Updated: Aug 1
We are in unprecedented times in our nation's history. With cities splitting at the seams due to racial unrest, police-community conflict, and unmitigated destruction and defacement of historical monuments and government property from coast-to-coast, we are at a defining moment like never before, socially, racially, politically, economically, and yes, spiritually. From Trayvon Martin, to Breonna Taylor, to George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, commonly referred to as BLM, has rallied national protests on behalf African Americans killed by the police. In 2020, these protests went viral with riots and destruction erupting in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Portland, DC, Cincinnati, Columbus, Los Angeles, Seattle, and other cities nationally.
Central to these protests was the issue of police brutality, and BLM has made this their chief priority since its founding in 2013. Their chant, "Black Lives Matter" continues to be a lightning-rod for many, mostly White conservatives but more than a handful of African Americans just the same. Without pause or any ambiguity whatsoever, BLM is committed to fighting against racial injustice. Straight from their website, they affirm, "We are unapologetically Black in our positioning. In affirming that Black Lives Matter, we need not qualify our position. To love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a prerequisite for wanting the same for others." As the name proudly proclaims, BLM is rooted and grounded in racial justice, and in so doing they utilize a big-tent approach through intersectionality, which is another way of collaborating with and advocating for the interests of other marginalized communities who share common-cause against the forces of structural injustice(1). Again, I shall refer to their website to best capture the meaning and intent behind their intersectional approach:
We affirm the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. Our network centers those who have been marginalized within Black liberation movements.
The BLM architects seemingly have struck gold in their efforts to build a national coalition of the oppressed to amass power and influence against systems of oppression and socially "oppressive norms". the BLM co-founders, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi, have inspired a movement that has moved race and systemic racism to the forefront of social and political activism globally and the 2020 presidential election nationally. But, this movement is not without controversy, as these leaders are on record for having ties to Marxism, a historic rival to and fierce critic of capitalism.
As the embedded video above shows, the BLM founder unabashedly confirms that she and her co-founder (Alicia) are "trained Marxists," and the host underscores how problematic this is ideologically, nationally, and philanthropically. By referring to Marxism's "body count", he vividly reminds listeners of Marxism's brutal history globally. But Marxism, an ideology rooted in atrocities, revolution, and fear, has little to no substantive philosophical compatibility with Martin Luther King Jr.'s non-violent protest movement. In fact, at the time of this writing and after reviewing BLM's website, to date, I find sparse meaningful references to embracing and affirming Martin Luther King Jr. and his successes. How a Black modern-day movement that is centered around eliminating racial injustice somehow fails to identify with America's foremost historical movement that moved our nation's political conscience and national policies and priorities forward collectively is paradoxical and truly alarming. I suggest this because BLM and MLK are strategically and ideologically polar opposites, and this is apparent in a few important distinctions: peace versus revolution, shared power versus absolute power, and Christianity versus spiritual eclecticism. These themes and concepts can be viewed respectively on BLM's website and in MLK's writings, most notably Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community and Strength to Love. This contrast is a telling display of just how far apart BLM's professed Marxist influence is with MLK's Gandhi-inspired, non-violent, Civil Rights Movement.
This dissimilarity is important because people seem to overlook history and the history of social movements. This is both regrettable and hazardous to Black political capital because an informed body politic requires learnings from past successes and failures. From ideologies to social movements, nothing is new under the sun, and historical perspective is essential for strategy, purpose, and political success.
In MLK's Chaos or Community, King addressed the issue of Black Power head-on. His treatment of the strengths and weaknesses of this movement and its ideological underpinnings left him even more convinced that the non-violent approach was more advantageous to unifying the nation against southern White racism as it was in advancing the interests of the Black community. In his brilliant analysis of Black Power, he devotes an entire chapter exclusively to the tensions and differences between the two rivals and the important conversations he had with each respective leader. The following is a snapshot of King's views on Black Power:
In the final analysis the weakness of Black Power is its failure to see that the black man needs the white man and the white man needs the black man. However much we may try to romanticize the slogan, there is no separate black path to power and fulfillment that does not intersect white paths, and there is no separate white path to power and fulfilment, short of social disaster, that does not share that power with black aspirations for freedom and human dignity. We are bound together in a single garment of destiny. The language, the cultural patterns, the music, the material prosperity and even the food of America are an amalgam of black and white.
In the first century B.C. Cicero said: "Freedom is participation in power." Negroes should never want all power because they would deprive others of their freedom. By the same token, Negroes can never be content without participation in power. America must be a nation in which its multiracial people are partners in power. This is the essence of democracy toward which all Negro struggles have been directed since the distant past when he was transplanted here in chains(2).
Properly understood and applied to today's BLM movement, King's words above create a chasm between then and now, non-violence versus revolution, and shared power versus Black power. Perhaps the most important and telling distinction beyond the concept of power, however, is the influence of Marxism for BLM versus spiritual transformation for MLK's non-violent movement. As I alluded to above, Marxism's "body count" is staggering in its rapacious appetite for aggression and bloodshed. BLM openly appeals to Marxism and unapologetically embraces its influence as part of their overall strategy. Thurston Powers's 2016 article in The Federalist titled How Black Lives Matter Is Bringing Back Traditional Marxism establishes this connection convincingly. In doing so, BLM has made itself vulnerable to infiltration from anarchist groups willing to exploit this opportunity to engage in destruction while appearing sympathetic to the BLM mission. Because BLM advocates for radical systemic change in order to undo decades of unresolved oppression, theirs is essentially a war against society, its ideas, ideals, and institutions.
