Shortly before his untimely death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed, “I am integrating my people into a burning house.” King saw the impending spiritual death of America, and knew that black people would feel the effects of this decline before any other group.
In his seminal work, “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action,” the esteemed American politician and scholar Daniel Patrick Moynihan made a similar observation, noting with alarm the decline in the black family structure. The family has served as the core of American prosperity, but has declined as our country has become more liberal.
America’s spiritual and cultural values have been replaced by a corporatist liberal technocracy that seems to undermine the robust values the country was built upon, as Patrick Deneen’s “Why Liberalism Failed” explores in detail. The term “degenerate” holds little weight as a result of the direction we have gone in, but it is the most apt description of the country. The zeitgeist of America is now hedonism, operating only with the present in mind, and showing little concern for the future.
Killing Our Future
A man’s challenge was once to ensure that his legacy laid the foundation for a brighter future. America’s culture of momentary pleasures completely betrays King’s great sacrifice, and nothing shows this more clearly than how little we value our future human capital.
The loosening of abortion laws in our nation is the most recent example of the deterioration of the cultural fabric. These changes will be most felt by the descendants of the very same people Dr. King sought to liberate.
The scores of black lives lost before they’ve even had the chance to reach oxygen is the true symbol of a dark period. The practice shows a form of racism produced by corrupt capitalism and is antithetical to the traditional values King believed necessary for his dream to be fully realized. Unfortunately, his foresaw that the post-civil rights era would be best characterized as an American nightmare. King knew that the tides of liberalism might reach toward noble ideals, but their detached worldview would inevitably lead the country into a cultural decline.
Putting a Price Tag on Human Life
In the latter part of his life, King’s speeches took on more class-oriented themes. While the ideals he espoused might seem solely Marxist, they are better understood as a concern for the spiritual actualization of the nation. Of late Tucker Carlson has in a sense picked up this mantle from the right-wing perspective.
Carlson has generated some protest from both political sides for saying modern capitalism, as defined by crony practices, has crippled the spirit of the nation and denied many American citizens access to a healthy and happy life. In the same vein, King feared that profit would replace God, leading the nation down a dangerous path.
The current discourse about abortion excuses the act under the pretext of women’s rights. While the role of the government is not to dictate what a woman does with her body, this truism in progressive discourse cannot obscure that we live in a country where everything is examined via a cost-benefit analysis, even human life itself. Like just about everything else in our society, abortion is destined to become just another consumer product. It is of no use to virtue signal against this degeneration, though, because like Dr. King, anyone with an understanding of life steeped in traditionalism could have seen this moral lapse coming a mile away.
Faith Prepares Us to Resist a Dehumanizing Culture
King was rightly labeled a true conservative by the Washington Post. The label is of course too limited to capture the full breadth of Dr. King’s worldview, however. He is in fact a traditionalist, specifically a Protestant traditionalist. Just like the man he is named after, King radically expounded upon the Christian faith.
King exposed America to the culture and tradition of the black church. The strength of the black church was rooted in turning to faith to overcome the struggles black people faced in America. By sharing this power with the nation at-large, King sought to embolden a form of the Christian faith robust enough to exist in the modern world.
Anyone who considers himself a Christian should commit to a deep study of King’s philosophy. His is a resistant Christianity that forces the faith inward upon the individual to prepare one to deal with difficulty on earth. It is characterized by an understanding of Jesus rooted in a radical and a spiritual acceptance of the ugly truth.
Just as Dr. King’s Christian outlook prepared black Americans to resist the dehumanizing nature of racism, it can prepare today’s Americans to resist the dehumanizing nature of modern western culture. To follow King’s mission means choosing a path of healing over judgement. The act of judgement should be rightly left to God, and actualization is the reward for adhering to one’s values.
Jesus did not spend time with prostitutes and tax collectors to validate their degeneracy, but because they represent the tradition of the ugly truth. Acceptance of the truth, no matter how awful it may be, is the precursor to salvation. It is this strict adherence to seeking the truth that caused many black evangelist preachers of his time to reject King’s vision. He was admonished by many black religious leaders, save a few pioneers like the Rev. Clay Evans in Chicago.
‘Injecting New Meaning and Dignity’ Into Civilization
As time passes, Dr. King’s true legacy becomes clearer, and it is now paramount to look back in order to find a way forward. Written on the Dr. King statue at Morehouse College is a quote that characterizes his mission: “When the history books are written in future generations, the historians will have to pause and say, There lived a great people—a black people—who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.”
This expresses his hope that future generations will look back on the legacy of black Americans as representative of the true magnitude of human capability. It also underscores the importance of Black History Month.
Just like the religious foundation is crucial to the utility of King’s great message, one must also understand its racial element. The message is tribal and is therefore antithetical to the liberalism of our age. It underscores a form of civic nationalism, where one’s ethnic identity still holds value. His America is one where citizens act as the best possible representatives of their respective cultures and traditions.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is lionized because he held the truth up as the highest ideal to strive for. The recent uncovering of the Virginia governor’s shameful past clearly indicates why now, more than ever, we need to confront the ugly truths of the past in order to deal with the ugly truths in the present. Black History Month should not be understood as a liberal celebration, but a challenge to preserve traditional black culture in America that is aligned with Dr. King’s dream, despite the burning going on all around us.