MLK reminds us to rediscover lost values

0503-martin-luther-king-quotesOn February 28, 1954, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a sermon at Detroit’s Second Baptist Church. The theme of his sermon sounds like it could come from any of the Republican Presidential candidates.”There is something wrong with our world, something fundamentally and basically wrong. I don’t think we have to look too far to see that. We need to rediscover the previous values that we’ve left behind.”

As someone who considers myself progressive, I rarely look to the past. I have never subscribed to what I call the “Happy Days” myth, that there is some mythical time in our nation’s history when everything was perfect. And that we need to go back to that period in time. I strongly believe that our best days as a nation are ahead of us.

But MLK is on to something when he says that we need to look backwards to look forwards.

What are the precious values that we’ve left behind? MLK identified two values in his sermon.

  1. We live in a moral universe with moral foundations.

MLK targeted the universal truth that hate is wrong.  It’s always wrong to hate other people. It was wrong in Germany in the 1930s. It was wrong in the United States in 1954. It is wrong today.

As Jesus said in Matthew 22:34-39, all the commandments can be summed up into two principles: Love the lord with all your heart and soul and mind and Love you neighbor as yourself.

In this election cycle, all the candidates seek to divide us as a nation.

You think as a former Canadian citizen, Ted Cruz would be more tolerant, but he’s the ring reader of the us-versus-them movement with his attempt to divide the country as people with New York values versus people with American values.

When asked to explain what he meant by New York values, he responded initially that most people know exactly what New York values are. They are not the rest of the country’s value.

The cold open for this weekend’s Saturday Night Live poked fun at Ted Cruz’s view of New York Values: Mock candidate Cruz accused New Yorkers of celebrating the pagan holiday Festivus instead of Christmas; of challenging each other to masturbation contests instead of watching American football; of saying “Hello, Newman,” instead of saying “Hi.” When pressed on this, mock candidate Cruz said, “If I could say “liberal Jews,” I would.”

Unfortunately, the parody is not too far from the truth. Countless articles have been written about how no one likes Ted Cruz.  But it’s probably also true that Ted Cruz doesn’t like anybody who doesn’t share his exact views on the world.

Hate is not a New York value. It is not an American value.

It is time for the candidates to stop their rhetoric of hate and start to talk about how we can work together as a nation.

  1. There is a god behind the process.

In his sermon, MLK said, “The world is filled up with people who pay lip service to God and not life service. We say with our mouths we believe in Him, but we live with our lives like He never existed.”

Again, we can look at the Presidential candidates for examples where people are not living God.

Donald Trump professes that the Bible is his favorite book, but can’t name one Bible verse. He doesn’t love our neighbor to the south. Instead, he calls Mexicans rapists and murderers.

Ted Cruz says he is pro-life but then wants to adopt a strategy of war that would result in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians.  Would Jesus carpet bomb?

This week, a group of atheists filed a law suit in Ohio to remove “In God We Trust” from the nation’s currency.  This issue was previously decided in May 2014 by a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. This New York court did not see “In God We Trust” so much as the entanglement of government in religion, but as a more general statement of optimism and a “reference to the country’s religious heritage.”

I imagine that judges in the Second Circuit in New York would have “New York” values so I guess that New York values would include this optimism and refer to our country’s religious heritage.

I share this “New York value” and believe that we need to look at our nation’s religious heritage.”  People came here to avoid persecution for having different beliefs. Our heritage is one of tolerance for people who don’t share the same religious views. I read Genesis Chapter 1 as stating that God created humans and then felt it was important for them to have a helpmate so he created a helpmate. The Hebrew words that have been translated into “man” and “woman” aren’t the words that are used to delineate one sex from another. But the word translated as “man” is usually used to talk about humans. And the word translated as “woman” is the word that is used when someone provides assistance to another. That may be viewed as a “queering” of the Scripture, but it’s my religious belief. Some people have the opposite view, but their religious belief shouldn’t be imposed on me.


I hope that you have a wonderful holiday and that the wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr. inspires you to look in your past at something that you used to be believe in, but have left behind. Something good that maybe you’ve forgotten about.  Let’s take that step backwards and rediscover our lost values so that we can all move forward together.

Full text of Dr. King’s sermon is available at