I have a collection of inspiring quotes gleaned from the interwebs which I share to promote the philosophy of the Church And State Summit, an annual conference which equips Christians to be better informed and involved in important public issues.
Recently I shared one by a public figure who stands tall in the history of ordained Christian ministers who were not content to sit on the sidelines of history and let appalling social standards perpetuate injustice and oppression. Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr has many inspiring sermons which resonate with the purpose of the Church And State Summit, like this one, as true today as it was in 1967.
The Church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the Church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the Church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and … justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause men everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the Church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men, imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. Men far and near will know the Church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travellers at midnight.
But Facebook seems to have appointed itself and its bored hamsters the sole arbiters of Truth, and has taken exception to today’s quote, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Their objection is that there’s no proof that he actually said those exact words, yet their own analysis admits the quote is shared widely on social media by people from Bill Clinton down. The actual verdict is there isn’t enough evidence to prove it’s “true”, but they also admit they can’t prove it’s false either.
Left-biased “fact-checking” website Snopes describes the quote as a paraphrase which does capture the essential point King was trying to make in a sermon following “Bloody Sunday” when police attacked protestors. Decide for yourself if it’s an accurate representation of King’s sermon which deserves to be hidden by Facebook with a warning to users that the meme is “Partly False Information”. Here’s the more complex thought he articulated.
Deep down in our non-violent creed is the conviction there are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they’re worth dying for. And if a man happens to be 36 years old, as I happen to be, some great truth stands before the door of his life — some great opportunity to stand up for that which is right. A man might be afraid his home will get bombed, or he’s afraid that he will lose his job, or he’s afraid that he will get shot, or beat down by state troopers, and he may go on and live until he’s 80. He’s just as dead at 36 as he would be at 80. The cessation of breathing in his life is merely the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. He died …
A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.
So we’re going to stand up amid horses. We’re going to stand up right here in Alabama, amid the billy-clubs. We’re going to stand up right here in Alabama amid police dogs, if they have them. We’re going to stand up amid tear gas! We’re going to stand up amid anything they can muster up, letting the world know that we are determined to be free!
As you can see, they are powerful sentiments worthy of far more than a simple meme, but that isn’t how social media works. If Mark Zuckerberg wanted to train people to turn their nose up at five-second philosophy and instead crave the nuance possible in a thousand-word essay, he should have started a blog, but he created a social site which may catalyse deeper conversations. The objectionable aspect of Facebook’s paternalistic behaviour of censoring an actually accurate quote, albeit paraphrased, is that the mega-corporation is now attempting to say we must listen to their analysis of what’s said.
Well, we’re here now, so let’s be inspired by the objective Truth and nuance of King’s sermon.
If you refuse to stand up for what is right, for justice, and for that which is true, King warned your spirit is already dead, and your death in body will merely confirm later what was already true when you first refused to take a stand when it mattered. But if you’re reading his words now it’s not too late to take that stand for you.
What better New Year’s resolution than to quicken your spirit to the plight of your neighbours and the oppression in society around your relative comfort? Blissful ignorance is the poison of love for neighbour which otherwise would manifest in intervention in oppression, injustice and deception.
Our children are being oppressed by a government education system infiltrated with radical and reckless theories about gender and sexuality. The elderly and infirm are being oppressed by governments asking if suicide really isn’t that bad an option for those who’ve become a burden to their families and the public purse. Preborn people are being oppressed by a profitable trade in their industrialised slaughter, and average workers are afraid their employer’s “code of conduct” has made public expression of their sincerely held beliefs illegal with no capacity to defy their bullying.
I would like to thank Facebook for drawing attention to the full complexity of the truth which Rev Dr Martin Luther King expounded in his sermon and to the practical solutions – information and intervention – offered by the Church And State Summit (in Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane in February 2020).
This truth is simply stated as, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” so let’s abandon silence on these things.
Dave Pellowe is a speaker, writer and political commentator and blogs at PelloweTalk.com.
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