What Would MLK Do?

Jail

Today, I read an essay by Lesley Butterfield Harrop.  His powerful words touched and inspired me.

I am NO Martin Luther King.  But….maybe, just maybe, 10,000 resounding voices can echo the example of  this great man.

Lesley’s Essay

I attended my lovely little Unitarian Universalist Church congregation today. The theme was Martin Luther King Jr. and the freedoms that he stood for. I have to admit my public and private school education has failed when it comes teaching Dr. King’s remarkable insight into the social injustices and social psychology behind the very freedoms that he was so peacefully bit powerfully advocating for. The letter from Dr King penned from Birmingham Jail was read in the church service. I’d like to share some correlating thoughts that I’ve had regarding Dr King’s words and corresponding situations we now face in the social and political system of the Mormon religious institution. In particular, Sam Young’s work/petition to keep our children safe from harmful influences and practices that curiously and alarming seem to have a place within our faith system, as well as many of us who desperately who to advocate for changes within the church including racial and gender equality, LGBTQIA inclusion, and reformation of other harmful and abusive policies or messaging. I want to share a few excerpts from his letter first, followed by the correlation I can see.

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]”
16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms…

…But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid…

…I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection…

..I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality…

…I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality…

…I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen…

…In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists…” (Excerpts from Letter from Birmingham Jail).

The assertions that Dr King defines in his letter are strictly parallel to those we as brothers and sisters in faith face today. He outlines ‘The Why’ of his work. Certainly, he was asked and even demeaned for traveling to other places in order to advocate for freedom, just as we hear today from faithful TBM’s, in all areas, “Why do you need to advocate for these children if you trust your current Bishop, or if your children are grown, or if you are not even LDS, or if this never happened to you personally? And if you are not gay, why does this policy matter to you?” With Dr King’s words, we have beautiful reasoning as to why we must stand when there are injustices, no matter the effects on us personally. Regardless if these very injustices take place in our ward, our university, our community, our religion, or our place of residence, we must stand because somewhere in a ward, a university, a community they ARE taking place. We stand because we must. And we travel or spread our cause, because the need to reach these places of injustice will not be fulfilled until someone somewhere stands and says, “No More.”

Interestingly enough, it was NOT the extremists that Dr King found the most frustration with. It was those who were the Moderates. The ones who could understand the need for change, but ultimately chose to preserve the peace and order of system instead of standing and advocating for a new freedom-filled peace. Is this not what we are facing today? We all personally know those people who can understand our cause to stand for protecting children, fighting injustices, and calling out abuse. Sadly, the majority of this crowd will not ACT but remain COMPLICIT, justifying that it is not their fight, when deep down they just fear change. This group of people (the moderates as Dr King referred to them as) values peace over justice. Dr. King so eloquently points out the harm in a peace that allows evil and the true desire he has for a peace that thrives with freedom and justice. In our LDS wards and stakes we face this same question. We have peace and order, yes, but what type is it? Regretfully, it is the type of peace and order that is allowing injustices and evils to flourish, against our children and against our own brothers and sisters, no less.

Finally, Dr. King speaks of the church. The church that he LOVES. The church that he is a third generation preacher in. He speaks of this church disappointing him greatly because of its inability to stand with the oppressed. Why does this disappoint him? Because Jesus Christ himself championed the oppressed with peace and love. He did not turn away from the injustices or fall in line with the Roman rule
of order to keep the peace. He walked and served the least of these and HE is the EXEMPLAR to all of us who claim to follow him. Certainly, the parallel can be drawn to our church today. We literally and figuratively take upon ourselves the name of Christ each Sunday. We call ourselves The Latter-Day Saints of Jesus Chris himself. How can we even use that terminology when we justify, blame, minimize, rationalize, and doubt the countless horrific experiences of our powerless victims who had no voice and no protector.

I didn’t mean to write a novel, but felt such important conclusions were necessary to draw after seeing some of the responses to those who simply advocate for a resolution to injustices happening in our midst today.

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7 thoughts on “What Would MLK Do?

  1. Well said, Sam.

    You hit the nail on the head.

    We either hold the same core values that Jesus did himself . . . or we do not.

    Living our lives from those our core values, we either treat our fellow brothers and sisters as Jesus would treat them . . . or we do not.

    How we treat each other is the outward, visible manifestation of our inward, invisible, core beliefs and priorities.

    Sam, you are way too humble to let this go in very deeply, but you, my friend, are showing a set of core values and depth of love for your fellow human beings that bring tears to my eyes right now as I type this.

    MLK has passed on, but Sam Young is not only alive and well, but he is proactively and powerfully defending those innocents among us who are unable to defend themselves . . . to shield themselves from ongoing, egregious harm.

    I feel blessed to even know you, Sam, and overwhelmed that you are my dear friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Gary,
    Your comments always catch me off guard in some way. Usually with high humor or piercing parody, Tonight… tears.

    There I was reading with innocent intent and then….you noted tears in your eyes. Tears immediately appeared in my eyes. Do you know what they were? They were tears of friendship.

    I’m going to open up my heart and tell you a few things privately to you and out in the open to anyone who might finish reading this long article.

    First, I truly am just an average sized guy. I appreciate your accolades. In the end, you and I hold the very same core values. And that’s lovely.