MLK, however, saw differently in that he was driven by the values and virtues of equality, integration, love, community, and humanity. For King, spiritual transformation paved the way for racial progress and the attainment of these ideals, because it was the backbone for not only his commitment to "social justice", but also his radical strategy to overturn and overwhelm segregation in the South. King never compromised his faith because it was the essence of his being as both a leader of a movement and a vessel unto Godliness. On the other hand, in BLM's passive-aggressive embrace of MLK and his successes through non-violence, how does today's cause celebre reconcile, conceptually, its Marxist leadership and ideological footing with King's inspiring Christian activism? Moreover, an additional question that was posed to me by a dear friend and former classmate must be considered: "What do we do as a people to address the chasm between the two ideologies mentioned above as we push forward in our collective quest for equality and respect?”
To this latter question, we first must comprehend the principles of each philosophy to understand them fully. Secondly, we must evaluate which philosophy best captures biblical values and principles of justice in order to best advocate for and administer justice. In my opinion, America (Black, White, rich, poor, and other) is in utter confusion about which ideology to embrace because she has willfully discarded her moral compass, the Holy Bible. Our moral foundation has collapsed, leaving in its wake epic disaster socially, ethically, and spiritually. America must come back to God whilst we have time to repent lest destruction come upon us irreparably.
In Martin Luther King Jr.'s classic work Strength to Love, he eloquently argues for his non-violent philosophy. In Chapter X, How Should a Christian view Communism, King has much to say about the demerits of communism, where he starts out by declaring, "Let me state clearly the basic premise of this sermon: Communism and Christianity are fundamentally incompatible. A true Christian cannot be a true communist, for the two philosophies are antithetical and all the dialectics of the logicians cannot reconcile them. Why is this true?" King presses the matter further with the following:
Cold atheism wrapped in the garments of materialism, Communism provides no place for God or Christ.
At the centre of the Christian faith is the affirmation that there is a God in the universe who is the ground and essence of all reality.
...Communism attributes ultimate value to the state. Man is made for the state and not the state for man....Man has no inalienable rights. His only rights are derived from, and conferred by, the state.
Confused about God, it is also confused about man. In spite of its glowing talk about the welfare of the masses, Communism's methods and philosophy strip man of his dignity and worth, leaving him as little more than a depersonalized cog in the ever-turning wheel of the state...These systems of thoughts are too contradictory to be reconciled; they represent diametrically opposed ways of looking at the world and of transforming it. We should as Christians pray for the Communist constantly, but never can we, as true Christians, tolerate the philosophy of Communism.
With profound eloquence and perspective, King renounces communism as a system that is wholeheartedly incompatible with Christianity. For BLM, if Marxism, named after the iconoclastic German philosopher himself, Karl Marx, eventually leads to communism, BLM is in very dangerous territory politically, economically, socially, and most certainly spiritually. In fact, Marx co-authored the Communist Manifesto, so clearly Marxist thought permeates communism and its approach to government and economics to its core. No, I'm not asserting that BLM is a communist Trojan horse and is plotting a Trotsky-like revolution. But by replacing class with race, the problem of group conflict remains the central focus and basis for radical social transformation to rescue the downtrodden and oppressed. This threat is plausible and very real in that BLM will likely continue to introduce social and political ideas that promote the spirit of communism and all that it supposedly stands for in the name of economic redistribution and equity. With much talk and momentum behind defund the police movements nationally, communist ideals are indeed infiltrating government and public policy like never before, and this is directly attributable to BLM.
By championing everything King stood for in this lone chapter on communism (Strength to Love, Chapter X), students, scholars, and ambassadors of MLK can be the difference between King's vision for America and rekindled Marxism, which is the next stop after socialism and right before communism on the totalitarian express. King summed up this epic battle by offering a profoundly accurate antidote and challenge to the lure of communism. For both capitalism and communism, the words below from Strength to Love ring true today by highlighting the causal nexus between these two competing philosophies, a flashpoint that can and must be eliminated in order to achieve true freedom, opportunity, and human flourishing of which communism has failed miserably. By taking these words seriously, we can make MLK truly matter today and thereby eliminate the fires of rage and anarchy that are destroying our cities and inspiring BLM's crusade against America, past, present, and future.
After our condemnation of the philosophy of Communism has been eloquently expressed, we must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, injustice, and racial discrimination which are the fertile soil in which the seed of Communism grows and develops. Communism thrives only when the doors of opportunity are closed and human aspirations are stifled.
This quote comes from Chaos or Community, pp. 52-54, which I find very enlightening and applicable to today's turbulent times. By sharing power through mutual understanding and effort, resentments and injustices can be avoided and the cohesive community is in a much better position to thrive so that all benefit.