Friday, January 15, 2016

Unarmed Truth and Unconditional Love

The year 1964 was a difficult one for the United States. The nation had suffered the assassination of a beloved President in November of the year before.
The war in Vietnam was heating up in 1964: the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which escalated the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, was passed by Congress in August. By the end of the year more than 23,000 U.S. troops were there.
Public protest against the war also began that year Joan Baez led six hundred people in an antiwar demonstration in December. It was also the time of great racial tension across the nation, especially in Alabama and Mississippi.
On December 10, 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr., whose actual birthday is today, gave his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize which he had been awarded—and at that time he was the youngest person ever to receive that prestigious prize.
As was true for many of his public talks, King’s address on that December day in Oslo, Norway, was a powerful one. In spite of all the negative things going on in the world and in the U.S., King was positive and hopeful about the future.
In that memorable speech King said,

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.
President Obama’s seventh, and last, State of the Union address was delivered on Tuesday of last week. It is noteworthy that in his speech, the President referred to King and quoted his words about “unarmed truth and unconditional love.”
Then at the very end of his hour-long talk, the President emphasized that he was “optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
I am not sure what all King, or the President, had in mind by uttering those words. But at the very least it is an expression of hope that truth is more powerful than falsehood and that love is more powerful than hate—in spite of what might seem to be the case at times.
That same confidence in the future was expressed by Theodore Parker (1810-60) in words that both King and Obama have quoted, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
There is a lot of negativity in our country now, and that “gloom and doom” is being stoked by the politicians running for the White House this year. Because of 24-hour cable news, people constantly see and hear about the bad things that are happening.
Almost three-fourths of the general public in the U.S. is dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country.
Given the mood of the nation and all the criticism constantly heaped upon him and his presidency, it is remarkable that the President was able to be so upbeat in his SOTU message.
And in spite of all the negativity, it is heartening that just as King did in his 1964 speech, President Obama was able to emphasize that, indeed, unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.


  1. I did watch last night`s debate and have Only met Dr. Ben Carson in person of All the candidates. This isn`t the reason I think he still embodies what most of us Americans. I know that most people think he might be too soft and timid, but I am convinced that he is smart enough to surround himself with the RIGHT and qualified people to do whats right for our country and the world.

  2. I received the following significant comments from Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson:

    "I think the President delivered a great and timely speech. I can’t understand why everyday citizens view what is happening negatively. Unemployment is at its lowest level since Clinton, the cost of gasoline is low, all kinds of jobs are available.

    "The dystopian outlook, then, must be one created by constant beating of negative drums by Republicans. The surprising thing to me is that so many people who claim to be Bible believers are the ones who literally hate a president who has done so much to help those the Bible insists that we help.

    "Americans need a change of heart!"

    1. One word - Obamacare. In my business, I meet daily with people whose family budgets are being devastated by this. It is affordable only for the wealthy, and those who get it subsidized/free - not average people.

      We really do need a LEADER in our country, and in the world. I don't see any on the horizon. (Not just in the world of politics.)

    2. Touche' (This in not intended to be a mean statement.)

      I do know of five families benefiting from the ACA, including a family member who is quadriplegic. Sadly, the number is about 50 times greater for middle class families in trouble and not being subsidized. This is very sad, and not being addressed. The issue is not only astronomically rising premiums, but also astronomical deductibles (10,000 - $15,000 just to keep the monthly premium affordable - under $1,000). This is the singular devastation to family budgets that I see daily. Many seniors leaving subsidized ACA are finding the real numbers for Medicare, which they cannot afford. CMS requested dramatic increases to original Medicare this year, but was turned down by Congress since this is an election year. With transfers of funds from Medicare to ACA, Medicare will not be able to sustain the lower premiums, copays and deductibles for long. (Reports easily accessible from CMS and neutral third parties.)

      I pray for a true and Godly leader to emerge. Many across my diverse group of friends have expressed the same. God, please send us a leader!

  3. While I believe Obamacare is a large improvement over our prior health system, it is still true that America has the most expensive healthcare in the world. Part of the problem is that Americans want government benefits without paying for them. Look at our crumbling highways and bridges for a simpler example. The Federal gas tax was last raised in 1993. Today's dollar has substantially lower purchasing power, and today's vehicles have better gas mileage, but America still limps along stuck with the "no tax increase" mentality. America would rather curse the darkness than light a candle. So we raise the cost with ad hoc extensions and borrow the extra money instead of raising it from the users.

    The people who think healthcare is too expensive will nonetheless expect full emergency care if the need arises. And who will pay for that care? We need to get real and look at truly successful systems around the world, and find one that suggests a realistic model for America. Currently, the only candidate pushing an actual replacement for Obamacare is Bernie Sanders, who proposes a single payer system, what he calls Medicare for All. Clinton has attacked it vigorously, but her complaint is not that it is not a great goal that would ultimately save America trillions of dollars, while insuring everyone, but rather she complains that it would be too hard to pass through Congress, and that it would "repeal" Obamacare. Well, that is the alternative the GOP argues for, which is loss of health insurance for millions of Americans, but far removed from Sanders upgrade plan. If we don't dream, how do we achieve?

    We live in a complicated world, and we may have reached a turning point beyond which it is impossible to have rational public policy debates. I hope not. The future of civilization depends on it.

  4. Thinking Friend Bob Perry in south Missouri sent an email with the following comments on Saturday:

    "Thanks for a thoughtful and helpful contrast and comparison. It seems clear to me which approach is true to the teachings and model of Jesus."

    In response I posed this question to Bob yesterday: "What can we do to help people in the churches, especially the conservative churches, to come to the conclusions that seem so clear to you and me?"

    And then this morning I received this reply from Bob (and his comments are posted with his permission):

    "Good question. With public figures like D. Trump spouting hate and intolerance, and so many evangelicals applauding that, it is hard to see how conservatives can turn from that and embrace a message of love and mercy. I think more moderate voices are speaking, but they are drowned out by the angry, fearful and xenophobic sound bites. But we have to keep speaking and acting and hope for some to follow. Thanks for your voice."