mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Christmas Joy Without Piety”: The Most Humble Holy Day

I once told a favorite pastor of mine that I liked him because he wasn’t too pious.

As soon as the words were out there, I wondered if I should have just kept my mouth shut — I’m not good at that — since he might have found my compliment offensive. After all, many priests aspire to being pious, which can be defined as “devoutly religious” or “prayerful.” This would seem to be part of a cleric’s job description.

But this priest ratified my original intuition by saying thanks. He knew I had in mind the other definition of pious, “making a hypocritical display of virtue.” I am always skeptical of those who present themselves as very holy and righteous. Their lack of humility blinds them to the sins that should matter to us most — our own.

The other thing about my priest friend is that he is a very cheerful man and thus never went in for the deadly seriousness that some pious people use as a battering ram against fun, laughter and joy. If religious faith isn’t about joy, there’s no point to it.

You can make the case that Christmas is the religious holiday best suited for those who are skeptical of piety. If you put aside television ads for BMWs and the like, it’s the most humble holy day and the one closest to where people live. It’s astonishing to have a religious celebration of God as a helpless child. The idea of God being self-effacing enough to enter such a state is revolutionary. And, yes, babies are incapable of piety.

Or consider “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” my favorite Christmas song. It was discovered and perhaps partly written by John Wesley Work Jr., the son of a slave and the earliest African-American collector of spirituals and folk songs who spent much of his professional life at Fisk University. The song embodies a joyous demand, much as a movement makes demands on its loyalists. One lyric tells us: “Down in a lowly manger our humble Christ was born.” Three things about this: The manger is lowly, Jesus is humble, and (in most versions, at least) he’s “our” Christ. Power and affection flow both ways.

Christmas also inspires a certain theological humility, or it ought to. The birth story appears in only two of the four Gospels, and the tellings are different. Luke describes the shepherds, the angels and the manger while Matthew introduces the wise men, who go to a home, not a manger.

That popular devotion merges the two narratives together should not offend us. It’s important to learn from what the theologian Harvey Cox calls “people’s religion” and to examine not only “what is written, preached or taught,” but also “the actual impact of a religious idea on people.” Cox is hard on his fellow liberals who look down condescendingly upon the religious faith of those whose side they usually take in social struggles. “Those who support justice for the poor cannot spit on their devotions,” he wrote acidly in his book “The Seduction of the Spirit.”

In fact, more than any other religious holiday, the widespread celebration of Christmas arose from popular demand. The holiday has been highly controversial within Christianity and celebrating it was once illegal in New England. The Puritans had some decent arguments that the day was a form of idolatry and paganism that could be traced back to ancient Rome and had little scriptural support. The pious Puritans also didn’t much like all the raucous revelry its celebration entailed. It was not until 1870 that President Ulysses Grant declared Christmas a federal holiday.

Might it quell the kerfuffle around the “Christmas wars” if we acknowledged that the original war on Christmas was waged by very devout Christians? Of course not, because the controversy is about politics and television ratings, not religion.

Still, I cannot go with those who simply see Christmas as a winter solstice celebration under another name. There is a radical intuition about God in that manger (even if it’s only in one Gospel). And nearly every Christmas story comes back to liberation and salvation, compassion and the quest for second chances. That’s true of Dickens’ tale about Ebenezer Scrooge, it’s true of It’s a Wonderful Life, and it’s true of the lyrics of “Good King Wenceslas” (“Ye who will now bless the poor/Shall yourselves find blessing”).

And if this sounds a little pious, please forgive me. After all, it’s Christmas.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 24, 2014

December 25, 2014 Posted by | Christianity, Christmas, Religion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays: The Snowdog – By Jacquie Lawson

Although we all have our different ideologies, preferences and opinions, we are all a part of “America The Beautiful”. There is no place like home. I wish you all the very best in the coming New Year.

The Snowdog – animated Flash ecard by Jacquie Lawson

In Memory of my brother and best friend, Anthony Evans, MD and to my good friend and colleague, John B. Makin, Jr., MD

 

By: raemd95, Originally Posted December 24, 2009, December 25, 2013; December 25, 2014, December 24, 2015

December 25, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

“Rudy Giuliani Crosses Line On Race”: Why GOP Must Finally Push Back On His Recklessness

Quite appropriately, considering how terrible much of the news this year has been, it looks like the last big story of 2014 will be the horrifying murder of two NYPD officers this weekend by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, an unhappy and mentally unstable 28-year-old man who had a history of trouble with the law and a propensity for violence. Claiming on social media beforehand that he was doing it in the name of avenging Michael Brown and Eric Garner,  Brinsley approached a squad car in Brooklyn on Saturday and pitilessly killed the two unsuspecting officers within before killing himself after a brief attempt to escape. Like Shaneka Thompson, the Air Force reservist and former girlfriend he’d shot in the stomach earlier that day (who is in critical condition but expected to recover), neither Officer Wenjian Liu nor Officer Rafael Ramos was white.