    Second, for years, I have often cried at movies when no one else did. At the time, I didn’t recognize why. I just cried. It took several years before I saw the pattern. Besides the normal stuff that brings tears to most every one, there are 2 things that do it for me.

    1) Friendship. Stories of deep friendship. Friendship through thick and thin, regardless of how messed up one of the friends becomes. One poignant example is the movie A Beautiful Mind. I cried hard and often through most of the movie. At the end of the show, my throat was raw and aching from frequent strenuous efforts to prevent loud eruptions of audible bawling in the midst of a packed house.

    2) Pursuit of a noble cause. The nobility of sacrifice for a higher purpose. Honor. Dignity. Integrity. The willingness to lay all on the line for a righteous cause. Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, The Magnificent Seven, to name a few. Perhaps all those tears I have shed, at the moment others were simply enjoying the moment, have brought me to this moment at hand.

    I know that sounds sappy and somewhat narcissist. But, that’s me. It’s the me that a lifetime of experiences has created. Maybe multiple lifetimes…as a close and wise friend once intimated.

    Love to you my brother!

    Like

  3. I so admire King’s philosophy and the great strides accomplished during his time in the spotlight, and wish we could incorporate it more fully into our national fabric.

    That being said, I have the same problem with MLK as I have with JFK and Joseph Smith. How do I accept the beautiful teachings and examples of such men in the social arenas, while at the same time despising them for their serial womanizing, infidelity and adultery in their marriages?

    Help, anyone?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can help out here with a Maxim. This will be difficult for many to accept, but I have accepted it and find it very worthwhile.

      Maxim: Do not confuse the messenger with the message.

      At the end of the day, the messenger is completely irrelevant. Truth and High Conscious Principles stand totally and completely on their own merit. The imperfect human being delivering a message will always be imperfect and human.

      Get over it. Focus on the message.

      Do you throw away a wonderful gift delivered by your mail carrier . . . because he/she is having an affair with the postmaster?

      If you are looking for a convenient excuse to disregard a message you do not like, then finding fault with the messenger is very easy. Then you are off the hook to be responsible for accepting the message or learning/growing in response to worthwhile teachings.

      The other side of this coin is . . . What makes you think you are so qualified to judge the behavior of others?

      Two issues here: 1) Whatever information you have about someone’s bad behavior, some of that information is either inaccurate or incomplete or out of context, and 2) Your personal moral compass is not necessarily the ultimate standard by which all behavior should be judged.

      Most of us think that womanizing and promiscuity is not very good behavior. If the participants are consenting adults, who are we to judge? All behaviors have natural consequences that have nothing to do with what you or I think. Plus, we are clueless as to what kind of karma or other ultimate justice might be happening . . . and hidden in plain sight. We simply do not know enough to judge anything or anyone . . . other than ourselves, and even in that case, we are probably missing important, relevant information about what is going on . . . with our own lives . . . and why.

      Here is some food for thought: Which of these two behaviors is worse or better than the other?

      > Having sexual interactions with other people as you please when opportunities arise.

      > Staying faithful and monogamous with your partner, when in reality, you have grown to loathe each other over decades of incompatibility, and secretly wish your partner would just die and solve your problem.

      Messages can be pure and perfect. Messengers usually are not so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wish I had a good answer to your inquiry, I have heard others say the same thing about Bill Clinton . Those who thought he was such a great leader but had no moral values. My only thought is that they were all natural man like he who the Lord mentions in the scripture.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sam, not sure if you remember me, but you were one of the finest Bishops that I ever had as I was going through some very troubled times in my life. Cary (Mueller) told me about a week ago where your life’s journey hhas been taking you. So, intrigued, I began researching about it. There is more I will say in the future, once I can get my thoughts together, but do be cautious on being identifies with the adulterous Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. All my good wishes, Eva (Spinner) Jones

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Eva,

      Thank you for your illuminating comment. I’m glad you brought this up, Your dismissal of MLK fueled by your disapproval of his indiscriminate sexual behavior is a classic example of what happens when the following enduring maxim is ignored:

      Maxim: Do not confuse the messenger with the message.

      I don’t know how much of a student of history you are, but the reality of the Human Condition is that many of the most valuable and life-changing achievements benefitting everyone on this planet were the result of the vision and passion of (mostly) men and women who could not -or- would not … keep it in their pants.

      I’m not a student of history, but Ben Franklin comes to mind. Some people believe that Joseph Smith is a descendant of BF by a wayward dalliance. Many many other luminaries of history spread their seed far and wide. JFK is another great example. He was so much a defender of the rights and well-being of the American people that he had to be taken out by the pieces of shit who actually control and run Planet Earth.

      Personally, I believe it is a gross misapplication of this maxim to give Joseph Smith a pass. In his case, not only was his sexual behavior disgusting, but the egregious Mind Control Cult he founded has harmed millions of gullible dupes and stunted their spiritual growth to the extent that the average Mormon sports the emotional and spiritual maturity of an 8-year-old.

      There is a good reason why I can’t wait until I’m cuz then I’ll be baptized you see. That’s when my spiritual maturation stops and I turn over the reins of the rest of my life to the shitheads in Salt Lake City, who are busy lately curing the cycle of deep poverty in Africa by teaching subsistence level Africans to send 10% of their meager means to whom?

      To the owners of the City Creek Mall.

      Like

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