By Bob Allen
America honors Martin Luther King 46 years after his assassination with statues and a federal holiday but has done little to challenge “the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism” that King struggled to oppose, according to Baptist pastor and district court judge Wendell Griffen.
Bestowing platitudes on King’s life and ministry while disregarding his warnings “amounts to a re-assassination of Dr. King,” Griffen, pastor of New Millennium Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., wrote in the Winter 2014 edition of Christian Ethics Today.
A year to the day before his death on April 4, 1968, King preached a controversial message at Riverside Church in New York City linking the civil rights movement to opposition to the Vietnam War.
While President Obama took the oath of office for his second term with his hand on a Bible that belonged to Dr. King, Griffen observed, the “same spirit of militarism that produced the tragedy that King denounced concerning Vietnam” remains evident in policies like the president’s failed attempt to invade Syria and “wholesale spying on American citizens and others throughout the world.”
Five years after President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder became the first black persons to hold their respective offices, Griffen said, “racial profiling is as much a reality as it was when Dr. King was assassinated.”
“Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and Amadou Diallo, like Martin Luther King Jr., were black men shot to death by people who claimed the moral and legal right to take their lives,” Griffen said. “These and other less-notorious examples show that Americans clearly have not become more informed or responsive to racial injustice since Dr. King died.”
Griffen said the “law and order” and “war on drugs” mantra used by every U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson has given rise to the mass incarceration of millions of Americans who are disproportionately persons of color. “The oppressive law enforcement policies that gave rise to civil unrest during Dr. King’s lifetime still operate against people who are black and brown,” he observed.
Griffen said King’s words, “a true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth,” are as true today as when he spoke them in 1967.
“Martin Luther King Jr. is being re-murdered by drone warfare, NSA surveillance and the half-truths and outright falsehoods uttered by policymakers who defend those actions,” Griffen wrote. “Dr. King is re-murdered by fiscal policies that promote the corporate interests of investment bankers over the lives and fortunes of workers, homeowners, retirees and needy people.
“King’s dedication to attack and eliminate the causes of systemic poverty is currently being re-assassinated by policies that widen the glaring income inequality between the super-wealthy and the poor.
“And King’s righteous indignation against injustice is murdered by proponents of the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’ and those who use religion as a weapon against people who are homosexuals, poor, immigrants, women or otherwise vulnerable.”