As Christians, how do we situate ourselves in the world? What is our Christian politic?
In response to these fundamental questions, I have seen theologians respond to evil with prophetic words and hope — both of the Christian variety. However, before we can do that, we must do our homework and begin to actually understand what is going on. With this in mind, there is little better in recent memory than Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, A Time to Break Silence.
This speech was given at Riverside Church in New York City (in the picture right can be seen Riverside’s tower and roof) a year to the day before King was shot. People forget, or largely choose to ignore, King post-1963 — almost as if he ceased to exist for years and then was shot. What King was really doing, was living out the implications of what he stood for in the beginning, much to the dislike of many.
Interestingly, in this speech, King is able to historically situate the Vietnam war in such a way that illumines the colonial nature of the conflict. In reality, we’ve had plenty of Vietnams before and we will continue to have Vietnams in the future (as well as right now) because the core of the conflict goes deeper than many would like to admit. The parallels between Iraq and Vietnam are striking. Much of the time, one could substitute Iraq for Vietnam in the speech and there would be no difference.
So, as an American, asking how I and we ought to situate myself and ourselves in the world, one must begin with a critical and international look at one’s own context. With this in mind, for example, war ceases to maintain almost any good. Instead of war producing peace, war is now mostly understood as a violent oppression from which good does not come from — instead, good comes in spite of such an evil.