by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
January 31, 2011 The Kansas City Star newspaper ran an article about a recently discovered reel-to-reel tape of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech of January 1968 at Kansas State University entitled “The Future of Integration.” MLKjr responded to President Johnson’s State of the Union address, which said we live in a wonderfully prosperous society and yet there was so much restlessness.
King talked about beautiful cars flowing on beautiful highways and 70 million television sets – our society was (and still is) top dog. But what about the restlessness? Why so much restlessness? MLKjr answered:
I would like to answer the President by saying that there is restlessness in this society because we have allowed the means by which we live to out-distance the ends for which we live.
Rephrased, we don’t know why we have 70 million television sets – we just accumulate to accumulate. I imagine we are in the pursuit of happiness, the American Dream. I think of a couple of favorite quotes of mine…
We have everything and nothing more.
If you wish to destroy your enemy then give them everything.
As a community of faith we must understand what story we are in – not the consumer story but the humanity story put forth by Jesus. This means we must measure our societal health NOT by who is well-off, but rather by how well-off the least of us are. Second, as a community of faith we must wrestle with ‘what it means to be content’ – which means we must pick a lifestyle, an austere lifestyle of satisfaction with less than what the Sunday newspaper ads tell us we should be, and austerity for the sake of doing something more important than our own prosperity.
Still, the well-off do not give up their affluence – period. They just don’t. Change will come for below, not the rich above. Time will bear out these children of change.
May we not ‘allowed the means by which we live to out-distance the ends for which we live.’