The worst thing about this terrible event is, by far, the fear and pain that has been visited on those who care for Thompson, Ramos and Liu. On a human level, that’s what most matters. But on the level of politics — which occasionally intersects with that of humanity, but far less often than you’d hope — a terrible development was the response. As my colleague Joan Walsh explained already, a truly surprising and disappointing number of high-profile conservatives and Republicans didn’t even wait until the public knew Brinsley’s name before they began using his atrocity for their own, tangentially related purposes. New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch, for example, almost immediately integrated the  attack into his ongoing campaign against Mayor Bill de Blasio. Former Gov. George Pataki, meanwhile, used it to bash de Blasio and test the waters for the latest iteration of his quadrennially threatened (and quadrennially ignored) potential White House run.

Yet even though blaming New York’s mayor for Brinsley’s actions is irrational (and so opportunistic that it borders on the obscene), even more shocking, even more inexcusable, and even more disturbing were the comments from ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The failed presidential candidate and well-compensated consultant to Serbian nationalists trained his fire not so much at Mayor de Blasio as President Obama, whom he charged with fostering an atmosphere that made actions like Brinsley’s seem OK. “We’ve had four months of propaganda, starting with the president, that everybody should hate the police,” Giuliani said on Fox News Sunday morning. “The protests are being embraced, the protests are being encouraged,” he continued. Even the peaceful protests, he said, “lead to a conclusion: The police are bad, the police are racist.” Giuliani all but laid the slain officers’ caskets at the president’s feet.

While it should not surprise us that a man who once, in complete earnestness, said “[f]reedom is about authority” thinks all forms of organized dissent against law enforcement are illegitimate, we should be shaken and concerned  by the complete lack of pushback from other elite Republicans that Giuliani’s comments received. Despite the fact that nothing — absolutely, positively nothing — the president said in response to the turmoil in Ferguson or the outrage in Staten Island could be reasonably construed as even tacitly endorsing violence, no high-profile GOPer even tried to scold “America’s mayor” for his brazen claims. In spite of the fact that Giuliani’s comments could only make sense if you accepted a racialized and erroneous subtext  (black protesters and president vs. white police), no Republican publicly disagreed. And when Erick Erickson, predictably, brought Giuliani’s insinuation to the surface, saying Obama “does not like the United States,” the silence remained.

When we think of the ways in which Obama’s most virulent enemies have sought to delegitimize him, to depict him not only as wrong on various issues as well as lacking in character but as fundamentally deceitful and un-American, we conjure up images of the birthers. We think of claims that he’s actually from Kenya and/or Indonesia, that he’s lying about his Christianity and/or as his name. But even though the Democrats, the mainstream media and elements of the Republican establishment have managed to push the birthers to the fringes of the GOP, there’s little reason to think Giuliani, Erickson and others who make arguments like theirs will be ostracized from polite society. That’s a great injustice — because what they’re doing now and what the birthers do is, fundamentally, the same.

Granted, alleging President Obama is on a decades-long mission, which began at the time of his birth, to destroy the United States from within is much more superficially outlandish than alleging that he encourages the murder of police. But both claims, at their essence, depict the president as alien from the rest of American society, as an interloper with nefarious designs. For the birthers, Obama is a secret Muslim or Marxist or lizard (or a combination of all three) who wants to weaken the U.S. in order to implement some shadowy scheme. And for Giuliani and Erickson, he’s a secret radical, a crypto-black nationalist, the New Black Panther Party’s best friend in D.C. He’s not a milquetoast liberal technocrat reformer, but an extremist in camouflage, inciting a race war and the murder of police.

