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An Easter Message to My Kids

Riverside Church, NYC

Riverside Church, NYC

Good morning and Happy Easter!

Wish I could be sharing some peeps and Easter Baskets with you right now!

I remember when I was a kid, I would eat them last. I’d wait a few days for them to get stale, hard, and chewy. I liked ’em better that way.

You kids both liked em fresh!

This Easter, I think about other things. So you can take a few moments and suffer Dad’s sermon.

Memphis, 1968

Memphis, 1968

42 years ago today (April 4, 1968), Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. Dr. King was there advocating for garbage men who were out on strike. The garbage men protested and wore placard’s that said “I am a Man” – and they were brutally repressed. To many, black men were not even considered people then – many still refused to recognize their humanity 42 years later.


NJ 12th Congressional District (8/26/09) - racism persists

Exactly one year before that, MLK made a speech at Riverside Church “Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence” – read it and then watch recent PBS Bill Moyers and Tavis Smiley shows for a discussion of that. Smiley focuses exclusively on the speech, while Moyers has a broader discussion. Cornel West of Princeton had the most profound observations -  asked by Smiley to contrast King with Obama, he called Obama a politician, while King was a prophet and truth teller. West called out Obama as the happy smiling face of US Empire! Please read, listen and watch – here are the links:  Smiley and Moyers (April 2 segment)

Sadly, Dr. King’s concerns remain largely unaddressed and his analysis profoundly apt.

King’s essential message is still ignored:

IMG_7804“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, 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, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. …

This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Right now, we are in 2 brutal, illegal, immoral wars, that have many similarities to Vietnam. Materialism is rampant while we destroy our finite planet, blindly driven by an economic system that values profits and property rights over people and the earth. Disparities in income, wealth, health and overall well-being are the largest in US history, and probably world history. Racism, materialism, and militarism are rampant and few leaders have the courage or integrity to “break silence”.

Here’s what King said about Vietnam, a war that at that time most Americans saw as the US righteously saving the Vietnamese people from an invasion by Communist North Vietnam and China. King’s truth telling words shocked most and prompted vicious political and media attacks on him virtually everywhere:

IMG_7805The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy — and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us — not their fellow Vietnamese –the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go — primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one “Vietcong”-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them — mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

IMG_7806What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force — the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Calling the US the largest purveyor of violence on the planet”, King’s call to end the war was ignored:

IMG_7809“Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.”


I am sickened by the fact that not only did my generation largely fail King’s vision, but compounded the madness he called out.

So, the challenge to make a better world now shifts to your generation.

This challenge is perfectly in keeping with the religious spirit of Easter, which originated in pagan worship ceremonies of spring: a time of hope and renewal.



Riverside Church - Brecht Forum event (6/12/09) (Sorry, I forgot the band's name!)

Riverside Church - Brecht Forum event (6/12/09) (Sorry, I forgot the band's name!)

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  1. June 17th, 2011 at 07:09 | #1

    Easter is the best time of the year for me. Not only do the kids love it, we as adults can use the Easter period to pray and learn about Jesus and how he lived his life.

  1. April 24th, 2010 at 09:24 | #1
  2. March 26th, 2011 at 17:17 | #2
  3. April 7th, 2012 at 17:03 | #3
  4. April 27th, 2015 at 16:40 | #4
  5. May 11th, 2015 at 11:40 | #5
  6. June 12th, 2015 at 08:40 | #6
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