I Have a Dream Speech – Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I link to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Be inspired.

For a transcript of the speech, you can consult the National Archives at this link.  It is fascinating to examine the draft of the speech. In particular, the phrase “I have a dream today” isn’t in the draft. He improvised the phrase.  He had used it before but it wasn’t in the prepared remarks. In the moment, inspiration came to him and he took the speech to another level. See this interview with Clarence Jones for more on that story.

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Letter from Birmingham Jail

Martin_Luther_King_Jr_NYWTS_4Dated April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King wrote a letter from jail in Birmingham during the non-violent campaign there. In the letter, he defended the strategy of non-violence used in the Birmingham campaign.
One of the striking elements of the letter is King’s disappointment with the white clergy in the South. If I could paraphrase King for today, I might ask the Trump evangelical advisory board, “Who is your God? Where are your voices of support when the president said fine people rallied with Nazis and white supremacists?”
Birmingham Jail MLK
Today, Donald Trump disbanded his group of CEO business advisors because many of them resigned over his remarks yesterday about Charlottesville. Not one of the evangelical advisory board resigned, nor did any of them condemn the remarks.  Is this how it is going to be? Is silence in the face of evil how evangelicals of this age will be remembered?
 

Southern Baptist Leaders Contradict David Barton's Claim about Confederate Symbols

(UPDATED to include Russell Moore’s comments…)
The religious right’s favorite self-styled historian David Barton has come out in favor of leaving Confederate statues in public view, blaming “the left” for the push to remove them. According to an article in World Net Daily, Barton sees “the left” at work:

David Barton, a historian and author of “The Jefferson Lies,” said the crusade against Confederate monuments is simply an attempt by the left to erase history. He said even monuments that some might think are offensive can be used for a good purpose.

Barton then says the next target for the leftists are monuments to abortion foes and opponents of slavery.

Soon we’ll have to take down Susan B. Anthony statues because even though she fought for women’s suffrage, she was openly pro-life; and, in today’s women’s movement, no one can be a true woman unless she supports Planned Parenthood and abortion. And of course Harriet Tubman statues will be taken down, for even though she was a leading conductor on the Underground Railroad bringing slaves to freedom, she was also a huge advocate for the right to keep and bear arms. For modern civil rights advocates, guns are anathema, and no true civil rights advocate can be for guns!
We no longer look at heroes as people or as complex individuals; rather we now judge them solely by one issue, whatever that issue happens to be at the time. We are creating a culture where we believe we have a right not to be offended or even have our misconceptions challenged; and we’re willing to use coercion to keep ‘me’ from being offended, even if that offends ‘you.’ What offends us now is so routinely redefined that probably no statue now will survive more than a generation before it becomes offensive to someone who will demand its removal.

Here Barton reduces monuments to slavery as a mere “offense” as if a tribute to slavery was simply offensive to the fragile sensibilities of left leaning people. I certainly don’t consider Jefferson Davis to be a “hero,” complex or otherwise. Barton’s minimization of slavery as a mere offense is in itself offensive and insensitive and demonstrates the need to remove these tributes to slavery from their place of honor.

Opposition to the Monuments Comes from the Right and Left

Barton’s narrative about the source of opposition to the monuments is contradicted by a prominent New Orleans pastor Fred Luter, Jr. Rev. Luter is pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Luter is one of over 100 New Orleans area pastors who signed a letter supporting the removal of the statues.
Via Twitter, I asked Luter if he considered himself on “the left” or the right and he replied that he is “a part of the Right.” Also on the list of pastors supporting the removal of the statues is Rev. David Crosby, the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church. Crosby was nominated for the Southern Baptist Convention presidency last year. Being in leadership in today’s Southern Baptist Convention does not strike me as an activity of those who populate “the left.”
President of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Russell Moore told me he agrees with his New Orleans brethren:

I agree with Drs. Luter and Crosby. I’ve always said that we should not whitewash history in either direction, by denying that it happened or by commending what is not commendable. This was the position I took in regard to the flying of the Confederate flag and is applicable here too.

Finally, Barton again claims that Virginia state law made it “difficult, if not impossible” for Thomas Jefferson and George Washington to free their slaves. This is a bogus claim. The 1782 law on manumission not only made it possible, but enabled many slave owners in Virginia to free their slaves. Washington did so at this death but Jefferson declined to free his slaves and even sent slave catchers to hunt down those who ran away from Monticello.
To sum up, some pastors on the list of New Orleans pastors who support the removal of the Confederate statues may be left leaning or centrists politically. However, as I have shown, at least some come from the political right. Clearly, Barton is wrong about the sources of opposition to the public display of symbols which celebrate the Confederacy. People across a wide spectrum favor removal of the statues to be placed in museums or other place where people can learn from history. As with so many issues, Barton spins a narrative he likes first without regard to all the facts.
The irony here is that it is Barton who is at work altering truth, whether it be about Virginia slave laws, or the source of opposition to Confederate symbols.

