Beyond the Deadly Triplets of "Racism, Militarism, & Materialism" toward the Beloved Community
As we move into the weekend of Martin Luther King’s Birthday, I want to flag the fact that this year, April 4 will be the 50th anniversary of his death.
It will also be the 51st anniversary of his most profound teaching, his speech at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, entitled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence.” In that speech he warned America against the deadly "triplets" of racism, militarism, and materialism, and called us to face "the fierce urgency of Now." (This photo is from a demonstration against the US War in Vitenam, led by Dr. King and Dr. Benjamin Spock.)
And this April 4 will be the 49th anniversary of the original Freedom Seder, using the first multireligious/ multiracial Passover Haggadah –- held during Passover in 1969, deliberately on Dr. King’s first yohrzeit to honor and continue and renew his prophetic vision. .
Both this weekend and as we approach April 4, we can lift up what we have learned from Dr. King’s life and work, and what we need to reconfigure for our own generation. For example, his warning about "materialism" in our lives evokes both the worsening economic inequality in our country, a new Oligarchy of the Hyper-Wealthy, and the worsening danger of climate chaos brought on by the homicidal greed of the Carbon Pharaohs.
This very weekend, we could add a reading of excerpts from Dr. King’s prophetic vision to prayer services of Jumah, Shabbat. and the Sunday Sabbath. Key excerpts are posted on our Home Page at <https://theshalomcenter.org/content/fierce-urgency-now-excerpts-mlks-beyond-vietnam-april-4-1967>
Plans and actions are already afoot around the country for recognizing this dark and bloody moment in American history, and turning it toward the transformation of America –- taking steps toward the birth of the Beloved Community that Dr. King envisioned.
Among these efforts: Rev. Dr. William Barber is leading the New Poor People’s Campaign, a multi-city echo of the work Dr. King was doing in his last days. On April 4 itself, he will be leading activist commemorations in Memphis, where Dr. King was killed. The National Council of Churches is planning a major gathering on the National Mall that day, focusing on “Truth and Racial Justice.”
What can we ourselves do in taking this time as a Season of Truth and Transformation?
The assassination of Dr. King crystallizes into one moment a great many of the bloody streaks in US history -- violence by the powerful against the disempowered:
- Genocide of the Native communities;
- Slavery, “post“-slavery racism in segregation, the Klan, lynchings, and “the new Jim Crow” of mass incarceration;
- The long history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries of violence against labor unions;
- A long history of imperial wars, from the war to annex large parts of Mexico to the war to subjugate the Philippines through many violent interventions in Latin America to the Wars against Vietnam and Iraq and the endless invasion of Afghanistan;
- The imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in 1942;
- The gun violence that is uniquely horrific here as compared with every other industrial country;
- The violence done other life-forms on this continent, this planet, and now the deep and near-mortal wounding of our Mother Earth through global scorching.
Americans have never collectively and at a spiritual level faced this part of our history, seen it as a continuing self-inflicted wound, done penance for it, and committed ourselves to heal ourselves from its hurt.
Could we make April 4, 2018, a National Day of Atonement and At-One-ment, perhaps a fast day from sunrise to sunset? In Jewish life there has grown up a profoundly serious word-play rooted in Yom Kippur as, in English, the Day of Atonement — also the Day of At-One-ment. The day when we not only atone for our misdeeds but turn toward The One — the Source of Life, the Unity of all. Both Atonement and At-One-ment are what a National Fast Day on April 4, 2018, would aim at.
On the website <MLK50.org> you can find the full text of “Beyond Vietnam” and several others of Dr. King’s speeches — both in writing, and by voice — and some powerful writings about him and the effects of his work even into our own generation. These materials could assist you in organizing an all-day or all-night teach-in on applying the wisdom of Dr. King today.
In addition, this year the 6th night of Passover begins the evening of April 4. This could be a powerful moment for a Freedom Seder. (The photo below is from the original Freedom Seder in 1969.) If any of you, our readers and members, wants to organize such a Freedom Seder, please let us know. Write us at <MLK50@theshalomcenter.org>.
You will find helpful materials on The Shalom Center ’s website at
We will write more about these possibilities as we move closer to April 4. We invite you to write us at <MLK50@theshalomcenter.org>what you are planning, so that we can share and enrich our separate efforts into a network of Truth and Transformation..