Martin Luther King on nations coming back to God

I’ve just been reading Martin Luther King’s ‘The Measure of a Man’. In it, King mentions the story of the prodigal son, in which a son demands his inheritance from his fathers estate even though his father is still alive, leaves home, squanders the money and comes home begging for forgiveness. The father welcomes him home as a son who “was dead but is now alive” and before the son can even ask for forgiveness, he is embraces by his loving father. Martin Luther King responds to this story in applying it to the civil rights issues of his day:

This is the glory of our religion: that when man decides to rise up from his mistakes, from his sin, from his evil, there is a loving God saying, ‘Come home, I still love you’…

It seems that I can hear a voice saying to America: “You started out right. You wrote in your Declaration of Independence that ‘all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ But America, you strayed away from that sublime principle. You left the house of your great heritage and strayed away into a far country of segregation and discrimination. You have trampled over sixteen million of your brothers. You have deprived them of the basic goods of life You have taken away from them their self respect and their sense of dignity. You have treated them as if they were things rather than persons. Because of this a famine has broken out in your land. In the midst of all your material wealth, you are spiritually and morally poverty-stricken, unable to speak to the conscience of this world. America, in the famine situation, if you will come to yourself and rise up ad decide to come back home, I will take you in, for you are made for something high and something noble and something good.” (p19-20)

This applied very clearly to the civil rights movement of MLK’s day. I wonder how it applies to the western world today. Perhaps God sees the material wealth of the West and compares it to the poverty of the developing world and weeps for them. Perhaps he sees that the current global food crisis id driven by the western worlds desire for ever cheaper material goods and ever cheaper oil. Perhaps he sees what we are doing to His environment, again due to the desire for economic success. Perhaps there are many more… What would he have us do?

I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of each of these situations or how they can be fixed, but I’m sure God grieves over them.


9 thoughts on “Martin Luther King on nations coming back to God”

  1. The food crisis is driven by the 3rd World’s stupidity in switching to export crops instead of sustenance crops. Nobody forced or coerced them into making themselves dependent on food imports.

    The food crisis is made worse by various – all non-Western – nations hording grain crops to drive the price up. I cite Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam as examples.

  2. Define innocent or guilty. The West continues to export food to the world and continues to try to provide aid to the poor. We won’t beggar ourselves to do it though – and we’ll look after our people’s interests first.

    Forget the West; it’s a false argument. Look at the Developed v. Developing world for an answer to the issue. Poor nations shifted to export crops to take advantage of globalism. More advanced nations took advantage of cheaper imported foods and greater variety. I can’t see where that is wrong.

  3. Of course, there is bound to be poor management and corruption involved and nations trying to cash in to their advantage. There are a whole raft of other reasons for it too, including the fact that the rains have failed in many parts of the world (global warming?) and the shift to grow crops for fuel rather than food in many countries. But it is naive to think that the West (when I say that I mean the developed world) has had no influence on the subject. It is the West that has held the vast majority of the economic and political power in the world over the last century. What the developed world says and thinks gets followed.

    But my point is, what would God have us do? The Christian principle of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ surely applies – note that this does not mean neglect your own interests, but very few of us would do that anyway. This principle may be difficult to apply on a national scale, but we can all apply it individually, and there is nothing stopping us from doing so.

  4. “love your neighbor as yourself” is perilous advice. If I loved my neighbor as myself I would give him no subsidy because I wouldn’t accept one myself nor the enslavement it entailed.

  5. … but you would make sure he, like you, had clothes to wear and food to eat… so it is not perilous advice.

  6. Thats great! That is also loving your neighbour as yourself… do you see that? You said you would “help him find a way to get his own clothes”. ‘Helping him find a way’ of his own is loving him. The question now is, do we/you or does our society do that? We mustn’t leave half the world in poverty without trying to help them out of it, when we have the ability, materials, and money to help.

  7. True. I guess my problem with this is that all or almost all of the aid given is in the form of subsidies and handouts. Those don’t help people – not in the long run.

    It’s hard for me to separate the theory from the current flawed practice.

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