On the Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Death: Life, Legacy, and Interconnectedness

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FAN Executive Director Patrick Carolan reflects on the life, death, and legacy of Martin Luther King.

Today is the 48th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. In the Jewish tradition, they would call today the 46th yohrzeit.

Exactly one year before he was murdered, the Reverend King addressed a group of over 3000 Clergy and Laity at a meeting at Riverside Church in New York City. He stated: “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. “

Today we are living in the tomorrow that Martin Luther king dreamed and spoke about. Have we fulfilled the dream or have we turned it into a nightmare? Dr. King spoke about a “radical revolution of values.” Have we experienced this change of value, do we consider profit, money and things more important than people? We often talk about the moral and ethical values of our nation. But we never define what that means. Most Americans define themselves as people of faith, the majority claiming to follow the teachings of Jesus. Yet their value system allows for the destruction of Gods wondrous creation, it allows for the hungry to go hungry and the homeless to remain homeless. Our nation’s value system thinks that it is more important to protect the wealthy than to feed the hungry children. These are not the values Jesus teaches us in the Gospels.

We are living in a story of separation not connectedness. Our story has been one of perfecting our capacity for greed and violence. As a result we are on the verge of environmental and social collapse. So on this, the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, let’s take up the challenge and transform our society, let’s have a “radical revolution of values.” We need to start a new story, a story of compassion, of sharing, a story of connectedness, not separation. Richard Rohr tells us: “The gift of enlightenment, transformation and “salvation” is not an evacuation plan for the next world but a gift of “reconciliation” for the world here and now.” We are not hopelessly divided and doomed to self-destruct, we do not have a genetic predisposition towards greed and violence. It is just the way our story has been written. It is time for a new radically different story, a story of interbeing, of oneness with God and all creation. In, the Our Father, the prayer that is most frequently prayed by Christians we pray:

Thy kingdom come

Thy will be done

On Earth as it is in heaven

Is it God’s will in heaven that some will go hungry while others have excess, some will live in mansions while others will be homeless?

It is time to change our story on earth so it more reflects the will of God in heaven.

Let us begin the radical revolution of values.

Peace and All Good

Patrick Carolan is the Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network.

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