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Black Leadership Analysis

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Dr. King

Dr. King and Ambedkar Agree on Communism

Two names are synonymous with social justice in their respective countries, Bhimrao Ambedkar and Dr. Martin Luther King. Both men were considered radicals in their time and even smeared as Communists. Anyone that reads what these men wrote understands the ridiculousness of the accusation.

Ambedkar was an advocate for untouchables, now known as Dalits. As a Dalit himself, Ambedkar faced many hardships. He overcame them to become educated at Columbia University in New York. He returned to India in the late 1920s. He worked to give Dalit’s voting rights, access to water, and education. In advocating for Dalits, he often found himself at odds with Gandhi. Despite political opposition, Ambedkar wrote the Indian Constitution. Toward the end of his life, he promoted Buddhism and held a mass conversion of Dalits to the faith in 1956. He died of natural causes a few months later.

The story of Dr. King is far better known to Americans. King was born in the American South and suffered through segregation. Like Ambedkar, he went to prestigious schools such as Morehouse and Boston College. The Montgomery Bus boycott was King’s first civil rights campaign. While aiding a sanitation workers strike in Memphis, he was gunned down.

The rise of Communism is one of the most important events of the early twentieth century. Communism was billed as the dawn of a new classless Utopia. Unfortunately, the actual implementation in Soviet Russia proved Communism was far from the mother of paradise.

Ambedkar and Dr. King wrote on the subject in their lifetime. Ambedkar’s The Buddha or Karl Marx and Dr. King’s “How Should a Christian View Communism” echo similar themes. A later version of King’s view on Communism is “Can a Christian Be Communist?”. Both works fundamentally rebuke Communism as antithetical to their religion. Due to Communism’s lack of moral absolutes, violence is used to suppress dissent. The result is a totalitarian government with no individual freedom.

Even though both men denounced Communism, they did not dismiss its critique of religion out of hand. Both agreed that the standard form of their faith was “otherworldly.” Most practitioners distracted themselves from the material lack in their life with spiritual pursuits. These religious endeavors foster an unhealthy individualism and a disconnection from social justice.

Ambedkar’s Buddhism and Dr. King’s Christianity were not the mainstream versions of either religion. The clergy of Burma rejected Ambedkar’s attempt to become a lay teacher. Fundamentalist Christians, white and black, opposed Dr. King. Instead, both men forged a new path for their religion infused with social justice. Their advocacy was their spiritual path.

The two works can be found below:

How Should a Christian View Communism

Can a Christian be Communist?

The Buddha or Karl Marx

The Measure of a Man

The book The Measure of a Man is summary of lectures given at the at the 1958 Conference of Christian Education. Those that attended the event loved what Dr. King had to say so much that they asked him to create the book.

King starts by fundamentally defining what a man is. Man, in his analysis, is both physical and spiritual. Individuals must cultivate both natures. Deplores those that see man as merely an animal. In this camp he puts, naturalist, materialist, and Marxist. The other camp he considers fundamentally Greek. Plato believed the soul must liberate itself from the body to fully develop. Jesus said man could not live on bread alone. The biblical quote supports the idea that the physical (bread) is needed in conjunction with other elements.

An explanation of how man is inherently a sinner follows. Man having a dual nature can choose good or evil. He knows what is right and chooses to do evil in spite of this knowledge. Because man chooses evil, he loses some of the image of G-d. To redeem himself, he needs the grace of G-d.

Many theologians lose site of man being a sinner because they see man as naturally progressing to a higher state. Depth psychology tries to confuse the issue as a conflict between phobia and desire. Ultimately, there is little real evidence of either view. Man chooses to do wrong.

King also has an interesting take on Western Civilization. He sees Western Civilization as rooted in egalitarianism and humanitarianism. The current manifestations of colonialism, segregation, and oppression is a diversion from these values. The mission of King is to return Western Civilization to its values.

The factors of a great life are length, breadth, and height. By length, King means not a life with a long duration, but one in which a person reaches a multitude of goals. For a life of longevity one must have self-love and strive to perfect a craft. King’s definition of breadth is a concern for fellow man and actively moving to improve the lot of others. Height is the connection to G-d and spiritual development. If one of these elements are missing our life is headed for folly.

This book shows King wasn’t a Democrat, Republican, Marxist, or Capitalist, but a Christian. Christianity was the root of all Dr. King’s philosophy and action. Many internet commentaries attempt to downplay King’s Christianity or deny he was Christian. A small sample of his writing would prove otherwise.

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