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Why Are We Violent?

by John K. Stoner  (April 27, 2018)

    The educator Coleman McCarthy wrote, "I had a student at the University of Maryland a while back who wrote a 13-word paper that both for brevity and breadth--the rarest of combinations--has stayed with me: 'Question: Why are we violent but not illiterate?  Answer: Because we are taught to read.'"

    What more needs to be said?

Who Wants the Real M. L. King?

by John K. Stoner  (April 20, 2018)

Continuing my series on alternative sources of news and voices which speak truth, I invite you to consider this today.  

On April 4, 2018 Cornel West wrote:

In this brief celebratory moment of King’s life and death we should be highly suspicious of those who sing his praises yet refuse to pay the cost of embodying King’s strong indictment of the US empire, capitalism and racism in their own lives.

We now come to the 50th anniversary of his assassination, and we once again are met with sterilized versions of his legacy. A radical man deeply hated and held in contempt is recast as if he was a universally loved moderate.

These neoliberal revisionists thrive on the spectacle of their smartness and the visibility of their mainstream status – yet rarely, if ever, have they said a mumbling word about what would have concerned King, such as US drone strikes, house raids, and torture sites, or raised their voices about escalating inequality, poverty or Wall Street domination under neoliberal administrations – be the president white or black.

America has moved on to other things.  The 50th anniversary of King’s death is past and already mostly forgotten.  But maybe, just maybe, our best hope lies in not forgetting.  

West’s essay includes this, with which I end this reflection:

King’s last sermon was entitled Why America May Go to Hell. His personal loneliness and political isolation loomed large. J Edgar Hoover said he was “the most dangerous man in America”. President Johnson called him “a nigger preacher”. Fellow Christian ministers, white and black, closed their pulpits to him. Young revolutionaries dismissed and tried to humiliate him with walkouts, booing and heckling. Life magazine – echoing Time magazine, the New York Times, and the Washington Post (all bastions of the liberal establishment) – trashed King’s anti-war stance as “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi”.
And the leading black journalist of the day, Carl Rowan, wrote in the Reader’s Digest that King’s “exaggerated appraisal of his own self-importance” and the communist influence on his thinking made King “persona non-grata to Lyndon Johnson” and “has alienated many of the Negro’s friends and armed the Negro’s foes”.
One of the last and true friends of King, the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel prophetically said: “The whole future of America will depend upon the impact and influence of Dr King.”

Read West's full essay  here

Paying for War

John K. Stoner  (April 13, 2018)

Someone asked me, “If you are praying for peace, why do you go on paying for war?”

Income tax time of year, when we’re all faced with making our contribution to the funding of America’s wars past, present and future, is a good time to think about this.

Use any door you want to enter this space in your mind and conscience.

Consider the irrationality of it.  How did we get to this place of thinking that we can use an instrument of evil to produce an end of good?  Show me a persons who does not think that war is evil and I’ll show you a person who had not seen it close up, nor considered it with reasonable attention.

Consider the injustice of it.  It makes a few people filthy rich and millions more dirt poor.  It’s the biggest protection racket in the world, hands down.  Who profits from war?  Greedy corporations and their stockholders. 

Consider the immorality of it.  Modern war kills far more innocent people than combatants.  Look at the record.  And if it is wrong to kill our human brothers and sisters ourselves, how can it be right to pay someone else to do it for us?

Consider the consequences of it.  What governments are willing to do to peoples of other lands they are willing to do to their own people.  Selectively, but very really, military empires have victims at home as well as abroad.  

None of us achieve fully consistent behavior.  But we’re in really bad trouble when we give up trying to inch toward it, and quit asking ourselves to do better rather than worse on a whole lot of things in life. 

Resurrection...of this man?

by John K. Stoner  (April 9, 2018)

Some religion(s)  focus on telling us what to believe about God—this, that and the other thing.

And some religionists struggle with how to reconcile the beliefs of one religion about God with the beliefs of other religions about God.

But it is possible to look at this a little differently, and say that the big thing is what we believe about people.  I get, or at least think I do, this idea from Jesus.  

Jesus taught that all people should be loved, and that to live in love is to live in God.  

But this is to believe something very different about people.  It is to believe that something good can come of loving all people, instead of dividing people into those who can be loved and those who must be opposed and destroyed by all means necessary.

These two ways of looking at people are very different ways of looking at people, they reflect believing very different things about people.

And Jesus had this radical practice and idea of loving all people.

