Whitewashing Dr. Martin Luther King Junior

bju-observes-martin-luther-king-jr-dayThis Wasn’t My Idea.

Last week, ‘BJU Blogs‘ reported University President Steve Pettit to have announced that as of January 2017, Bob Jones University will observe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year. Plans are to close the school offices, cancel classes, and to encourage students to participate in Greenville area service opportunities and prayer sessions centered on racial harmony.

Far be it from me, to accuse Bob Jones University of doing a ‘PR’ job to ‘fix’ public perception of the University line on Dr. King. Pettit relates:

“Dr. King accomplished much in his short life here on earth,” said Pettit. “We believe his voice and leadership to nonviolently oppose the wrongs of the day while paving the way for racial equality and harmony should be respected and honored.”

We waited so long … for this?

Tame? That’s downright innocuous. To serve up this just two years shy of a half-century lacks all conviction. Whatever took BJU so long?

Much has and will be said and written about Dr. King. David Stewart [the head-case at the fundie ‘Jesus Is Savior’ website] informs us that King was a false teacher with a Communist agenda who ‘openly incited violence under the banner of “nonviolence.”’ Presenting no evidence, Stewart makes many hysterical assertions about King. But Stewart isn’t alone.

J. Carville and others cite a supposedly sane and decidedly more influential Jerry Falwell who also questions Dr. King’s commitment to non-violence.

In my thankfully brief intersection with fundamentalism, I soon learned that the communist Martin Luther King Jr. line was a recurring motif.

Meeting Daniel K. Williams

Daniel Williams, associate professor of history at the University of West Georgia, unfolds this intriguing story. His perspective helps us assess MLK related hysteria and misgivings, and explains the broader civic/religious connection in fundamentalism. In his book, God’s Own Party, he writes:

‘The contrast between Graham and Falwell’s messages signaled a fault line in conservative Protestantism that would divide mainstream evangelicals from self-identified fundamentalists for the next generation.’

How things went as they did

Williams’ steady hand shows that politics and faith together divided ‘evangelicals’ and the Falwell/Jones/Rice/etc. crowd. The divisions in political life and the faith community were replicated in each other.

Particularly telling is a section, ‘The “Christian Americanism” of Bob Jones Jr.’ In addition to illuminating differences between the Senior and Junior Jones, Williams relates a side of early BJ Jr. which may not be so well known. More than one may guess, Christian fundamentalism was the political engine that powered the US ever more reactionary tendency.

A Case in Point

‘Jones became an ardent crusader against communism and political liberalism…’ Williams wrote. He adds that in Dec. 1950, Jones hosted a convention where many free-world foreign diplomats delivered speeches. Jones gave the keynote address and castigated the Department of State for ‘inexcusable stupidity or vicious betrayal.’ He charged it for throwing China’s democracy forces to ‘the raving wolves of the Kremlin.’

The ‘A-HA’ Moment

Bob Jones Jr. is the articulate and comparatively erudite version of the David Stewarts of the world. But far from rising above Stewart’s level, the rhetoric and perspective of Bob Jones Jr. normalizes Stewart’s hysterics.

Liberals and democratic socialists recognize that the socialist tendencies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In that day, anticommunism was treated by many Christian fundamentalists as a necessary adjunct to the gospel. For many fundamentalist leaders, the mass demonstrations were not so much demands for racial equality as a political challenge to capitalist rule.

Over time, King’s socialist tendency was forgotten. To the degree that this is so, he becomes socially tolerable. So Pettit can now say of King:

“We believe his voice and leadership to nonviolently oppose the wrongs of the day while paving the way for racial equality and harmony should be respected and honored.”

I can’t help but think even that milquetoast remark is forthcoming solely because Dr. King’s socialist tendency is largely forgotten, so that he can now be portrayed as someone who should be ‘respected and honored.’

Otherwise, why did we have to wait 48 years — just for this?

Methinks a post on the ‘service opportunities’ and ‘prayer sessions’ centered on racial harmony might be in order…

Fools for Socialism

[Roland D. Sawyer special ed. 1912], The Christian Socialist
The national newspaper The Christian Socialist produced a “Roland D. Sawyer Special” edition in conjunction with his 1912 Massachusetts gubernatorial run.

Socialism is for Fools

We all know this. If James Dobson didn’t tell you, John Hagee told you. If John Hagee didn’t tell you, some other Fundamentalist Baptist told you. If some other preacher didn’t tell you, you learned from the ‘Got Questions‘ guy, or from another book or resource.

The nonsense of Christian socialism is an heretical notion [of course] that we all hoped was long dead and gone. If it’s bad enough being a fool for Christ, why would you want to make things worse by being a Christian Socialist? So imagine the disappointment among the good folk at American Pastors Network when somebody made a post on their website defending Christian Socialism. WHO would DO such a thing!

As a Christian who is also a socialist, I grant freely am something of an anomaly. I believe that Marx’ assessment of Capitalist political economy and the kingdom of God share a reciprocal, hermeneutical function [think of James Cone’s cross and lynching tree analogy].

That aside, I’m astonished that so many accept as legitimate a ‘choice’ between one figure who incarnates corporate criminality, and another who is the epitome of corrupt Washington insider politics. Are there any compelling reasons for which we ought to consent to be retained as political hostages to the sadistic machinations of what is ostensibly our own system of governance?

I am also astonished that no one seems capable of offering even a token ‘kingdom-of-God’ critique of the powers of this age. I’m not one of those guys who can’t admit that Marx never got anything wrong. How is it that so many around me regard our institutions and national narrative [even in ‘pristine’ form] as sacrosanct? An admitted oddity, William Stringfellow is thoroughly exonerated.

