The Hard Truth of Beloved Community

Today is the day we celebrate the gifts of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr. to our nation and world. 

Martin Luther King, JRThis is a time when many in our nation participate in some action that they believe helps us achieve Dr. King’s vision of “beloved community.” My intention is to continue to do that continually throughout the year, throughout my life, and my hope and prayer is that is true for others as well. 

Yesterday, I heard a fine sermon by Rev. Dwayne Johnson at Metropolitan Community Church in Washington, D.C. in which he focused on the active love of God working in and through us. He drew much inspiration from early writing of Dr. King, such as “An Experiment in Love,” which appeared in in 1958 in a magazine and also as a part of his early book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Circle.

In that article, Dr. King focuses on the Christian ethical concept of agape (a transliteration of the Greek word for love), often described as God’s love for humanity. This love is different from love songs and courtship. He wrote

Agape is not a weak, passive love. It is love in action. Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community. It is insistence on community even when one seeks to break it. Agape is a willingness to go to any length to restore community. 

Community. There are so many forces, so many people, seeking today to disrupt, even destroy community. From politicians to terrorists to intolerant individuals and xenophobic groups, our life in community is under siege. Dr. King would be preaching, writing, marching, praying to turn that around.

Jonathan and Robin JVP Islamophobia actionSome of the worst right now is virulent negativity toward Muslims and Islam (of course, African Americans, Native Americans, immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere, as well as transgender people, differently-abled people, and LGB people continue to face this, too). 

That’s why Jonathan and I, with other members of the DC Metro Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, went yesterday to the Columbia Heights neighborhood in our nation’s capital to focus on Islamophobia and to encourage others to join in opposing this harmful attitude that seems to be affecting, infecting, so much of our public discourse. 

About 20 of us handed out flyers, talked to people on the street, and visited store managers and owners asking for permission to put posters in their windows. About 25 retailers accepted the posters and quite a few hung them immediately in their windows. We are shown with one poster, and the other is below. 

Many of us also wore small stickers in the shape of the yellow star Jews were forced to wear in the Holocaust with the word “Muslim” (and the Islamic crescent) super-imposed where the word Jude (German for Jew) was usually displayed. This was not without controversy for some, but the intention was to express solidarity with a people being marked for ugly treatment on the basis of their religion and heritage.

yellow star with Muslim and crescentI also know that expressing that solidarity right in the face of so much hatred is what so many should have done in Germany and elsewhere, including in the United States, when Jews by the millions, and many others (my own tribe, gay men, wore the pink triangle), were being forced to leave their homes and be slaughtered. Just think what might have happened, how different things might have been, if people–non-Jews all over–had stood up in 1935, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, etc.! Hitler and his minions did the deeds, just as others engage in genocide and racial profiling that leads to death and imprisonment for far too many today, but we all bear responsibility for whatever we did not, do not, do to stop it. 

Refugees are welcome here posterThis is what Dr. King meant when he often spoke of the silence of the “good people,” the ones who look the other way in the face of injustice. As Dr. King, and so many who marched with him, knew well, we are called on to speak truth to power when, as it so often is, it is on the side of oppression. And too often for some, perhaps many depending on the circumstances, the power that oppresses some actually sustains, even raises, the rest of us. It is not easy to stand up against our own group when it is wrong, but if we want beloved community, the community which is the whole of God’s people (all people are God’s people) to survive and thrive, we must do just that. 

The fate of community, beloved community, rests not only with others but also squarely with us. Thank you, Dr. King, for not letting us forget that truth. 

 

The Newest Red Menace

I remember sitting in our living room on the farm outside Milford, Michigan, some time in the late 1950s and listening as my parents and other local members of the Farm Bureau discussed a video about the Red (Communist) menace sweeping the world. There was a graphic moment when red paint spread across much of Europe and then moved on to parts of Asia.

The Red Menace is real
flickr.com

I thought it overdone at the time, and today I know I was right. Even my father, pretty conservative in some respects, told me later it seemed to be raising an alarm for the sake of raising an alarm.

This memory, and especially my father’s observation, has been dancing around in my head for the past few weeks as I continue to listen to Donald Trump, and others, paint a dire picture of the United States and how the world is being overrun by terrorists (and specifically Islamic terrorists). Of course, there are more crises than anyone seems capable to managing, let alone winning. The world is a very dangerous place these days; no place is safe.

Donald Trump 2
businessinsider.com

But what I am seeing and hearing are alarms being raised for the sake of raising alarms. The latest is Donald Trump’s call to bar all Muslims from entering the country.

What good this will do is hard to grasp–unless you think, as he appears to believe, that waves upon waves of Muslims are pouring into the nation to destroy us, a complete fabrication out of no evidence.

The harm it will do is obvious: turn even more people in the Middle East and elsewhere against the West and specifically the United States. His proposal, and similar ones offered by others is the surest way to enhance radicalization in the Middle East and elsewhere. For people who are already scared, it sure sounds satisfying.

The gentleman from TrumpLand will say anything in order to trump everyone else (getting to the White House). The New York Times analyzed all 95,000 words in every public utterance by Trump over the past week in an effort to discern his appeal (about one-third of Republican voters polled say he is their choice for the presidential nomination–read it here).

The Times reporters say, “He has a particular habit of saying ‘you’ and ‘we’ as he inveighs against a dangerous ‘them’ or unnamed other — usually outsiders like illegal immigrants (‘they’re pouring in’), Syrian migrants (‘young, strong men’) and Mexicans, but also leaders of both political parties.”

bullyboy
antibullyingblog.blogspot.com

The article highlights much to be alarmed about, especially his use of ominous, negative, divisive language, and utter disregard for facts. He speaks demagogically much of the time. This is partly what took me back to that memory of the Farm Bureau film and discussion–use of language and images that remind me of Senator Joseph McCarthy and others in our history who maniacally sought to scare us into believing whatever they say and doing whatever they tell us must be done.

Trump is in attack mode 24/7. This is what bullies do. And sadly bullying is so often an indication of great weakness inside the bully–it can be called over-compensating, striking out to disguise weakness inside.

psychiatrist and patient
jimwallacemd.com

I am not qualified to conduct an evaluation of his mental state or health, but for the first time in my lifetime (other than for Richard Nixon) I think we need the presidential candidates–all of them, to be fair–to undergo clinical psychological/psychiatric evaluation.

President Obama may be too cerebral, not emotive enough, but we can’t afford to swing back in reaction all the way over to someone who is only emotive, and who is adept at getting people to think he can fix it all by a few shouted commands–Get Out! You’re fired! Your’re dumb! (fill in the blanks) is the enemy! Bomb them back to the stone age! You’re weak!

Then again, I admit it. I do begin to see the outlines of a new Red menace . . . . states that will give him enough of their votes to put him in the White House.

You're fired with Donald Trump
libertyblitzkrieg.com

I also think that if I could get his attention, the publicity value of his attack on me with (he tweets incessantly against anyone who opposes him) would be worth many new readers.

So, bring it on Donald! Fire Me!