These wild, bigoted fever dreams are dangerous accusations for anyone to excuse or ignore, no matter the target. But they’re especially unacceptable when the accused is the first African-American president of the United States. This country has a long, ugly history of treating people of color — but especially black people — as somehow less than fully American. That’s part of what made Obama’s ascension to the White House so important and extraordinary. The prospect of the country’s first black president being repeatedly accused by his political opponents of stoking a race war and sowing disorder is therefore a scary one; and if it came to pass, it would be a clear step back from where we were as recently as 2008. And this is why it’s imperative that all the key players in the political elite push these sentiments back underground, as they (mostly) did with the birthers.

If they’re serious about wanting to strive for national unity and reconciliation on race in America, Republicans and conservatives need to distance themselves from Erickson and Giuliani’s comments — ASAP.

 

By: Elias Isquith, Salon, December 23, 2014

December 25, 2014 Posted by | NYPD, Racism, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Year In Fear”: From Ebola To Street Violence To Comrade Kim

There a lot of things about the Sony Pictures hack attack and the resulting cancellation of the Seth Rogen-James Franco movie “The Interview” that don’t make sense. It isn’t just that the entire episode feels fictional; it feels like a stretch as a fictional episode. Some upstart satirical novelist fresh out of the Iowa Writers Workshop writes a book in which the dictator of North Korea, the nation where every day is Throwback Thursday, forces a multinational media corporation to kill a Hollywood comedy built around a couple of snarky, self-referential stars. Two versions of meta-reality collide: the delusional gaze of dead-end Leninism meets the smug smirk of dumbed-down postmodernism, and the world explodes. Oh, come on. Couldn’t happen.

But it fed our fear. It fed our love of fear. We are a nation addicted to fear. We seek it out wherever we can find it, and we cling to it. When it doesn’t exist, we invent it. We manipulate it for cynical purposes, to sell bad products and push bad ideologies. How much have you heard about Ebola and ISIS since the Republicans won their glorious victory in the midterm elections? We invoke it soberly, on both the right and the left, as a warning from the heavens urging us to repent of sin and choose the path of righteousness. If a Bible-thumping preacher inveighing against gays and Muslims taps into our love affair with fear, so does every left-wing warning of eco-catastrophe, from Rachel Carson to Al Gore and beyond.

Not all fears are equally unreasonable, to be sure. But if we can never agree about exactly what to fear, we are unanimous in embracing fear itself, and we line up to suckle poisonous milk from its brain-freezing breast. Fear is a powerful and dreadful thing, a toxic and odorless gas that permeates all thought and all substance. It conquers reason and love. It makes us shriveled and small-minded. A society ruled by fear stumbles along from crisis to crisis, guided by no clear principles and riven by contradictory impulses. It chooses leaders who feed the fear and leaders who promise to banish it (often the same people). In the name of conquering fear, it ends by giving up everything that is not fear. Constitutional freedoms, the ideals of democracy, civil rights and even the sanctity of the human individual, perhaps the greatest innovation of capitalism – all are subjugated to the Ministry of Fear.

Here’s the detail in the Sony/”Interview” snafu I keep getting stuck on: Apparently sane and normal people had to pretend, if only as a term of art or a legal fiction, that there was something to be afraid of here. We had to “assess the risk” that the incoherent threat made by Kim Jong-un or whoever-the-hell against people who went to see “The Interview” in movie theaters, represented actual danger in the real world. (The more I reread the backward syntax and throttled grammar of that message – “Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment” – the more it sounds like the work of some cackling, bearded anarchist in Brooklyn.) I don’t mean the microscopic, act-of-God danger that can never be eliminated: A plane might crash into my house before I finish writing this column, or whatever. We had to sit around like an entire nation of TV pundits pulling on our chins and consider the possibility that the North Koreans were actually going to blow up a suburban movie theater in Syracuse or San Antonio.

Well, no, it probably won’t happen (said the sane and reasonable people, and their lawyers), but there was a threat. A “threat”! It’s not worth the “risk.” Just imagine the carnage in the food court, and the horror at Sunglass Hut, if the Shoppes at Fox Run Estates became the target of a North Korean nuke attack. We can’t be too safe. Well, here’s the thing: You can be too safe, and in a certain sense Americans are too safe. At least, we are too cosseted from life in the real world, too securely packaged in the polyvinyl peanuts of our consumer lifestyle, too oblivious to real dangers and too fixated on imaginary ones. Can I tell you for certain that no one would have gotten murdered for watching “The Interview”? No. But I can tell you that those moviegoers were far more likely to die in car accidents on the way to the mall, and that the fear of that vanishingly small possibility is more destructive than the possibility itself.

