MLK: When Peace Becomes Obnoxious

If peace means… I don’t want it.

MLK 1956
Per the Smithsonian: 2008-2128, Photographer- Addison N. Scurlock, 1883-1964, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. at Howard University, December 1956, from 4″ x 5″ silver gelatin on cellouse acetate bw film
When Peace Becomes Obnoxious was a sermon delivered on 18 March 1956 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by Martin Luther King, Jr. This is roughly the second half.

“In a very profound passage which has been often misunderstood, Jesus utters this: He says, ‘Think not that I am come to bring peace. I come not to bring peace but a sword.’ Certainly, He is not saying that He comes not to bring peace in the higher sense. What He is saying is: ‘I come not to bring this peace of escapism, this peace that fails to confront the real issues of life, the peace that makes for stagnant complacency.’

“Then He says, ‘I come to bring a sword’ not a physical sword. Whenever I come, a conflict is precipitated between the old and the new, between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. I come to declare war over injustice. I come to declare war on evil. Peace is not merely the absence of some negative force—war, tension, confusion, but it is the presence of some positive force—justice, goodwill, the power of the kingdom of God.

Peace, peace, when there is no peace

“I had a long talk with a man the other day about this bus situation [the Montgomery boycott]. He discussed the peace being destroyed in the community, the destroying of good race relations. I agree that it is more tension now. But peace is not merely the absence of this tension, but the presence of justice. And even if we didn’t have this tension, we still wouldn’t have positive peace. Yes, it is true that if the Negro accepts his place, accepts exploitation and injustice, there will be peace. But it would be a peace boiled down to stagnant complacency, deadening passivity, and if peace means this, I don’t want peace.

1) If peace means accepting second-class citizenship, I don’t want it.
2) If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it.
3) If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace.
4) If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated, and segregated, I don’t want peace. So in a passive, non-violent manner, we must revolt against this peace.

“Jesus says in substance, I will not be content until justice, goodwill, brotherhood, love, yes, the Kingdom of God are established upon the earth. This is real peace–a peace embodied with the presence of positive good. The inner peace that comes as a result of doing God’s will.”

Part of the problem

My blogger buddy Thom Wade wrote this some months ago, after George Floyd’s death: “It is frustrating to watch fellow white people constantly appeal to MLK while using the very arguments used to condemn him to condemn protesters today. I remember how some folks responded to non-violent protests just a few years ago. It was not good enough. Some people in my own friend and family sphere posted disdain for athletes peacefully kneeling. No form of protest was appropriate or good enough.

“When MLK was marching peacefully, he was met with gas and beatings. He was ultimately murdered. And you are going to complain NOW? When you would not listen before? When no protest was good enough for you? You are part of the problem. Crying out for peace when peace was not good enough over the past several years? I look at this city and my heart breaks. Mainly because people want to decry the results of their unwillingness to face the problem.”

V sign is for victory, peace, plus Bobby Vee

“Velline, then 15 years old, and a hastily assembled band of Fargo schoolboys (including his older brother Bill) calling themselves the Shadows volunteered for and were given the unenviable job of filling in for Holly and his band at the Moorhead engagement. “

British wartime leader Winston Churchill with his famous V for victory sign. Image from the archives of Press Portrait Service, 1946 image.
Odd that the V sign can signify both war and peace. From the Wikipedia:

“The V sign is a hand gesture in which the index and middle fingers are raised and parted, while the other fingers are clenched. It has various meanings, depending on the cultural context and how it is presented.

When displayed with the palm inward towards the signer, it has long been an offensive gesture in some Commonwealth nations. In the 1940s, during the Second World War, a campaign by the Western Allies to use the sign with the back of the hand towards the signer (U+270C ✌ Victory hand in Unicode) as a “V for Victory” sign proved quite effective.

During the Vietnam War, in the 1960s, the “V sign” was widely adopted by the counterculture as a symbol of peace. Shortly thereafter, it also became adopted as a gesture used in photographs, especially in Japan.

ca. 1960 — Pop singer Bobby Vee. — Image by © Michael Levin/Corbis

Bobby Vee was born Robert Thomas Velline in Fargo, ND on April 30, 1943. He died October 24, 2016.

From the Wikipedia:
“Vee’s career began in the midst of tragedy. On February 3, 1959… three of the four headline acts in the lineup of the traveling Winter Dance Party— Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper — were killed in the crash of a V-tailed 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza airplane, along with the 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson. (Dion DiMucci… had opted not to travel on the plane.) It crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa, en route to the next show on the tour itinerary, in Moorhead, Minnesota.

“Velline, then 15 years old, and a hastily assembled band of Fargo schoolboys (including his older brother Bill) calling themselves the Shadows volunteered for and were given the unenviable job of filling in for Holly and his band at the Moorhead engagement. Their performance there was a success, setting in motion a chain of events that led to Vee’s career as a popular singer.”

Take Good Care Of My Baby – #1 pop for three weeks in 1961, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King
The B-side, which got to #2 pop, was Run To Him

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, which went to #3 pop, #2 adult contemporary, and even #8 soul in 1963

Come Back When You Grow Up, #3 pop in 1967 with The Strangers

Ringo Starr and “peace and love”

Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence,

spiderThe birthday of Ringo Starr is July 7. And for his birthday, Ringo wants us all to to flash the peace sign and say the words “peace and love” at noon in whatever time zone you’re in.

In 2005, on that date, there were the horrific London bombings.

In 2016, on that date, there were the horrific shooting of police in Dallas, TX apparently by a lone gunman, an Army veteran.

OBVIOUSLY, this “peace and love” stuff is not working. Continue reading “Ringo Starr and “peace and love””

Mark Twain on war, patriotism and religion

We may not understand fully our prayers of war.

marktwainReading Jesus for President, by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, I found a quote, noted by a soldier named Logan, who returned from Iraq, with a date for another deployment set.

“After six years in the military, he felt the collision of the cross and the sword and felt like he was trying to ‘serve two masters’…. Logan decided to file for conscientious status.” Because the military thought he was crazy, he got out of the service.

In a subsequent letter to the book authors, writing about his “redemptive work of reconciliation,” Logan included a quote from Mark Twain Continue reading “Mark Twain on war, patriotism and religion”

I IMAGINE we’ve gotten it wrong, John, so far

It was 33 years ago, as the now bitterly ironic “Just Like Starting Over” was climbing the charts, when John Lennon was gunned down.

“Imagine all the people living life in peace,” some guy who died in 1980 said. And this is supposed to be this period where we talk about “peace on earth.” Of course, I’m also reminded of Jeremiah 6, which reads: “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain, And from the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals falsely. They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush.”

I think we humans will always disagree, but must we, as the saying goes, be disagreeable? This post by Dustbury reminded me of this; a simple fast food encounter where the patron’s job, it seems, was to be a schmuck.

“Nothing to kill or die for.” Here’s a list of active wars and conflicts in the world, most of which you have never heard about. Many of them I never knew about.

“Imagine no possessions.” Global Wealth Rises as Gap Between Rich and Poor Grows, as reported by FOX Business News, no less.

Well, I could go on. Guess I’m feeling a little melancholy about the world, especially on this day, for it was 33 years ago, as the now bitterly ironic “Just Like Starting Over” was climbing the charts, when John Lennon was gunned down, by a fan, of course.

I’ll be less cranky tomorrow – probably.