd be saying to you because he would be a marginal slow-talking, southern cadence Negro who now has to step off the stage.

If they're saying this to Jesse Jackson, a rhetorical genius of extraordinary power at sixty-six, what do you think Martin Luther King, Jr. would endure at eighty years old in an American culture that is addicted to amnesia wrapped in nostalgia? Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been a menace to society. He would have been seen as somebody who was irrelevant.

Look at the eighty-five-year-old Joseph Lowry who stood up on his powerful legs and spoke at the funeral of Coretta Scott King. Even though he still has that rhetorical fire and that prophetic magic, some people were outraged that he would dare speak in the face of President Bush the way he did. That's how Martin Luther King, Jr. would still be.

I think he'd still have his fire, his resistance and his rebellion and he would be marginal. People would say, "Dr. King, you used to say something great. You used to tell America to love white brothers and sisters. Now you're speaking about the economic inequality, social injustice and the persistence of white supremacy" and they wouldn't want to hear him, Tavis.

There is no way in anybody's imagination that Martin Luther King, Jr. would be nearly as widely celebrated or embraced. And how do we know that? Because his legatees are not, because the people who carry forth his tradition are not, because those who speak powerfully are not.

Listen to this. One can argue with Reverend Jeremiah Wright's particular incarnation of the statements he made, but if you put a YouTube of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was alive speaking to Black congregations, there would be similarly angry statements against the vicious bitterness of the persistence of white supremacy even if he would do it with an extraordinary ground of love.

The fact is that people can't hear the truth of Black life in America. White America cannot hear our grievances or bear the horror of having revealed to them that they have been conspiring against our best interest in the name of God. That's what Martin Luther King, Jr. would be great reminder of. We would rather have a dead prophet who can no longer speak back to us than a living rebel who can tell the truth about us.

Had King not been murdered and martyred and if he was not still relevant Glenn Beck and his movement would be unmercifully vilifying him, like they do the Reverend Wright, or Al Sharpton, or Jessi Jackson, instead of spending so much time, money and energy trying to coopt his legacy.

King of Ireland said...

"Raushenbusch was not the first theologian to see the similarity between the Second Coming and Marx’s vision of a classless, stateless society, but he was the first to tie them together boldly as both the essence of biblical religion and the goal of Enlightenment progress."

Here is the supposed, I am not a Beck fan and do not really believe that he believes the things he says, difference between the two movements. To compare the founding with Marx is off. Marx wanted to ban private property the founders wanted to protect it.

This also gets back into the whole millenial reign idea I hit on a little ways back. I think most 18th and 19th century philosophies were utopian the rub is in how to get there.

I think Fukuyama style "liberal democracy" has more to do with Marx, the gentleman you quoted here, and King(if this is what he believed).

The libertarian movement, at least the Christian version(whatever that means because I do not include the Religous Right in that) would see this means of bringing about social justice as counter productive. See "The Road to Serfdom".

Tom Van Dyke said...

The MLK of 1963 and "I Have a Dream" is not the MLK of 1967, when he took time off to write "Where Do We Go from Here?"

The immediate political goals of the Civil Rights Movement having been met, MLK and the SCLC had to refocus. They had some success with Operation Breadbasket in several cities, but MLK had gone from the national figurehead of "an idea whose time had come," to quote Sen. Everett Dirksen,

to community organizer.

We do not make stamps and statues and national holidays for "community organizers." MLK had gone from ends [racial eq1uality] to means [progressive politics] and there is a huge difference in their importance to the nation---and universality.

King of Ireland said...

"Shutting out the Black man from full economic participation [job discrimination, housing and educational discrimination] was a matter of justice, not "social justice" as used today as a synonym for progressive politics"

Confiscation of property to take from one person to give to another would have been seen as unjust at the founding. Locke certainly would not be for it. Sandfeur has a great essay on this topic.

What we have here goes all the way back to Plato. A discussion of what justice is? It is a great national dialogue.

jimmiraybob said...

KOI, this passage including Raushenbusch was just to make a connection with King and the strain of Christian social gospel. I don't know of anything that suggests that King would have endorsed the taking of property* - to the best of my knowledge he preached against Communism. Niebuhr was also an influence on King and I don't think he would be considered a Communist - I just don't know that much about him.

*of course it depends on the definition of "took." Some define taxation of any kind as a tyranical confiscation.

jimmiraybob said...

TVD - The MLK of 1963 and "I Have a Dream" is not the MLK of 1967, when he took time off to write "Where Do We Go from Here?"

