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Quote of the week

January 15, 2010

The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.

- Martin Luther King Jr.

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19 Comments
  1. Bruce in Kansas permalink
    January 15, 2010 4:01 pm

    Why this week?

    Why not next week, since that is the week of MLK Day (Jan 18), plus the anniversary of Roe (Jan 22)?

    • January 15, 2010 4:44 pm

      Bruce – Since we are at the end of this week, I obviously mean this coming week. I posted the quote early since the weekend begins tomorrow and many of our readers might not be checking the blogs on Monday if they aren’t going to work. ;)

  2. David Nickol permalink
    January 15, 2010 5:10 pm

    Today, Friday, January 15, is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Here’s my criticism of the United States. Moving a holiday like this to a Monday so we can all have a 3-day weekend detracts from the commemoration of MLK and his birthday. What is more important? Celebrating the day of his birth, or having a long weekend?

    • January 15, 2010 6:44 pm

      Not sure it’s an either/or. The real problem with MLK Day in the u.s., I think, is the way the truly dangerous memory of King has been turned into something much less radical than it should be. We don’t like to remember the MLK who said things like the above quote.

  3. David Nickol permalink
    January 15, 2010 5:17 pm

    [David - Please stick to the topic or explain how your comment about Canadian and u.s. troop relations in Afghanistan is relevant to this post. Thanks. - M.I.]

  4. A Lutheran permalink
    January 15, 2010 7:28 pm

    I think that the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is Islam. Look around at who is killing their own people and Christians.

  5. January 15, 2010 8:33 pm

    Hi Michael,

    What do you think this quote means? Do you think that the US is unique in its perpetration of violence?

  6. January 16, 2010 12:00 pm

    Hmm.

  7. j. edwards permalink
    January 16, 2010 3:49 pm

    Mark Kurlansky says it well: the best way to get rid of a “troublemaker” is to kill them and make them a saint. This could not be more true than with MLK and Jesus Christ.

    In related news, their should be some killer sales at the mall this weekend.

  8. Gerald A. Naus permalink
    January 16, 2010 5:19 pm

    Well, nothing has changed.

  9. rcm permalink
    January 16, 2010 5:33 pm

    “The real problem with MLK Day in the u.s., I think, is the way the truly dangerous memory of King has been turned into something much less radical than it should be.”

    Amen! MLK was truly radical. I’ve been meaning to ask you, Michael, if you are familiar with Rev Vernon Johns? I just watched a movie on him. He is right up your alley. He is a lesser known figure in the civil rights movement, yet very significant.

  10. rcm permalink
    January 16, 2010 5:37 pm

    “I think that the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is Islam. Look around at who is killing their own people and Christians.”

    I don’t think Michael would discount other acts of violence, but he is trying to open our eyes to the violence our Gov perpetrates on others that we are blind to. What about every bomb that misses its target and, oops, takes out a group of people. Add those “oops” up and you have a lot of victims. What about a system of Government that allows 1 + million unborn to be killed in the name of freedom?

  11. Pinky permalink
    January 17, 2010 1:56 pm

    [Not interested in you or anyone else using MLK Day or this quote as a springboard for pro-america comments. I've deleted a few already. - M.I.]

  12. Magdalena permalink
    January 18, 2010 8:24 am

    M.I., I’m interested in your thoughts about how Martin Luther King, Jr. Day fits into your critique of America’s secular/quasi-religious calendar. Dr. King functions as one of our “saints” doesn’t he, and similar to the process that sometimes happens post-canonization, we have stripped him of his flesh and blood and turned him into a safe, plaster replica of his true self.

  13. January 18, 2010 3:19 pm

    Magdalena – Yes, happy to answer that great question. Will get to it tonight, either here or in a separate post.

  14. January 18, 2010 9:52 pm

    Magdalena – Thanks again for your question. I’m frequently asked by people who are critical of my views on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, etc. if I oppose all of america’s “secular” holidays, e.g. Mother’s Day. They seem to assume that I am against “secular” holidays and am urging observance of “religious” or “Christian” holidays only. I’m not sure if this question is also involved in the question you are asking. Either way, I think it’s important to point out that I’m not against “secular” holidays because I don’t believe in the “secular” as a realm apart from the “religious.” That binary is a construction and it is false. My criticism of Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, etc. is not based in the view that they are “secular” rather than “religious,” but because they are precisely religious and tend to embody commitments and allegiances that are in tension with or that even directly oppose Christian allegiances and commitments.

    Does this critique of certain american holidays apply to all non-ecclesial holidays that americans observe? Of course not. Mother’s Day, for example, is not a questionable holiday in its very essence the way something like american Memorial Day is. In its essence it’s a very good commemoration. It does, however, often provide another opportunity for the american observance of consumerism, much like Valentine’s Day, so in those distortions Mother’s Day can become a holiday that Christians should rightly critique, but in itself it is good and Christians should celebrate it.

    Same with Martin Luther King Day. MLK was a prophetic witness, no doubt about that. Christians should rightly celebrate his life. I consider him a saint, one of the more radical Christian witnesses in contemporary times. Of course as you point out, his memory has become sanitized. If american white Christians observe his birthday at all (and countless american white Christians could care less, and even use the day as an opportunity for smug expressions of racism), we get a very sanitized version of his life — “I Have a Dream” vs the even more radical things he said and stood for, as reflected in the quote above. Insofar as the sanitized version of MLK Day serves as part of the greater set of american myths about the “greatest nation on earth” (like a few of the comments in this thread that I deleted), that should be questioned. But MLK Day is a holiday rightly celebrated by Christians — but we must insist that the memory of MLK remains a dangerous memory, not a sanitized and comfortable one.

  15. David Nickol permalink
    January 19, 2010 10:25 am

    It does seem to me that we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., for his work and achievement in civil rights, not for his stand against the Vietnam war or other aspects of American policy.

    • January 19, 2010 12:28 pm

      It does seem to me that we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., for his work and achievement in civil rights, not for his stand against the Vietnam war or other aspects of American policy.

      Yes. And the problem with this is that he saw three realities as intrinsically linked: racism, militarism, and consumerism.

  16. Kimberley permalink
    January 24, 2010 8:35 pm

    MI,

    Thank you very much for linking to this. I don’t read MLK’s speeches enough. In his speeches I see the characteristically Christian hope of a better America.

    As to the US being the most violent country, I completely agree.

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