Thoughts on Donald Trump's Speech at Liberty University on January 18

Jerry Jr. likes The Donald and thinks Trump is like Jerry Falwell. Falwell said Liberty wasn’t endorsing a candidate but the introduction certainly sounded like an endorsement.
Rev. Falwell, I think America is still great. We don’t need Donald Trump to make it great again. It is great now.
[youtube]https://youtu.be/E32ZPa4LGkM[/youtube]
John Fea on Donald Trump’s Two Corinthians.
Trump says he is going to protect Christianity. How about protecting all religions? Instead, he wants our country to get together around Christianity. Big fun if you’re a Christian.
Trump wants to knock the hell out of ISIS. He wants a big military to scare everyone. Actually, his simplistic, off the cuff policy statements are pretty scary.
Really? “When I’m president, you’re gonna see Merry Christmas at department stores, believe me.” What, he’s going to use executive orders for holiday greetings?
Trumps big policy planks – knock the hell out of ISIS, tough negotiations with terrorists, make department stores say Merry Christmas, build a Great Wall of China on our borders, keep companies from relocating overseas, stop common core, don’t restrict guns, get rid of Super PACs, and get rid of Obamacare.
I will vote for Trump for Crazy Uncle in Chief. Oy.
Open forum…
 
 

Jerry Falwell Jr.'s Irresponsible Machismo

For so many reasons, I am glad I don’t teach at Liberty University.
I can’t embed the clip so click through to watch Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. encourage students to carry guns on campus. He also seems to challenge “Muslims” (I assume he means radical Muslim terrorists) to come visit Liberty, and not for a college tour.
FalwellI have no problem with self-defense but this seems like an irresponsible challenge to people who are capable of responding to it. As a college president, your first duty is the safety and well-being of your students, not to go all John Wayne.
 
 

Response to IOTC – Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Speech: Our God is Marching On

On Monday,  I wrote about the Institute on the Constitution’s distortion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work and mission. The IOTC accuses those who cast King, Jr. as a civil rights champion of revising history. I addressed the basic problems in their arguments yesterday. Each day this week, I will post a link to another speech or article from King, Jr. which makes his position clear. Yesterday, I posted segments of his speech titled “Give Us the Ballot.” Today, I am posting a speech delivered in Montgomery, AL on March 25, 1965 titled “Our God is Marching On.”
King marched for racial equality but he did not believe such an outcome would happen with laws requiring equal treatment alone. He also asked the federal government for assistance with housing, jobs and income. King Jr. did not limit his mission to “God-given rights.” Agree or disagree, the IOTC assertion that King, Jr. sought only God-given rights (by their definition) is betrayed by his frequent calls for government intervention in housing, and poverty.
King, Jr. said:

Let us therefore continue our triumphant march (Uh huh) to the realization of the American dream. (Yes, sir) Let us march on segregated housing (Yes, sir) until every ghetto or social and economic depression dissolves, and Negroes and whites live side by side in decent, safe, and sanitary housing. (Yes, sir) Let us march on segregated schools (Let us march, Tell it) until every vestige of segregated and inferior education becomes a thing of the past, and Negroes and whites study side-by-side in the socially-healing context of the classroom.

Let us march on poverty (Let us march) until no American parent has to skip a meal so that their children may eat. (Yes, sir) March on poverty (Let us march) until no starved man walks the streets of our cities and towns (Yes, sir) in search of jobs that do not exist. (Yes, sir) Let us march on poverty (Let us march) until wrinkled stomachs in Mississippi are filled, (That’s right) and the idle industries of Appalachia are realized and revitalized, and broken lives in sweltering ghettos are mended and remolded.

That King was a champion of civil rights is beyond dispute.

Now it is not an accident that one of the great marches of American history should terminate in Montgomery, Alabama. (Yes, sir) Just ten years ago, in this very city, a new philosophy was born of the Negro struggle. Montgomery was the first city in the South in which the entire Negro community united and squarely faced its age-old oppressors. (Yes, sir. Well) Out of this struggle, more than bus [de]segregation was won; a new idea, more powerful than guns or clubs was born. Negroes took it and carried it across the South in epic battles (Yes, sir. Speak) that electrified the nation (Well) and the world.
Yet, strangely, the climactic conflicts always were fought and won on Alabama soil. After Montgomery’s, heroic confrontations loomed up in Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and elsewhere. But not until the colossus of segregation was challenged in Birmingham did the conscience of America begin to bleed. White America was profoundly aroused by Birmingham because it witnessed the whole community of Negroes facing terror and brutality with majestic scorn and heroic courage. And from the wells of this democratic spirit, the nation finally forced Congress (Well) to write legislation (Yes, sir) in the hope that it would eradicate the stain of Birmingham. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave Negroes some part of their rightful dignity, (Speak, sir) but without the vote it was dignity without strength.