You could say that every year since 2001 has been a year of fear in America, but 2014 feels special in this regard. There were enemies both foreign and domestic to fear; there were numinous psychological terrors and dreadful real-world events. It was a year of racialized fear and sexualized fear, a year when citizens felt under attack by law enforcement and the intelligence bureaucracies, and vice versa. We were instructed to fear a deadly new plague and a murderous new Islamic cult, both presented as the potential end of civilization and requiring the further renunciation of democracy and due process. To end the year by abandoning a stupid movie in terror of a cartoon dictator from an impoverished and isolated country 6,000 miles away was entirely too fitting.

If there’s one thing we know about Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, it’s that he genuinely felt afraid. Now, the reasons why Wilson felt afraid of an unarmed black man, and believed he had no alternative but to use lethal force, belong to a long and pathological skein of hatred and fear stretching deep into American history. I understand why many people wanted to see Wilson prosecuted, along with the other perceived rogue cops of 2014. But Wilson did not invent the climate of fear that makes black men and boys appear threatening to authority figures whether or not they are armed, and whether or not they are doing anything illegal or confrontational. He was soaked in that fear, like a piece of human litmus paper, and was too weak to resist it.

It might be tempting to conclude that the cases of Brown and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and the other unarmed African-American males killed by cops this year were isolated instances that got blown out of proportion, rather than evidence of a larger pattern. But the fear-driven and intensely racialized response to those killings suggests otherwise. In the zero-sum game of American racial politics, a distressingly large number of white people interpret any criticism of the police, and any discussion about enduring racial prejudice or white privilege, as an all-out assault. Like everybody else of any color who has tried to write about this issue, I’ve been barraged all year long by correspondents eager to discuss the purported epidemic of black-on-white violence ignored by the media, Barack Obama’s impending “final solution” to the white problem, or the coming alliance between ISIS agents and urban black radicals aimed at overthrowing the U.S. government from within. (I heard about that one, from a self-styled terrorism expert, just last week.)

I’m not suggesting that most white Americans manifest that kind of extreme paranoia. But it isn’t as rare as those of us in liberal coastal cities would like to believe, and even the crude data of public opinion polls suggest that the climate of fear that enabled Darren Wilson is widespread in white America. Like so many other things about our perishing republic, this is paradoxical. Amid all this psychic distress, it’s easy to overlook the objective facts: Violent crime is at or near a 50-year low in this country, and by some measures an all-time low. The overt racial discord and confrontation of the 1960s and ‘70s is largely absent from American life (or at least it was, until very recently). A black man with a foreign-sounding name has twice been elected president, by comfortable margins.

If white Americans – who are and remain a uniquely wealthy, privileged and protected group as a whole — choose to view themselves through a prism of fear, invoking the same rhetoric of victimology they often claim to despise in others, they are not alone. We saw a similar defensive reaction among men during the hashtag war that erupted after the Santa Barbara shootings last spring, as if the #YesAllWomen consciousness-raising moment, which could have provoked thoughtful reflection, had been a call for a feminist police state and universal castration. Instead we learned that #NotAllMen are violent creeps. Well, congratulations.

Both of these fear-driven reactions are mimicked again, and repeatedly, on the national scale. Americans seem determined to process the trauma of 9/11 – which at this point feels like the cherished and nourished trauma of 9/11 – by convincing ourselves that we’re not actually a blundering imperial superpower but an embattled underdog, about to be overrun from outside and eaten away from within by a legion of comic-book supervillains. I’m aware this is nothing new. This current of xenophobia and panic, the terror that our shining city on a hill will be corrupted by savages and pagans, goes back at least as far as the Salem witch trials. With the delusion known as American exceptionalism comes the delusion of persecution. Remember the scene in “Fahrenheit 911” when Michael Moore gets people in the Michigan backwoods to explain why their county is a likely target for Islamic terrorists? They hate us for our freedom!

After the Edward Snowden revelations, and after the Brown and Garner grand jury decisions, many of us have found new reasons to fear the state apparatus, whether in its covert form or its paramilitary street-level domestic operatives. As I said earlier, not all fear is unreasonable, and those fears may find both positive and negative modes of expression. I will never know the vulnerable feeling of being an African-American potentially subject to street harassment, arbitrary arrest or summary execution by police. What is most noteworthy about the widespread and generally peaceful demonstrations in response to the Brown and Garner cases, in fact, is that they represent not the triumph of fear but a triumph over fear. The anguish, grief and fear of black people and other citizens have been translated into social action – into people on the street together, which is the most powerful antidote to fear.

