"Choosing What Matters in a Violent World"
Rev. Charles Mock
As posted on Facebook January 15, 2020
"It doesn’t really matter,” President Trump tweeted regarding General Soliemani's death, “because of his horrible past.”
I thought about this tweet against the background of Martin Luther King, III, in his speech and comments in the post-speech question and answer period at the 10th annual Bayfront MLK Commemoration in Erie on January 11th, 2020. I left the Bayfront convention center thinking about our world.
We live in a violent world: a world of racial, ethnic, class, age, anti-semitic, gender, cultural, physical, mental, religious, verbal, domestic, bullying, ideological, child, refugee, environmental and animal violence. The entire planet moans and groans from our world's embracement and embodiment of violence as a natural and acceptable norm.
Violence violates the sacredness of humanity, victimizes truth, is venomous to visions, camouflages defeat with the fake clothing of victory, and transforms the joyful notes of violins into the sad notes of sorrow. Above all, violence disturbes the peace-loving heart of God. God alone knows when and how to revenge violators of humans and creation. "Vengeance is mine saith the Lord!"
As a Christian with a particular perspective of faith, my decisions are driven by Jesus's responses to his Roman killers, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!"
Our nation continues its historical policy of might makes right, peace through military strength.
After trillions of dollars spent on national military defense, we are less safe than any time in history. The false sense of safety through military muscle, the building of walls, surveillance systems, internet and Artificial Intelligence systems, etc., is turning America into one huge, comfortable, highly-toyed maximum security prison of comfort and convenience for 25% of Americans, while 75% suffer from one form of violence or another. Is America's national leaders the neo-Congress of King Jesus and King Herod's day?
It doesn’t really matter,” President Trump tweeted regarding General Soliemani's death, “because of his horrible past.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. first used such words in a sentence, "It really doesn't matter with me!" However, what a major difference context makes with any given words.
President Trump used his "doesn't matter" words in the context of General Soliemani's death, a death that didn't matter to him because of the General's horrible past. In other words past behavior justifies imminent threats, the meaning of which, is in the mind of the beholder's intelligence.
Dr. King's words in his last speech to an overflowing crowd in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3, 1968 were, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop …I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
The immediate context of Dr. King's words were the civil and human rights of Memphis sanitation workers that were being victimized by economic violence.
The larger, historical and universal context of Dr. King's words have everything to do with us that hear the words of faith for which he lived and died.
Each of us must care about the right to life, liberty and justice of others--not just our own rights. We are called by our moral and ethical conscience to care about what matters beyond our personal dreams. We must care about the impact our personal dreams and desires will have on others in the larger scheme of things. "The opposite of poverty, stated Attorney Bryan Stevenson in his book, Just Mercy, is not wealth, it is justice." So what matters in a world saturated with the acceptable normality of multiple forms of violence?
It Don't Matter to Me" is a song written by David Gates and originally recorded by the pop rock group Bread, of which Gates was a member. The song was a Top 10 hit in the U.S. and Canada. Hear the lyrics of one of its stanzas,
"Lotta people have an ego hang-up
'Cause they want to be the only one
How many came before it really doesn't matter
Just as long as you're the last.
Everybody's moving on and try to find out
What's been missing in the past..."
We are challenged in a world of violence to choose which sentence will govern our decisions. The choices are: President Trump's, "It really doesn't matter," b) Dr. King's, "It really doesn't matter with me," or Bread's, "It don't matter to me!"
Though far from perfect in my striving, I chose Dr. King's sentence because it is derived from the heart and lips of another King--Jesus, the King of kings in love, peace, truth and justice. In the context of one of the most extreme assaults of Roman violence imaginable, Jesus stated, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."