Others knew him as a “civil rights agitator:”

My people, my people, listen. (Yes, sir) The battle is in our hands. (Yes, sir) The battle is in our hands in Mississippi and Alabama and all over the United States. (Yes, sir) I know there is a cry today in Alabama, (Uh huh) we see it in numerous editorials: “When will Martin Luther King, SCLC, SNCC, and all of these civil rights agitators and all of the white clergymen and labor leaders and students and others get out of our community and let Alabama return to normalcy?”

Read the entire speech here.

IOTC: Power Struggle in the League of the South? Or Cynical Attempt to Exploit Martin Luther King, Jr.?

The League of the South as a group is not celebrating Martin Luther King Day. On the League of the South Facebook page, League president Michael Hill is celebrating Confederate heroes today:

In Memoriam . . .
As we Southern Nationalist mark the birthdays of two of our great military heroes–Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson–let us not be content to merely remember. Rather, let us emulate them and continue the honorable cause that motivated these two noble Southern men–the survival, well being, and independence of the Southern people.
Note: If you wish to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. please go elsewhere. He is not one of us. And besides, who can honor a communist, womanizer, and plagiarist?–Michael Hill

In a mind-bending inconsistency, Hill tells readers who honor King, Jr. “to go elsewhere.” Yet, on the board of his organization, the League of the South, is one who has at least pretended to honor King — Michael Peroutka. In the video below, Peroutka speaks in glowing terms of King’s call for the equality.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZpHPwpm8l8[/youtube]
In the video, Peroutka errs dramatically by saying King did not call for civil rights but, nonetheless, he gives tribute to King, Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech. According to League president Hill, Peroutka should go elsewhere.  Is this inconsistency an indication of a power struggle in the League? Or is Peroutka’s video, and Hill’s silence about it, just a cynical effort to appeal to multiple audiences?
I think the answer to the second question is yes. My opinion is that the Institute on the Constitution (which is simply Peroutka’s law firm) is masquerading as a pro-American, and pro-Constitution organization. Recently, Peroutka told Steve Deace that civil rights laws are not laws and should not have been passed. On the IOTC website is an article justifying racial discrimination, and this one calling Confederate troops, “the American forces” who fought for freedom and “an American way of life.” Peroutka supports the League’s secessionist aims, and pledged the resources of the IOTC and his family to the League’s efforts.
I don’t know what Peroutka’s motives are for invoking King, but there is nothing consistent or particularly noble about it. If Peroutka really wants to give tribute to King and his work, then he should publicly denounce the League and as Michael Hill advised – “go elsewhere.”

Review: David Barton’s Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White, Part One

I just finished reading David Barton’s Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White. In this book, Barton attempts to demonstrate that the Republican party has historically been the party of civil rights while the Democrats have worked to prevent full equality for African Americans. As with other claims made by Barton, this claim has some truth to it. Democrats, especially southern Democrats worked against Reconstruction era reforms while certain Republicans advocated for full civil rights based on the Declaration of Independence. However, my impression is that Barton skews the history in several ways to give less than a complete and accurate picture of the period of time he covers (from pre-Civil War to the 1960s).

Thus far, I can identify three major problems with Barton’s narrative. One, he fails to make clear the divisions within the Republican party over Reconstruction and civil rights. Throughout the Reconstruction era, moderate and radical Republicans debated how far to go in granting civil rights to freed blacks. However, Barton’s narrative is clearly Democrat versus Republican. Barton mentions Plessy v. Ferguson as an adverse decision for blacks but fails to mention that most of the Justices who decided that case were either Republican or appointed by Republican presidents.

Two, Barton fails to consider the role of the Christian church in the southern resistance to civil rights. The Confederate constitution invoked God and many post Civil War opponents of equality embedded their arguments in the Bible. Barton makes the southern resistance to civil rights for blacks into a political issue without dealing with the religious justifications for segregation.

Three, Barton fails to even mention the 1964 presidential campaign and Barry Goldwater’s vote against the Civil Rights Act as turning points in black voting behavior. Prior to the Goldwater campaign, Republican presidents had received significant support from African Americans. For instance, Eisenhower received 39% of the black vote in 1956 and Nixon got 32% in 1960. In 1964, when Goldwater ran for president, only 6% of the black vote went Republican. Although Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman began the change of trend in voting, Goldwater’s lack of support for the Civil Rights Act and the reaction of black leaders — including Martin Luther King — were crucial factors in solidifying black support for the democrats.

This clip summarizes the history nicely:

Note at 4:03 into this clip, Martin Luther King, Jr. urged everyone to vote against Goldwater. Apparently many black leaders did not believe Goldwater was personally racist but the policies adopted by Goldwater and other Republicans at the time were of great importance. Barton completely omits these events.

For a good description of Reconstruction and beyond, I can’t recommend Barton’s book. I am currently reading Concerning a New Republic: The Republican Part and Southern Question, 1869-1900 by Charles Calhoun which is thus far a much better treatment of the facts than Setting the Record Straight. In upcoming posts, I hope to add some depth to these initial observations.