Unity Within our Diversity of Faiths: Thoughts from MLK

May we celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. day with renewed dedication both to nonviolence and justice, to supporting the oppressed, and to creating the world he dreamed.


BeliefNet published a nice collection today of MLK’s interfaith-based writings available here.



On this Martin Luther King weekend, and five days before the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States of America, it is appropriate to focus on some of the main values which have made this country a leader in the emerging global community.  My understanding is that, if we adhere to these values in word and in action, we will be able to handle the challenges that we will face in the next few years.

Dr. King believed in the equality of all races, cultures, and religions.  He was willing to lead the movement for truth, love, and justice in order to achieve these goals, knowing full well that it would cost him his life.  His way was the way of nonviolence, which was earlier taught and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi.   We celebrate Dr. King’s life with a national holiday, and we also owe a major tribute to the life of Mahatma Gandhi for our present understanding of nonviolence and its power in achieving success in realizing the goals to which it is applied.

The most recent example of its application to social change was in Standing Rock, North Dakota, where a pipeline was about to be run through an Indian reservation without the permission of the Native Americans whose lives would have been affected in two ways, pollution of their water and the destruction of a number of their sacred sites.  Through the use of nonviolence by the many Indian tribes, veterans, and numerous other American citizens, the pipeline has at least been put on hold.

The battle for the future of the USA is about to be tested again under Donald Trump’s presidency, and it may require even more intense application of nonviolence for the preservation of truth, love, and justice.  The challenges which are likely to arise may be just what we have needed to show the meaning of “a force more powerful”..  Martin Luther King has shown the way in this country. Now it is up to the rest of us to carry the understanding forward in the days ahead.

Let’s look at some of the specifics.  Trump has called for building a wall on our southern border to keep out “illegal” immigrants from Mexico and other Hispanic countries.  He has also asked for a listing and possible deportation of Muslims because of their religion and possible connection with the troubles in the Middle East.  Both of these actions are not going to solve the problem, and they are prejudicial and likely to cause much negative reaction.  The use of nonviolent resistance may well be applied to these issues in order to keep the actions from being carried out.   And, from what I have understood, these will be a number of other matters that should be dealt with as well.

Therefore, as we celebrate Dr. King’s life and work, may we focus on the current need for applying nonviolence to the issues we are facing in the United States and around the world.

Spirit is One; paths are many!


(A reflection after seeing Selma, shared at ICUJP, Jan. 30)

by Stephen Longfellow Fiske and at his blog as well

The capitalist corporatocracy
combined with rampant addictive militarism,
leading to suicidal empire building
under the leadership of polarized partisanship
reeks of the demise of democracy…

An infection plagues the land
a pandemic permeating the pores
of the human condition
a poison seeping into the heart
hardening the arteries of vision –
A blindness
unable to see outside itself
in a famine of foresight
a blight of beneficence
a calamity of clarity
a cancer of consciousness
metastasizing through repeated histories
encoded in generational identities
ignoring the pleas for generosity
destroying the vestiges of dignity
corrupting the tenets of equality
it feeds the already satiated
gratifies the already ingratiated
bleeds the already bleeding
steals from the desperately needing
serves the already self-serving
denies the despaired and deserving
hardens the crust of the callous
prostitutes the principles of the pious
padding the pockets of power
seizing the profit of the hour
climbing on the backs of the oppressed
enslaved to this disease of the obsessed
a barbiturate of false identity
it seeds the saddest of travesties
leads to the greatest of poverties
The poverty of the soul…


Capitalism breeds greed and greed breeds denial, the refusal to admit, recognize or face that something has occurred, something deleterious, something devastating, something that is an obvious truth to any real objective observer. Denial breeds aggressive protection of a dysfunctional status quo.

The dysfunctional status quo gets worse because trying to sustain dysfunction only exacerbates and perpetuates dysfunction.  The dysfunction festers and becomes a sickness, where mistrust, hate, bigotry, abuse and violence can thrive.  In order to heal, there needs to be a functional stability where a healing remedy and supportive environment can be provided.  But in our denial we are caught in a cycle of continual dysfunction that blinds us from facing the painful truth.  We suppress what we don’t want to see, and spiral off into an addicted acceptance of a “norm” where any part of healing is forgotten.

Isn’t it obvious that the path of war-making in the name of ‘the War on Terror” that this country has followed since 9/11 has destabilized the world while catalyzing and growing terrorism into a global horror reality?

Isn’t it obvious that corporate CEOs earning 300-400 times as much as the average employee, and that the 1% owning 50% of the world wealth, comprise a gaping inequity that wrenches the guts out of the true democracy articulated in the founding documents of this nation?  Hasn’t it been obvious throughout history that such inequity brings extreme societal suffering, turbulence and upheaval?