I agree that he was redefining direction and largely in response to circumstance that he saw as eroding the core of the movement (the war as sapping resources) but my point was that his core goal was justice, whether considered as social, racial, economic or moral justice.

TVD - MLK had gone from ends [racial eq1uality] to means [progressive politics] and there is a huge difference in their importance to the nation---and universality.

It occurred to me this afternoon while running errands that I may not have been addressing what you were saying; that I wasn't sure of what the distinction was that you were making.

I can see what you mean by a split between ends and means. I just don't see that King ever stopped focusing on the ends. His opposition to the war was mostly about resources being diverted away from fighting poverty and what he saw as the injustice of the burdens of the war falling disproportionately on young black men but also on the poor in general. He's been described as fulfilling the role of the prophet, the spiritual leader challenging the moral compass of the nation, the exact opposite of the role of politician or policy advocate.

Of course, this meant that others in the civil rights movement and their political supporters did take up the challenge of the means and now I understand the distinction between what I would understnd as the early phase of the movement and the latter. This is largely the tension that existed between King and the leadership of the movement in 67-68.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I've been catching up on my MLK, because I was dissatisfied with the prevailing narrative. [Soory, John. I spared you this at your blog, but I didn't think much of your article.]

Once MLK became increasingly concerned with means rather than ends, he ceased to become a "national leader." Yes, he was a Black leader, and a community organizer, and still a bit of a social analyst, but after 1964-65 he and the SCLC struggled for not only for relevance, but focus.

"Where Do We Go from Here?" was the title of a largely forgotten 1967 book, and also of his speech to the SCLC.

There's good stuff in there, but not the clarity that characterized the MLK of 1963. And again, it was a speech to his base, not to America as a whole.

For the record, he explicitly rejects Communism and Marxism here. However, my core point remains, that even though his use of "love" can be translated as "Christian charity," "social justice" is becoming more a question of political means than universal ends.

"Now, don't think that you have me in a "bind" today. I'm not talking about Communism.

What I'm saying to you this morning is that Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the Kingdom of Brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of Communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated."

It's said by many that MLK didn't start the CRM---it had been fought since the 1950s [and before]---and MLK came aboard as its figurehead for his impressive rhetorical powers. As he expands his agenda to economic "exploitation" rather than against [job, housing, and educational] discrimination, and to foreign policy as well [Vietnam], the CRM is becoming indistinguishable from the politics of the Left.

Tom Van Dyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Van Dyke said...

This is getting more interesting. It must be admitted that Glenn Beck has opened a can of worms.

That is what the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., [actually, Rev. James bevel of the SCLC] meant when he said in early August 1965, "There is no more civil rights movement. President Johnson signed it out of existence when he signed the voting rights bill."

Obviously, the civil rights movement did not go out of existence. Instead, most civil rights leaders redefined their objectives and abandoned their long commitment to the principle that, as John F. Kennedy had put it, "Race has no place in American life and American law." Civil rights leaders began to argue that African-Americans had been denied their "fair share" of income, wealth, good jobs, political offices, and seats in institutions of higher learning, and that the only effective remedies were racially preferential policies. The riots that erupted across the land between 1965 and 1968 were part of the explanation for this transformation. Dr. King spoke on the eve of the great riot that exploded in the Watts section of Los Angeles on August 11,1965. Over the next three years, by one count, 329 "important" racial disturbances took place in 257 Cities, resulting in nearly 300 deaths, 8,000 injuries, 60,000 arrests, and property losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

That particular bit of spin would be from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Still, it shows how MLK had lost control of the CRM [and indeed, admitted it was over with the accomplishments of 1964-65]. I was wondering why in 1967-8 MLK was still insisting on nonviolence.

Part of the reason was the riots, and of course, MLK was losing out to radical chic, and the new head of the Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee's Stokely Carmichael and his "Black Power" and "by whatever means necessary."

"When you talk of black power, you talk of building a movement that will smash everything Western civilization has created," he told black audiences.

MLK was too radical for white folks, and not radical enough for many blacks. This was not the MLK of 1963, when he had the ear or Americans of all races.

See also this excellent book, which argues the Civil Rights Movement met its Waterloo in mayor Daley's Chicago, in 1966-67.

jimmiraybob said...

TVD - MLK was too radical for white folks, and not radical enough for many blacks.

Well that's not a bad way to put it. The times they had been a changin'.

"There is no more civil rights movement. President Johnson signed it out of existence when he signed the voting rights bill."

