The overall theme for our reflection on Dr. King’s teachings during the Lenten Season will be his assertion that we as individuals and as a country need “a revolution of values.”
“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered. (April 4, 1967)
“I think we must see the great distinction between a reform movement and a revolutionary movement. Now we are called upon to raise some questions about the house itself. Now we are in a situation where we must ask the house to change its rules, because the rules themselves don’t go far enough. In short, we have moved into an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society. We are still called upon to give aid to the beggar who finds himself in misery and agony on life’s highway. But one day, we must ask the question of whether an edifice which produces beggars must not be restructured and refurbished. That is where we are now. . .
“We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together. And you can’t get rid of one without getting rid of the other. Jesus confronted this problem of the inter-relatedness of evil one day, or rather it was one night. A big-shot came to him and he asked Jesus a question, what shall I do to be saved? Jesus didn’t get bogged down in a specific evil. He looked at Nicodemus, and he didn’t say now Nicodemus you must not drink liquor. He didn’t say Nicodemus you must not commit adultery. He didn’t say Nicodemus you must not lie. He didn’t say Nicodemus you must not steal. He said, Nicodemus you must be born again. In other words Nicodemus, the whole structure of your life must be changed. . .
“Now this is what we are dealing with in America. Somebody must say to America, America if you have contempt for life, if you exploit human beings by seeing them as less than human, if you will treat human beings as a means to an end, you thingafy those human beings. And if you will thingafy persons, you will exploit them economically. And if you will exploit persons economically, you will abuse your military power to protect your economic investments and your economic exploitations. So what America must be told today is that she must be born again. The whole structure of American life must be changed.” (May, 1967)
Dr. King talked often about our misguided values and priorities, and you can hear a sermon on this subject, which he preached on August 27, 1967 at Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago: “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool.” The entire sermon is 25 minutes, but if you can’t listen to it all, listen to the first 8-1/2 minutes, which describes why we are fools if we have the wrong values. Go to this link on youtube.
For Reflection and Prayer:
- As a Christian, what values do you have that are most important to you?
- What are the values in our society that you like? Which ones do you think need to be changed?