Isn’t it obvious that in the world’s richest country, where one out of three children live in poverty, where the homeless occupy the corners begging for handouts, where the middle class dwindles, where college students graduate in overwhelming debt, where infrastructure crumbles and racism shows its ugly face as young blacks are murdered by white cops in our streets and people of difference are stigmatized and marginalized, while global warming and fossil fuel addiction continue to devastate our life support system – our earth – isn’t it obvious that the way of greed, denial, and the reckless addiction to military spending  and war making is the wrong road for building a healthy, thriving nation and a global economy that works for everyone?  Not to mention a peaceful world?

But we Americans walk through our days in a kind of hypnotic haze, still holding on to the fantasy that the American Dream is alive and well while we slip deeper into the maze of denial.  We become cynical and lose interest in the most sacred element of democracy, the vote, as the bickering ineptitude of congress undermines the faith and trust of the electorate.  The recklessness and costliness of U.S. foreign policy and militarism continues to bleed the needs of the people and has brought American prestige in the international community to plummet.  More importantly, we seem to have lost interest in the one area that has always made a difference in history; the mass rising-up of the people in populist movements to resist injustice, oppression, and political misdirection.

With the stunning Academy disregard for Selma, one is again reminded, that much as Martin Luther King was an upstart underdog against a goliath entrenched system, Selma is a rarity amongst the onslaught of sensationalist and violent entertainment we see in movies, television and video games. The movie stands tall in reminding us of the transcendental impact of art on society, that bigotry can be uprooted, that people of vision and courage can act together to create positive change, that a minority voice speaking truth to power can instill a people’s movement and shift the power structure, and that America is still capable of self-examination and revolutionary transformation.  Selma may be only a reminder, not a slayer of a system of greed, denial and bigotry, but a breath of hope in a seemingly dismal forecast.  And the movie has given non-violence a dignified presence in the midst of the gratuitous violence that pervades the movie landscape.

Selma touches us again with the impact of history, the lessons still to be learned, and invokes us to take a good look at where we still fester in racism, bigotry, greed, denial and dysfunction.

The movie re-affirms that the vision Dr. King articulated so eloquently for America,  uprooting bigotry, injustice and oppression through the strategy of non-violence,  reaches deep into the heart of democracy,   to the foundation  of all humanity’s quest for a just and peaceful world.

In this we can find hope, take strength in each other,  to be with those that Martin Luther King called ”the veterans of Creative suffering,”  acting in “the fierce urgency of now.”


“The nonviolent approach gives (people) new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage they did not know they had.”
~Martin Luther King, Science & Spirituality, p. 172


On Friday of this week, Deepak Chopra, M.D. inaugurated what was claimed to be the largest orchestrated worldwide meditation ever presented, 100,000 strong.  It was well  developed and undoubtedly had a wide and indepth influence.  People in the audience where this was held sat silently as they were told about the impact meditation can have on not only the inner life of the individual but also on bringing about world peace.  After learning about the potential influence meditation can have, a global meditation was held, with quiet music in the background.  The one-hour program ended with a process of bringing the audience slowly out of the state of meditation.


Meditation is important in the process of moving beyond violence and war.  The United States seems to be addicted to war, and the world now has an unusually large number of “hotspots”, especially in the Middle East.  Once again, Iraq is being threatened, this time by a group called “the Islamic State”.  Our response has so far been to do two things; first to send food aid, and at the same approximate time to fire drones into the country in an attempt to stop the potential take-over by the militants.


If our solution to problems such as this one, and also with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is to meditate, then all we would need to do is to sit quietly and meditate or pray for a solution to the various crises in the world.  There is a place for the spiritual solutions to these problems, but for most people the inner solutions are only one part of the answer.  The other part of what is needed is a change of consciousness in terms of how we handle our day-to-day living in the world.


Martin Luther King pointed out that returning violence for violence multiplies violence.  There is another way, the way of nonviolence.  Mahatma Gandhi called it “satyagraha”, which is declaring one’s truth and living by that truth, at the same time being willing to accept the consequences of that action.  When the people of India had a hard time living up to Gandhi’s way of nonviolence, he would fast as a reminder that they needed to follow his courageous lead.


The point is that for most of us there is more to helping bring about peace than just meditating, as important as meditation and prayer are to prepare us for our nonviolent, Spirit-centered action.   Nonviolent action needs training, and it needs courage and a respect for all life.  A new film has just come out called “Beyond Right and Wrong.”  Its point is that perpetrators and victims need to make an effort to understand each other and finally to transcend the times and attitudes which caused the conflict in the first place.  It is a way of practicing forgiveness and achieving justice.


All of us need times of meditation and prayer as a way of centering our lives and giving us the courage of our convictions.  But then, in most cases, we also need to be willing to serve the Highest Good in an active way, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.  What we might have to do through military service, can also be our own choice in a nonviolent way which is based on respect for all life and the transformation of the world.


May peace prevail on earth!!!