In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Kings County Politics, Queens County Politics and New York County Politics will take the day off.
Look for us to return tomorrow with our regularly scheduled newsletter & posts on both the KingsCountyPolitics.com and QueensCountyPolitics.com news websites!
In the meantime, check out this bit of a sermon Dr. King gave at Detroit’s Second Baptist Church on Feb. 28, 1954 called “Rediscovering Lost Values.”
“…I want to deal with one or two of these mighty precious values that we’ve left behind, that if we’re to go forward and to make this a better world, we must rediscover.
The first is this—the first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this—that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe, just as abiding as the physical laws. (Lord help us) I’m not so sure we all believe that. We, we never doubt that there are physical laws of the universe that we must obey. We never doubt that. And so we just don’t jump out of airplanes or jump off of high buildings for the fun of it—we don’t do that. Because we, we unconsciously know that there is a final law of gravitation, and if you disobey it you’ll suffer the consequences—we know that. Even if we don’t know it in its Newtonian formulation, we, we know it intuitively, and so we just don’t jump off the highest building in Detroit for the fun of it—we, we, we don’t do that. Because we know that there is a law of gravitation which is final in the universe. (Lord) If we disobey it, we’ll suffer the consequences.
But I’m not so sure if we know that there are, are moral laws, just as abiding as the physical law. I’m not so sure about that. I’m not so sure we really believe that there is a law of love in this universe, and that if you disobey it you’ll suffer the consequences. (Yes) I’m not so sure if we really believe that. Now, at least two things convince me that, that we don’t believe that, that we have strayed away from the principle that this is a moral universe. (Lord help him)
The first thing is that we have adopted in the modern world a sort of a relativistic ethic. Now, I’m not trying to use a big word here. I’m trying to say something very concrete. And that is that, that we have accepted the attitude that right and wrong are merely relative to our. . . .2
Most people can’t stand up for their, for their convictions, because the majority of people might not be doing it. (Amen, Yes) See, everybody’s not doing it, so it must be wrong. And, and since everybody is doing it, it must be right. (Yes, Lord help him) So a sort of numerical interpretation of what’s right.
But I’m here to say to you this morning that some things are right and some things are wrong. (Yes) Eternally so, absolutely so. It’s wrong to hate. (Yes, That’s right) It always has been wrong and it always will be wrong! (Amen) It’s wrong in America, it’s wrong in Germany, it’s wrong in Russia, it’s wrong in China! (Lord help him) It was wrong in two thousand B.C., and it’s wrong in nineteen fifty-four A.D.! It always has been wrong, (That’s right) and it always will be wrong! (That’s right) It’s wrong to throw our lives away in riotous living. (Yeah) No matter if everybody in Detroit is doing it. It’s wrong! (Yes) It always will be wrong! And it always has been wrong. It’s wrong in every age, and it’s wrong in every nation. Some things are right and some things are wrong, no matter if everybody is doing the contrary. Some things in this universe are absolute. The God of the universe has made it so. And so long as we adopt this relative attitude toward right and wrong, we’re revolting against the very laws of God himself. (Amen)
Now that isn’t the only thing that convinces me that we’ve strayed away from this attitude, (Go ahead) this principle. The other thing is that we have adopted a sort of a pragmatic test for right and wrong—whatever works is right.(Yes) If it works, it’s all right. Nothing is wrong but that which does not work. If you don’t get caught, it’s right. [Laughter] That’s the attitude, isn’t it? It’s all right to disobey the Ten Commandments, but just don’t disobey the Eleventh, Thou shall not get caught. [Laughter] That’s the attitude. That’s the prevailing attitude in, in our culture. (Come on) No matter what you do, just do it with a, with a bit of finesse. (All right) You know, a sort of attitude of the survival of the slickest. Not the Darwinian survival of the fittest, but the survival of the slickest—who, whoever can be the slickest is, is the one who right. It’s all right to lie, but lie with dignity. [Laughter] It’s all right to steal and to rob and extort, but do it with a bit of finesse. (Yes) It’s even all right to hate, but just dress your hate up in the garments of love and make it appear that you are loving when you are actually hating. Just get by! That’s the thing that’s right according to this new ethic. (Lord help him)
My friends, that attitude is destroying the soul of our culture! (You’re right there) It’s destroying our nation! (Oh yes) The thing that we need in the world today, is a group of men and women who will stand up for right and be opposed to wrong, wherever it is. (Lord have mercy) A group of people who have come to see that some things are wrong, whether they’re never caught up with. Some things are right, whether nobody sees you doing them or not.
All I’m trying to say is, (Have mercy, my God) our world hinges on moral foundations. God has made it so! God has made the universe to be based on a moral law. (Lord help him) So long as man disobeys it he is revolting against God. That’s what we need in the world today—people who will stand for right and goodness. It’s not enough to know the intricacies of zoology and biology. But we must know the intricacies of law. (Well) It is not enough to know that two and two makes four. But we’ve got to know somehow that it’s right to be honest and just with our brothers. (Yes) It’s not enough to know all about our philosophical and mathematical disciplines. (Have mercy) But we’ve got to know the simple disciplines, of being honest and loving and just with all humanity. (Oh yes) If we don’t learn it, we will destroy ourselves, (That’s right) by the misuse of our own powers. (Amen)
This universe hinges on moral foundations…”