I’m left wondering if many of our churches are untouched by the gospel, and great swathes of confessing Christians are in fact in a pre-converted condition.

Given its idolatrous devotion to and its perpetual justification of ill-gotten wealth secured by the world-wide extension of our military power, our crass consumerism, hedonism and materialism [this from a socialist, no less] at home, one can argue that the state is an whore. This election has NO lesser evil. As I see it, you can support evil, or you can exercise an higher responsibility to withdraw the consent to be governed. Since voting would leave me feeling morally slimmed for participating in an illicit act of political prostitution, I elect not to vote.

To be true to Jesus Christ, the church must at some point make the politically blasphemous affirmation that the Gospel is not Christ AND Caesar, but Christ, NOT Caesar. The problem is, whenever the church remembers who she is and to whom she belongs, the kakistocracy which in every land is called ‘our government’ will behold with a jaundiced eye that church with her new-found faithfulness. That is the church which will be subject to all the punishments of the evil one described in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

And THAT is why we push the theology of the revelation into the future. So long as kingdom is kept off the agenda, we can compromise with earthly powers all we want. We can buy into their nationalistic, militaristic and chauvinistic agendas all we want. We can support and elect any candidate we want.

We ask only for a few tokens of self-righteous civic religiosity from candidates to help us assuage our guilty consciences as we sing the praises of our state religion of selective, political piety. We then return to prosecute class war against our own people, bomb foreign lands into oblivion, and turn back refugees in their utterly un-seaworthy inflatables as they seek escape from death’s clutches. And we sing, ‘Now Thank We All our God, with Hearts and Hands and Voices …’

We don’t need to ‘take back our land’ or elect the right candidate. We need a generation of Christians who will blow the whistle on this utterly secular and blasphemous arrangement of accommodation with the powers and principalities of this age. This step is rather like the priests bearing the ark of the covenant, who first stepped a foot into the waters before the dry land revealed itself. Once we refuse to bow down to the idols of our time, God will make our way clear.

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PS: Here is the ‘Got Questions’ guy’s take on Capitalism.

SFL May Day Edition

How should Chrisitans think about Socialism

It’s as good as money in the bank. You can trust some themes to evoke a warm response from fundamentalists. Take socialism. This is a staple of political evil in America. Therefore it is at the same time a political staple in fundamentalism. Socialism is evil and Kent Hovind is agin’ it.

Theft of money by those who don’t earn it is just plain wrong. This doesn’t apply when wealthy, US owned corporations enrich themselves by exploiting child labor to make garments or goodies. The problem today is that we don’t teach children the benefits of a good work ethic.

Kent Hovind dislikes money theft so much that he restructured his taxes in creative ways. Then after obstructing federal agents, he ‘earned’ a decade in the slammer. Perhaps that makes him an expert witness on the evils of socialism. He better than most understands the concept of living at the public expense.

I suppose it was inevitable that some despicable person [who would do such a thing!] had the chutzpah to put this post on Darrell’s SFL website as if one could be a socialist AND a Christian AND an American. How disgusting!

In commemoration of International May Day, that post is reproduced here, warts and all…

Christian Socialist

Dear Sam Baker:

God exists as an eternal society of three persons in ageless, unbroken communion. Have you considered that the Biblical teaching of the Blessed Holy Trinity might entail a social component?

God made all humanity in his own image. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Yahweh so covenanted with Abraham and his descendants that all males were marked with a sign including them in that same, promised relationship into perpetuity. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Yahweh gave the Sabbath and the year of Jubilee which prevented permanent alienation from the land, extremes of poverty and wealth, and provided rest for all living in the land. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

The great, OT salvation event equivalent to the cross in the NT, is the liberation of God’s people from Egypt. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Israel’s legal code required compassionate expression and civil attitudes toward all, and especially the weak and needy [women, children, the sick and aged, aliens, etc.]. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Many Psalms connect mercy, justice righteousness, loving-kindness and truth, and employ these themes in Israel’s liturgy. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Israel’s prophets railed against societal and economic injustice, and cited these things as the ground of judgment and expulsion from the land. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Jesus’ Lu 4:18-19 Manifesto is based on the year of year of Jubilee, and it functions as the interpretive core of Luke’s record. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Revelation is a kingdom of God critique/manifesto of Rome’s political blasphemy and economic extortion supported by military hegemony and apostate religion. Revelation also points to God’s alternative vision of the celestial city that comes down from Glory and [in some way that I certainly don’t grasp] causes heaven and earth to become one. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Introduced at creation, the social component is revisited at the consummation. It is woven in Israel’s worship, and it is attached to the covenant and the sign, the Sabbath, the Exodus, the civil code, the Psalms and prophetic preaching of Isaiah, Amos, Micah and others. It also defines the core of Jesus’ preaching in Luke’s record, and it has a significant role in casting the Revelation. Moreover, that social component is analogous of the nature of the Trinitarian life.

If you expect me to abandon this Biblical witness, you should come prepared to offer a massive weight of crushing exegesis, marked by clean, incisive, dissecting, penetrating, exacting, luminescent analysis at every point. If you’re not up to it, print my text and send it to our friend Mr. Hutson. Let him take a stab at it. Then you can post his reply for us.

I know you can cite Paul saying that a man who refuses to work can refuse to eat. But Karl Marx said the same thing. So that might not be the clean break from socialism that you’re seeking. Moreover for every such text you produce, I can post multiple texts condemning greed.

We know that fundamentalism has herds of great preachers who proclaim fearlessly the whole council of God. I’m sure you can find many who do such work as I describe in preparation for Sunday’s message every week. I don’t ask for a herd.

I ask you to name one.

Christian Socialist


Francis Bellamy ____________

Plans are to return to the US May 2. May need a day or so to recover before posting. Will see… Blessings!