This is apparently misattributed. It appears that it was a speech/statemnt made by a MLK, Jr. aide in August 1965, James Bevel at the SCLC national convention (here (p. 85), here (p. 150), and here (p. 168))

Apparently in August, 1965 at the SCLC convention in Chicago, a caucus of radical black nationalists (p. 344) managed to maneuver their way into and take over the convention. Neither King nor Bevel was amused. King only remained at the convention for a day but Bevel and some others stuck it out. Given the circumstances, and until the quote's put into the context of the rest of Bevel’s speech/statement, there’s no way to attach a meaning to it.

(cont below)

jimmiraybob said...

Given the above, I'm not sure how the quote would reflect on King. The potential for the movement to be taken over by the far more radical and potentially violent black nationalists, as King referred to them, was there in 1963as can be seen in his Letter From Birmingham Jail:

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement 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 incorrigible "devil."

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.

King foreshadowed the showdown. The tensions were there in 1963 as well as in 1967. Although the later apparent success of the radical element certainly reflected a fundamental strategic and tactical split and a struggle within the CRM and a challnege for King and the SCLC, I don't see that King or his vision was fundamentally changed.

Given that and the change in the overall mood of the country to a more conservative reaction against the new radicalism of the mid 60s, Yes, King and the SCLC struggled to have their voice heard but that does not mean that they became irrelevant.

Anyway, it's been good to delve into King and go back along memory lane, but it's time to get on with the weekend. Have a good one.

Tom Van Dyke said...

This is apparently misattributed. It appears that it was a speech/statemnt made by a MLK, Jr. aide in August 1965, James Bevel at the SCLC national convention (here (p. 85), here (p. 150), and here (p. 168))

Upon further review---on my own, mind you, because you have come to value my credibility and thoroughness---I deleted my comment with the misattribution, and reposted with the correct one of Bevel. You were clearly writing your comment while the erroneous attribution was still up.

I have a POV, yes, but I'm more interested in accuracy and clarity, as you have no doubt learned to trust.

As for what MLK believed, I haven't questioned that his was a "progressive politics," although he might have grown more progressive as he asked himself and the CRM, "Where Do We Go From Here?"

My argument is more on how he was perceived and received by the greater American public---what made him an American saint---sort of like the diffence between the "true" Locke vs. the "Locke as the Founders understood him" inquiry.

The last link I posted [a sympathetic book] goes into great detail on the cratering of the CRM, its being subsumed by not only the Black Power movement on one side, but LBJ's Great Society programs on the other.

It's a Google Book preview, and so I was able to read much of the relevant material for free. I hope our readers will give it a look.

The book notes that besides the black radicals, the Gallup polls had white America leaving the national consensus on civil rights of 1963: "white backlash" was a term so often used post-1965 as to be a cliche. [I dimly remember the phrase, meaning it was a popular one.]

Tom Van Dyke said...

Anywayz, thx for being you, JRB. Knowing you're there to keep me honest---and also interested in the truth of the thing, which makes it worth writing atall.

I learned a lot more than I wrote here, how Jesse Jackson was a leader of Chicago's Operation Breadbasket, and how he still uses its tactics today in what we skeptics call his corporate "shakedowns."

Also how MLK and the entire CRM converged on Chicago in 1966 for socio-political action, not just Operation Breadbasket [which largely worked], but a comprehensive agenda of social "action" [which did not].

Mayor Daley and the powers-that-be in Chicago killed the CRM where even the combined forces of Lester Maddox, George Wallace and Bull Connor could not.

Phil Johnson said...

The problem you guys are having is related to what JFK had to say about race having no place in our society.
Once you get to figuring that MLK was a human being the same as each of us, you can get a handle on the humanity involved.
Otherwise, you're stuck.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Not stuck, Pinky, having no problems.

The question of clarity is between MLK the man [a "progressive"] and MLK the universally admired American leader [content of their character, not the color of their skin].

Martin Luther King Day honors the latter.

Phil Johnson said...

Don't even mention race then.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, Pinky, it's a very necessary clarification---separating the very real problem of racial discrimination of the 1960s from the very soggy claiming of MLK and the Civil Rights Movement for today's "social justice" and progressive politics.

That's why Senator Everett Dirksen's landmark and sadly overlooked

that broke the Dixiecrat filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is so important---not so much that he was a Republican, but to illustrate that at that moment, when the walls of Jim Crow came tumbling down, we were a fairly united people, as much as is possible, anyway.

The confusion and dishonesty has been in equating racial equality and "social justice" progressive politics [with the corollary that opposing progressive politics is somehow racist].

Now that we have cleared that confusion and slander up, we may continue our studies.

A pretty well-respected historian named Taylor Branch gets the Beck thing right [at last!] in today's NYT:

It has actual facts about how it all went down, facts I've seen nowhere else.

