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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Today's Silent Majority Are Yesterday's White Moderates

In his Letter From A Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr  identified the White moderate, rather than the White bigot, as providing the greatest deterrent to freedom for Blacks. Here, we need to stop and think about his claim before we describe who the White moderate is. We need to stop and think lest when we read the description of this moderate, we would exclude ourselves from fitting today's version. 

We could described White moderates of the 1950s and 60s as those who did not want their boat to be rocked by the activity or discontentment of others. And so they opposed civil disobedience and the direct actions practiced by King and his fellow activists. They were against King's actions for two reasons. First, one should not break the law. Second,  drastic action is not needed to stop inequality now because, as Christians know, equality will be given to Blacks in the world to come.

King addressed both points in this letter. First, King understood the opposition of White moderates to direct action as a preference for a tension-free 'order' over justice. So White moderates favored compliance to the law because they had a higher regard for their own comfort than for what was right. And even though perhaps some White moderates could sympathize with  the plight that Black had to endure, correcting those injustices was not worth the disruption in the tranquility that came from an ordered society. For White moderates, personal peace, rather than justice, was king.

Likewise, King took apart the contention that direct action is unnecessary because equality would be the status quo in heaven. He merely pointed out that such thinking is the reason why those who work for evil are better stewards of their time and resources than those who work for good. And Christians who do nothing now because justice will be realized later need to take note of Kings's point here. Here King is observing that the rewards of doing evil seem to provide more inspiration for those who do wrong than God sending His Son to die for our sins does for Christians.

To summarize these two points in Christian terms we must say that those Christians who were not willing to do something to further justice on earth were not only failing to practice practice their faith, they were becoming the primary stumbling blocks to justice. Thus, they provided an even greater cause for injustices of the day than those who were actually doing wrong. And this point is not one that we can claim to be ignorant of. We are familiar enough with history to know that during WWII, allied troops forced German residents to tour Nazi death camps so they could see the evils that their inaction brought.

Who are today's White moderates? They are those who are not demanding that we change from today's economic class warfare, a warfare in which those who profit from today's economic apartheid are consolidating wealth for themselves and appropriating unjust suffering and hardships for the  rest--note here that today's battels revolve more around class than race. The Occupy Movement, which is actually an international movement, pointed out just some of the sins that those with wealth and power are committing in this current class warfare (click here). And though we helped further the economic apartheid by scapegoating the 1% rather than inviting them to join the rest of us, our accusations are being constantly confirmed by each day's headlines. And today's White moderates are those who prefer the serenity of today's status quo to the anxiety that comes with demanding change.

When we rose up, as seen in Occupy Wall Street and other encampments in 2011, there were so few of us that some of us subdivided the 99% into two groups: the 98% and those who occupied. Why the subdivision? It was because the absence of the 98% from the protests loomed as a greater threat to our work than the presence of police in riot gear. And it is because of this 98% that the message of the Occupy Movement has not borne more fruit than it has. For the current comfort seems to be far more important than justice to many if not all in the 98%. And the biggest shame here is on America's Conservative Church. For it has joined not only an idolatrous patriotism with the Christian faith, it has intimately embraced the conservative ideal of individualism as opposed to loving one's neighbor as Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

To prove that the 98% has acted like the White moderates of King's day, one does not rest in the 98%'s their rejection of today's direct actions. Rather, proof can be seen in their steadfast refusal to practice in any legal action that challenges today's status quo. For they're turning their back on participating in legal protests, they are refusing to vote for third party candidates when it is obvious that the two major parties have been bought and paid for, and they abstain from spending any significant time in even reading about the injustices which the system they benefit from inflicts on others. Those actions are the least one can do to change our world. But, rather than letting the cries of the afflicted flame the fires of urgency, the 98% prefers to preserve their own place in the status quo. 

Certainly injustice has always been a part of human history but that is not the issue here. The issue is how do we respond to injustice. This issue becomes even more pertinent to those of us who are Christians because the God we claim to worship is heavily invested in pursuing justice. But unfortunately, our individualism redirects our focus from justice for others to what we personally hope to gain from our faith--that is we hope to be saved from wrath. Thus, those of us who are Christians cripple the credibility of the Gospel when we are content to be part of the 98% or the White moderates of King's day or the German citizens who tolerated their Nazi rulers by turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the plight and pleas of those who are suffering from injustice. 

So, again, the issue becomes how are we going to respond to the injustices suffered by others. Are we going to resist or we will become the biggest part of the problem?

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