[Southern California Permaculture] Dr Martin Luther King Jr./Christmas Eve Message 1967

Margie Bushman, Santa Barbara Permaculture Network sbpcnet at silcom.com
Sun Dec 24 16:20:33 PST 2017

Dr. King's Interconnected World - Christmas Eve Message 1967



By Drew Dellinger DEC. 22, 2017


Fifty years ago Sunday - Christmas Eve 1967 - the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. stood in his pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and told
the congregation that in order to achieve peace on earth, "we must develop a
world perspective," a vision for the entire planet. "Yes," he said, "as
nations and individuals, we are interdependent." Then, with a sentence that
could easily have been uttered by John Muir or Rachel Carson, Dr. King
stated, "It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated."


Best remembered for his work and speeches on civil rights, Dr. King on that
morning, in his last Christmas sermon before his assassination, anticipated
much of the ecological consciousness and environmental concerns of the next
50 years, and the links between ecology and social justice that are vital to
our present and future. Dr. King's work to dismantle white supremacy and
economic injustice was rooted in his prophetic Christianity, shaped by the
black radical tradition, the Social Gospel and the black freedom struggle.
Less known is his understanding of existence as unified and the voice he
gave to a cosmology of connection.


In the last years of Dr. King's life, his holistic vision led him to
emphasize the connections between racism, militarism and economic injustice,
and to see continuities across social movements. In a 1966 telegram to the
labor leader Cesar Chavez, he wrote, "our separate struggles are really
one." Three weeks after his Christmas sermon, Dr. King visited the singer
Joan Baez in jail, following her arrest after a sit-in at a draft induction
center. Stopping to speak with Vietnam War protesters gathered outside, he
told them, referring to civil rights and antiwar activism, "I see these two
struggles as one struggle."


Dr. King was not, as some charged, calling for what he termed a "mechanical
fusion" of the peace and civil rights movements. Still, he maintained, the
issues were connected, telling his staff that racism, militarism and
excessive materialism are "inseparable triplets." In Dr. King's mind, the
civil rights movement was part of a broader "revolution of values" that was
"forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws." As he put it, what we
need is nothing less than "a restructuring of the very architecture of
American society."


His Christmas Eve vision took things further, to encompass the intrinsic
interconnectedness of existence itself. "We are all caught in an inescapable
network of mutuality," he preached in his booming voice, "tied into a single
garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly" - "Yes, sir," someone in
the audience responded - "affects all indirectly. We are made to live
together because of the interrelated structure of reality."



Dr. King had been thinking about the environment for years before he
addressed it in his sermon. Starting in the 1950s, Dr. King expressed
concern for "the survival of the world," and linked environmental and civil
rights issues: "It is very nice to drink milk at an unsegregated lunch
counter - but not when there's strontium 90 in it."


Exactly one year after his sermon, on Christmas Eve 1968, Col. Frank Borman
and his crew were on their fourth orbit around the moon when he saw the
earth swinging around the left side of the lunar horizon. "Oh, my God!"
Colonel Borman exclaimed, "Look at that picture over there! Here's the earth
coming up. Wow, is that pretty!"


The photographs taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts were the first widely
available photos of the planet, in its wholeness, taken by human hands. The
radiant earth hovering over the cratered gray moonscape - alive with clouds
and oceans, illuminated against the black cosmos - became an instant icon,
catalyzing a wave of planetary thinking and ecological awareness.


Dr. King did not live to see those photographs, but his vision presaged
their message of interconnectedness. Over two years before the first
national Earth Day, before "ecology" and "the environment" became catchwords
of the '70s, before popular knowledge of "Gaia theory" and "systems
thinking," Dr. King was tying his vision of justice and peace to the
interrelated structure of the universe.


Fifty years later, so many of our challenges represent a failure to
understand our interconnectedness. White supremacists and neo-Nazis,
emboldened in these times, preach a timeworn hatred that corrodes community.
Corporate capitalism, with its widening gulf between the ultrarich and the
millions of people living in poverty, strains our social fabric while the
worsening climate crisis provides unforgiving reminders of the earth's
delicate interrelatedness.


"This is our faith," Dr. King told his church on that December morning. "As
we continue to hope for peace on earth," he went on, "let us know that in
the process we have cosmic companionship."


When Dr. King's last book was published earlier that year, a reviewer wrote
that "he has been outstripped by his times." In the coming year, which marks
the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination, we will have an
opportunity yet again to engage with the deeper dimensions of his thought.


We may come to see that Dr. King was, in fact, well ahead of his times. In
important ways, he is still ahead of ours.


Drew Dellinger (@drewdellinger) is the author of "Love Letter to the Milky


Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter
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A version of this op-ed appears in print on December 23, 2017, on Page A23
of the New York edition








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