Phil Johnson said...

Thanks for the clarification.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Cool. Dirksen's is really a moving speech, and worth reading in toto. However, the opening will do for now, sentiments and ideas that are surely shared by all of us but the unAmerican:

"It is said on the night he died, Victor Hugo made this closing entry in his diary: “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world; and that is an idea whose time has come.” Later it was put in more dramatic form: “Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose hour has come.” This is the issue with which we have been wrestling for months. There will be continued resistance for one reason or another. There will in some quarters be a steadfast refusal to come to grips with what seems an inevitable challenge which must be met. The idea of equal opportunity to vote, to secure schooling, to have public funds equitably spent, to have public parks and playgrounds equally accessible, to have an equal opportunity for a livelihood without discrimination, to be equal before the law—--the hour for this idea has come and it will not be denied or resisted."

Phil Johnson said...

Dirkson made a popular recoding.

I can't remember it now; but, it was a pretty popular item back then.

Phil Johnson said...

Here is MLK as he truly was:

Tom Van Dyke said...

The movement had stalled, MLK was discouraged. Between the weather and the half-empty hall, MLK didn't even want to go speak. But the faithful were stoked up enough that Ralph Abernathy called and talked him into coming.

MLK was assassinated the next morning.

jimmiraybob said...

TVD - Anywayz, thx for being you, JRB.

Well, to quote one eminant 20th century philosopher, " I Yam What I Yam." There are a couple of things that I passed up that I'd like to coment on. One being:

TVD - ...and MLK came aboard [the CRM] as its figurehead for his impressive rhetorical powers.

This is inaccurate and demeaning. MLK, JR., although renowned for his rhetorical skills, was also an active key leader in the CRM, starting with his ministry at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL., his early invlovement in the NAACP, and his leading role in the Montgomery bus boycott - "The boycott was carried out by the newly established Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). Martin Luther King, Jr. served as President and Ralph David Abernathy served as Program Director. It was one of history’s most dramatic and massive nonviolent protests, stunning the nation and the world." (See also Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters chapters 4 & 5.)

To set the ambiance, I'm going to quote at length from Branch - me being me (p. 198-199):

“In Montgomery [following the success of the bus boycott], after shotgun snipers fired on an integrated bus, King issued a statement calling on city authorities to “take a firm stand” against such violence. City Commissioner Parks, one of the few whites to speak up in response, announced that the city would suspend bus service if the shootings continued – a statement that dismayed King’s followers because they believed that stopping the only integrated public institution in Alabama was precisely what the snipers wanted to accomplish. Two days later, bushwhackers fired another volley at an integrated bus, this time sending a pregnant Negro woman to the hospital with bullet wounds in both legs. The city commissioners halted night bus service.

“King sent out invitations to what he called the first Negro Leaders Conference on Nonviolent Integration. Sixty preachers from ten Southern states responded, gathering in Atlanta at Ebenezer [Baptist Church in Atlanta] early in January of 1957. They represented a pitifully small portion of the Negro preachers in the region, but their ranks included many of the most influential mavericks. Fred Shuttlesworth came from Birmingham, and Rev. C.K. Steele from Tallahassee, Florida, where he was leading a Montgomery-inspired campaign to integrate the buses. William Holmes Borders attended from Atlanta, where his own non-violent bus demonstration provoked Georgia’s governor to put the state militia on standby alert just before the conference. Bayard Rustin came down from New York to work quietly on drafting resolutions and an organizational charter.

(cont below)

jimmiraybob said...

“Abernathy [Ralph] stayed with King in the Atlanta family home. At 2:30 A.M. on January 10, the day the conference was to begin, Mother King [MLK’s mother] shook Abernathy awake to take an emergency phone call. “Ralph, they have bombed our home,” said a shaky Juanita Abernathy from Montgomery. “But I am alright and so is the baby.” She reported that the porch and front room of the house were practically demolished, and that the arriving policemen seemed frightened too, because other blasts had been heard since. They said the Hutchinson Street Baptist Church was destroyed, its roof caved in. People were calling or driving around the street in dumb panic, some too afraid to go outside and others too afraid to go home.