Executives at Sony could perhaps have summoned the possibility of social action – if they lived in some alternate universe where they believed in something beyond corporate ass-covering. Since they don’t, they ditched a film they never believed in, in response to a fear they didn’t really feel, because the lawyers told them to. A profile in courage that sums up the year in fear just a little too well.

 

By: Andrew O’Hehir, Salon, December 20, 2014

December 25, 2014 Posted by | Fear, Police Brutality, Sony Pictures | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Christmas Sermon On Peace”: Martin Luther King, Jr, 1967

This Christmas season finds us a rather bewildered human race. We have neither peace within nor peace without. Everywhere paralyzing fears harrow people by day and haunt them by night. Our world is sick with war; everywhere we turn we see its ominous possibilities. And yet, my friends, the Christmas hope for peace and good will toward all men can no longer be dismissed as a kind of pious dream of some utopian. If we don’t have good will toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own instruments and our own power. Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the very destructive power of modern weapons of warfare eliminates even the possibility that war may any longer serve as a negative good. And so, if we assume that life is worth living, if we assume that mankind has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war and so let us this morning explore the conditions for peace. Let us this morning think anew on the meaning of that Christmas hope: “Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Men.” And as we explore these conditions, I would like to suggest that modern man really go all out to study the meaning of nonviolence, its philosophy and its strategy.

We have experimented with the meaning of nonviolence in our struggle for racial justice in the United States, but now the time has come for man to experiment with nonviolence in all areas of human conflict, and that means nonviolence on an international scale.

Now let me suggest first that if we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world. Now the judgment of God is upon us, and we must either learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools.

Yes, as nations and individuals, we are interdependent. I have spoken to you before of our visit to India some years ago. It was a marvelous experience; but I say to you this morning that there were those depressing moments. How can one avoid being depressed when one sees with one’s own eyes evidences of millions of people going to bed hungry at night? How can one avoid being depressed when one sees with ones own eyes thousands of people sleeping on the sidewalks at night? More than a million people sleep on the sidewalks of Bombay every night; more than half a million sleep on the sidewalks of Calcutta every night. They have no houses to go into. They have no beds to sleep in. As I beheld these conditions, something within me cried out: “Can we in America stand idly by and not be concerned?” And an answer came: “Oh, no!” And I started thinking about the fact that right here in our country we spend millions of dollars every day to store surplus food; and I said to myself: “I know where we can store that food free of charge, in the wrinkled stomachs of the millions of God’s children in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even in our own nation, who go to bed hungry at night.”

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half of the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.

Now let me say, secondly, that if we are to have peace in the world, men and nations must embrace the nonviolent affirmation that ends and means must cohere. One of the great philosophical debates of history has been over the whole question of means and ends. And there have always been those who argued that the end justifies the means, that the means really aren’t important. The important thing is to get to the end, you see.

So, if you’re seeking to develop a just society, they say, the important thing is to get there, and the means are really unimportant; any means will do so long as they get you there? They may be violent, they may be untruthful means; they may even be unjust means to a just end. There have been those who have argued this throughout history. But we will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.

It’s one of the strangest things that all the great military geniuses of the world have talked about peace. The conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, were akin in seeking a peaceful world order. If you will read Mein Kampf closely enough, you will discover that Hitler contended that everything he did in Germany was for peace. And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace. What is the problem? They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. All of this is saying that, in the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.

Now let me say that the next thing we must be concerned about if we are to have peace on earth and good will toward men is the nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. Every man is somebody because he is a child of God. And so when we say “Thou shalt not kill,” we’re really saying that human life is too sacred to be taken on the battlefields of the world. Man is more than a tiny vagary of whirling electrons or a wisp of smoke from a limitless smoldering. Man is a child of God, made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such. Until men see this everywhere, until nations see this everywhere, we will be fighting wars. One day somebody should remind us that, even though there may be political and ideological differences between us, the Vietnamese are our brothers, the Russians are our brothers, the Chinese are our brothers; and one day we’ve got to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. But in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile. In Christ there is neither male nor female. In Christ there is neither Communist nor capitalist. In Christ, somehow, there is neither bound nor free. We are all one in Christ Jesus. And when we truly believe in the sacredness of human personality, we won’t exploit people, we won’t trample over people with the iron feet of oppression, we won’t kill anybody.

