Happy Holidays Everyone
Dr. Martin Luther King, an advocate of worldwide social justice, inspired the struggle for freedom, nonviolence lifestyles, and interracial unity. Dr. King's words and deeds continue to shape the lives of many people throughout the world. When in high school, I, Larry, read several of his books. Since then, I have collected most of his books, speeches, and sermons.
On Christmas Eve in 1967, Dr. King delivered the following Christmas message (condensed by me) to his Church. I feel it is very relevant to our current world crisis.
Dr. King earned a PhD in Systematic Theology from Boston University.
A CHRISTMAS SERMON ON PEACE
(preached from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Christmas Eve, 1967, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
This Christmas season finds us a rather bewildered human race. We have neither peace within nor peace without . . . Our world is sick with war . . . and we see its ominous possibilities. And yet, the Christmas hope for peace and good will . . . can no longer be dismissed as a kind of pious dream . . . If we don't have good will toward [people] 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 Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete.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 [humankind] has a right to survive, then me must find an alternative to war . . . so. . . let us [renew] the meaning of that Christian hope "Peace On Earth. . . " I would like to suggest that [people] really go all out to study the meaning of nonviolence, its philosophy and its strategy . . . the time has come for [humans] to experiment with nonviolence in all areas of human conflict, and that means nonviolence on an international scale.
Now . . . First, if we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather that sectional . . . [We must] transcend our race, . . . our class, and our nation; AND THIS MEANS WE MUST DEVELOP A WORLD PERSPECTIVE! (caps are mine, Larry). 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 [and sisters] or we are all going to perish together as fools. . . . .
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 pored 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 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.
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 . . . but we will never have peace in the world until [people] everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means . . . 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 . . . [Bush] . . . 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.
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 [people] is the nonviolent affirmation of the Sacredness of ALL human life. Every man [and women] is somebody because [s/he] is a child of God. Man [and women are] more than a tiny vagary of whirling electrons or a wisp of smoke from a limitless smoldering. Man [and women are] a child of God, made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such . . . 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 . . . and until [people] see this, until nations see this everywhere, we will be fighting wars.
One day somebody should remind us that, even thought there may be political and ideological differences between us, . . . the Russians are our brothers, the Chinese are our brothers . . . in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile . . . there is neither male nor female . . . we are all one in Christ Jesus.
If there is to be peace on earth . . . we must finally believe in the ultimate morality of the universe, and believe that all reality hinges on moral foundations. Someone 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 . . . they crucified him . . . 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 [all people]: lets us know that in the process we have cosmic companionship.
In 1963 . . . in Washington . . . I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had [Dr. King is referring to the famous "I Have A Dream" speech] . . . [but lately] . . . that dream has started to turn into a nightmare . . . four beautiful, unoffending, innocent [black] 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 . . .
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 their problems.
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 . . . [We need] a true revolution of values [that] will lay hands on the world order and say of war: 'This way of settling differences is not just.'
This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.
A Nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching SPIRITUAL DEATH!
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 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 . . . that one day men will rise up and come to see that they are made to live together as brothers . . . that every colored person in the world will be judged on the basis of the content of his character rather than the color of his [or her] skin, and every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.
I still have a dream that one day war will come to an end . . . that 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 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 [and women].