“The King home in Atlanta was lit up and buzzing as Abernathy worried out loud about the First Baptist [Church in Montgomery]. “I don’t want reverend Stoke’s church bombed,” he said plaintively. Daddy King [MLK’s father] was pacing the floor angrily. “Well, they are going to bomb it,” he said. Abernathy grew so agitated that he tried repeatedly to get a call through to his wife. When he finally succeeded, he learned that the panic in Montgomery was growing worse. There had been another blast, loud enough to be heard all over town. It was definite that Hutchinson Street Baptist Church had been hit – people had seen the ruins – and the Graetz home had been bombed again. Mrs. Abernathy went off the line briefly and came back to say that another one had gone off, close to their home. She felt the rumble. And another church had been hit. She was not sure which church and had no idea yet where the latest bomb had struck.
“Later reports confirmed Abernathy’s fears that it was First Baptist. He and King, leaving Coretta and Rustin to run the Atlanta conference, departed before dawn for Montgomery, where they surveyed the night’s total of four bombed churches and two houses. Of the churches, First Baptist was the least severely hit, as the bomb had torn apart the basement but done little damage to the sanctuary above. Still, city authorities condemned it as structurally unsound for use.

“King returned hastily to Atlanta, where the assembly of preachers voted to form an organization that, after several name changes, would be called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. They elected King president.”

King and everyone else involved in the struggle were acting heroically in the name of civil rights against what we would call today, a reign of terror – evil incarnate I believe they call it. King was not “brought aboard” because he could talk pretty. As the kids say, he earned his chops and deserves due recognition and respect.

Pinky, do the passages above help to convey the humanity?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thank you, JRB. I stand corrected. I count on you for fisking my every statement. Although I'm thorough in the comments section [see above, re Rev. Bevel], I can only check my every statement for mainpage-level pontifications.

Historian [journalist?] Taylor Branch looked interesting, what with his trilogy on the CRM. His rather sympathetic remarks about Glenn Beck re MLK may deserve serious consideration.

jimmiraybob said...

I count on you for fisking my every statement.

I should point out to other readers that "fisking" can have a positive conotation. :) And technically, not every statement.

jimmiraybob said...

Although Branch isn't a trained historian, he is university degreed and started out as a journalist. I would think that after decades of researching King and the civil rights movement he'd be considered a leading authority on the subject (the first of the trilogy, Parting the Waters is coptrighted 1988).

His three works on King & CRM have received vast kudos and I haven't seen any negative reviews - which makes me unhappy since they're very useful.

I would certainly value his perspective on the Beck/King thing - I read it quickly but will have to read it again.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, JRB, I meant fisking accurately. That is your style, to hit the books to test my every assertion that seems counterintuitive or contrary to the prevailing narrative.

I am indeed wrong once or twice a year, and was wrong here, but hopefully only in our comments section, not the formal argument of our mainpage. I carelessly let pass the assertion I read somewhere that MLK was planted as a figurehead to an already-running Civil Rights Movement without confirming it independently. As you proved, he hit the ground right on Rosa Parks' heels, initiating the Montgomery bus boycott.

Just the way I like it. Our comments section is the most valuable part of this here American Creation blog to me, where we float our ideas and the results of our studies in a collegial fashion, not as bloodsport.

In fact, Mark David Hall chose AC [among many other individuals but few other venues] to roadtest his latest scholarly paper for accuracy. So again, thx for being you, and once again, cheers to all of us here gathered. Between the substance we examine and unearth by going back to the source materials---fisking all our assumptions--- and our commitment to joint cooperation toward the truth no matter what our individual POV is, well...

To echo Washington and Madison about the achieving of the American Constitution, if this blog isn't a miracle, it's a near-miracle at least.

Naum said...


"…broke the Dixiecrat filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is so important---not so much that he was a Republican, but to illustrate that at that moment, when the walls of Jim Crow came tumbling down, we were a fairly united people, as much as is possible, anyway."

Eh, no. There were cracks already evident in the New Deal coalition. Civil Rights legislation shattered it, tore the nation's political map asunder, as LBJ correctly assessed when signing. See Rick Perlstein's excellent Nixonland for a great chronology.

"The confusion and dishonesty has been in equating racial equality and "social justice" progressive politics"

How much MLK have you have actually read/heard?

They were almost totally tied together, and furthermore, the backlash against was fanned and deployed by Nixon and Republicans under guise of "law and order" but more essentially predicated (don't take my word for it — hear the words of Kevin Phillips and other Republican architects of "Southern Strategy") on casting aspersions and reinforcing the evil and inferiority of "the other".

That posters of MLK don the screens of evangelical churches and Republican politicians doesn't change the fact that MLK and progressive politics were sewn together at the hip. And it really was never a D/R deal, and only when LBJ swayed that way for a brief time did it go Democratic, but then the adamant protest against Vietnam alienated MLK from party leadership.

But then soon after, Republicans embraced the "Southern Strategy", which is why to this date, in presidential elections, the Republican candidate now garners less than ~10% of vote, no doubt, the most significant demographic disparity.