Those who killed Jesus opposed this way of looking at people and the practice of loving all people.
But those who accepted and attempted to follow Jesus believed that in some fashion Jesus did not stay dead for believing what he believed about people—that he and what he believed about people was “resurrected.”  It lived on, it constituted an enduring way of life, a whole new way of relating to people and trying to run the world.

So, wow, the big miracle of the resurrection was not that Jesus came back just like he was before, a man alive on earth, but that it was the resurrection of a person who believed what Jesus believed about people and how to relate to them.  The resurrection said that this particular dude and his way of walking through life were not dead ends, but a new and living thing to believe about people.  

Most remarkable! 

And it is interesting to suppose that the big thing that major religions hold in common is this belief that people should be loved, not demonized or killed.  

Father Charlie McCarthy on Martin Luther King

by John K. Stoner  (April 4, 2018)

Fifty years ago today Martin Luther King was assassinated.  Father Charlie McCarthy, another man whose voice I commend to you because he speaks the truth, spoke at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1993, the 25th anniversary of Dr. King's death.  McCarthy makes a crucial point about Martin Luther King in the opening paragraphs of his speech which I quote below.  Here's the key line: 
     A world mired in so-called “justified” homicide does not know what to do with the nonviolent Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., any more than Christian churches, imprisoned within a historical spiral of “justified” homicide of their own making, know what to do with the nonviolent Jesus Christ. The prevailing strategy in both cases is to be calculatingly inattentive to the rock-like belief both had in nonviolence.

(For the full text of Fr. McCarthy's speech email me at  Charlie's website is here.  Meet a remarkable man, scroll down and watch a few of his dozen brief videos.) 

Who Is Your King? Who Is Your God?
A Meditation on the Eternal Contribution and
Challenge to Christianity and to Humanity
Made by The Servant of God
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

"Shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., commented, “While the question, ‘Who killed President Kennedy?’ is important, the question, ‘What killed him?’ is more important” Today on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, I think it is important to publicly ask the question, “Who killed Martin Luther King?” because a correct answer to that question may tell something about the workings of this society that could be useful for correcting the evils of poverty, racism and militarism that bedevil it. But, I believe, here at the place where he was slain twenty-five years ago today, it is more important to ask, “What killed Martin Luther King, Jr.?”

Humanity is a historical phenomenon. Every person and every generation are partly the result of the persons and generations who preceded them. Whatever killed Martin Luther King did not first make its appearance on April 4, 1968. Whatever it is that sent that bullet speeding toward this balcony twenty-five years ago has a past that stretches back to the infancy of time. Soon after the first rays of the first sunrise appear over the horizon of history, there is homicide.  In Book One of the Bible Cain kills Abel.  Homicide is the first sin outside of Paradise. In the beginning there is death by the hand of another.

Whatever killed Abel, killed Martin Luther King, Jr. Whatever killed Martin Luther King, Jr., killed Jesus Christ. And, whatever killed Jesus Christ, is what killed every person who has ever been shot, stabbed, poisoned, gassed, or burnt to death by a fellow human being. From what demented dimension of the universe, from what polluted place in the soul comes the willingness to destroy another?

The man who was murdered on this balcony twenty-five years ago unreservedly committed his entire adult life to the war against the loathsome spirit of violence. Whatever that perverted reality is that deceived Cain, against that debased spirit Martin Luther King, Jr., was pitted in unrelenting combat. There is no Martin Luther King, Jr., to be remembered, there is no Martin Luther King, Jr., to be studied, there is no Martin Luther King, Jr., to be honored who is not irrevocably vowed to nonviolence.

Dr. King taught that
We must pursue peaceful ends by peaceful
means…Many people cry, ‘Peace, Peace’ but they
refuse to do the things that make for peace…The
stage of history is replete with the chants and choruses
of the conquerors of old who came killing in
pursuit of peace.

A world mired in so-called “justified” homicide does not know what to do with the nonviolent Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., no more than Christian churches, imprisoned within a historical spiral of “justified” homicide of their own making, know what to do with the nonviolent Jesus Christ. The prevailing
strategy in both cases is to be calculatingly inattentive to the rock-like belief both had in nonviolence. The hope of this strategy is to extoll the person while dismissing his teaching. The problem with this approach is that a violent Jesus or a violent Martin Luther King, Jr., is as much of a spiritual optical
illusion as a nonviolent Hitler. Nonviolence is that without which there is no Martin Luther King— there is no Jesus Christ. What entered and took control of Cain never entered and took control of Jesus of Nazareth or of Martin Luther King, Jr."  (see above for the rest of the speech).