Martin Luther King Jr., political theology

A Time to Break Silence

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.


6 thoughts on “A Time to Break Silence

  1. Phocus says:

    I am sorry, but you are a loon. You spin thoughts in your manufactured reality and occasionally consider one or two to be worth spewing onto this site. You write…”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.” Where to begin…and once begun, where to stop? Your lack of learning is stunning. Please study the last world wars…from start to end, and try to do this study without bias.

    There are two sides to a war. One is evil, the other peaceful. If the peaceful fail to rise up and stop the evil, evil blurs into oppression, lack of freedom, and death to those who do resist. The free men and women of the world smashed Hitler’s Germany and Japan. Once these evils were stopped, the world dressed the wounds of the broken nations and then gave them back to the people.

    There is one way to have peace. You get peace when the peaceful win. Period. Any other outcome…promises more war. The human spirit longs to be at peace. You get peace through strength.

    Hopefully, you will grow into your obviously functioning brain and gather logic based on knowledge and facts rather than theory. If you are under 30 and not a liberal, you have no heart. If you are over 30 and still a liberal, you have no brain.

  2. You’ll have to forgive me if I find your analysis less than rigorous and underwhelming. First, you make broad generalizations. At least mine was backed up with Dr. King’s lengthy analysis. Second, your defintion of peace, is to say the least, impoverished. You describe coercive silence, where the other side has been beaten to death or lost their voice. However, Jesus displays that peace is not through strength. So, if you’re a Christian, read your Bible sometime.

    Fortunately I am not a liberal, nor a conservative, both are equally and eagerly complicit in your “peace making” endeavors that uses cluster bombs on children, that promotes the status quo’s racism and sexism, and when the poor get “uppity”, because you’ve been treating them like tools instead of people, you slaughter them for your peace. I suggest you also work on your definition of justice as well.

  3. Who is this “Phocus” person?

    “Where to begin?” Seriously, where to begin…

    “There are two sides to a war. One is evil, the other peaceful.” Are you serious? What sort of world does this “Phocus” live in? Where is this land of neat bifurcations between violence & peace and good & evil. I want to move there, because it would sure simplify the arduous task of being a human being.

    I guess I’m just jealous… ignorance in bliss after all.

  4. Pingback: Peace Defined « flying.farther

  5. Pingback: On the Inauguration and King « flying.farther

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