There are three words for “love” in the Greek New Testament; one is the word “eros.” Eros is a sort of esthetic, romantic love. Plato used to talk about it a great deal in his dialogues, the yearning of the soul for the realm of the divine. And there is and can always be something beautiful about eros, even in its expressions of romance. Some of the most beautiful love in all of the world has been expressed this way.

Then the Greek language talks about “philia,” which is another word for love, and philia is a kind of intimate love between personal friends. This is the kind of love you have for those people that you get along with well, and those whom you like on this level you love because you are loved.

Then the Greek language has another word for love, and that is the word “agape.” Agape is more than romantic love, it is more than friendship. Agape is understanding, creative, redemptive good will toward all men. Agape is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. Theologians would say that it is the love of God operating in the human heart. When you rise to love on this level, you love all men not because you like them, not because their ways appeal to you, but you love them because God loves them. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your enemies.” And I’m happy that he didn’t say, “Like your enemies,” because there are some people that I find it pretty difficult to like. Liking is an affectionate emotion, and I can’t like anybody who would bomb my home. I can’t like anybody who would exploit me. I can’t like anybody who would trample over me with injustices. I can’t like them. I can’t like anybody who threatens to kill me day in and day out. But Jesus reminds us that love is greater than liking. Love is understanding, creative, redemptive good will toward all men. And I think this is where we are, as a people, in our struggle for racial justice. We can’t ever give up. We must work passionately and unrelentingly for first-class citizenship. We must never let up in our determination to remove every vestige of segregation and discrimination from our nation, but we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege to love.

I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many sheriffs, too many white citizens’ councilors, and too many Klansmen of the South to want to hate, myself; and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up before our most bitter opponents and say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country, and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, and we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”

If there is to be peace on earth and good will toward men, we must finally believe in the ultimate morality of the universe, and believe that all reality hinges on moral foundations. Something must remind us of this as we once again stand in the Christmas season and think of the Easter season simultaneously, for the two somehow go together. Christ came to show us the way. Men love darkness rather than the light, and they crucified him, and there on Good Friday on the cross it was still dark, but then Easter came, and Easter is an eternal reminder of the fact that the truth-crushed earth will rise again. Easter justifies Carlyle in saying, “No lie can live forever.” And so this is our faith, as we continue to hope for peace on earth and good will toward men: let us know that in the process we have cosmic companionship.

In 1963, on a sweltering August afternoon, we stood in Washington, D.C., and talked to the nation about many things. Toward the end of that afternoon, I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare. I remember the first time I saw that dream turn into a nightmare, just a few weeks after I had talked about it. It was when four beautiful, unoffending, innocent Negro girls were murdered in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. I watched that dream turn into a nightmare as I moved through the ghettos of the nation and saw my black brothers and sisters perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity, and saw the nation doing nothing to grapple with the Negroes’ problem of poverty. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched my black brothers and sisters in the midst of anger and understandable outrage, in the midst of their hurt, in the midst of their disappointment, turn to misguided riots to try to solve that problem. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched the war in Vietnam escalating, and as I saw so-called military advisors, sixteen thousand strong, turn into fighting soldiers until today over five hundred thousand American boys are fighting on Asian soil. Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream.

I have a dream that one day men will rise up and come to see that they are made to live together as brothers. I still have a dream this morning that one day every Negro in this country, every colored person in the world, will be judged on the basis of the content of his character rather than the color of his skin, and every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. I still have a dream that one day the idle industries of Appalachia will be revitalized, and the empty stomachs of Mississippi will be filled, and brotherhood will be more than a few words at the end of a prayer, but rather the first order of business on every legislative agenda. I still have a dream today that one day justice will roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. I still have a dream today that in all of our state houses and city halls men will be elected to go there who will do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with their God. I still have a dream today that one day war will come to an end, that men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, that nations will no longer rise up against nations, neither will they study war any more. I still have a dream today that one day the lamb and the lion will lie down together and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid. I still have a dream today that one day every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill will be made low, the rough places will be made smooth and the crooked places straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. I still have a dream that with this faith we will be able to adjourn the councils of despair and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when there will be peace on earth and good will toward men. It will be a glorious day, the morning stars will sing together, and the sons of God will shout for joy.

 

By: Martin Luther King, Jr.; Dr. King first delivered this sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he served as co-pastor. On Christmas Eve, 1967, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired this sermon as part of the seventh annual Massey Lectures

December 25, 2014 Posted by | Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr, Racial Justice | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: