David Cook: Zach Wamp And Martin Luther King Jr. - And Reply

  • Thursday, January 17, 2008
  • David Cook
David Cook
David Cook

Around this time last year, Rep. Zach Wamp published an editorial praising Martin Luther King Jr. and his work for justice in America. In his essay, Rep. Wamp thanked Dr. King for "being an instrument of God's work here on earth to bring people together.'' While it is important to share Rep. Wamp's thanksgiving for Dr. King and his work, it is even more important not to allow King's nonviolent message to find itself hijacked and turned into a white-washed tomb.

First, King condemned violence, believing instead that nonviolence and direct love are the only vehicles that lead to peace. Like the Christ he followed, he was bold enough to demand we must love our enemies. "Hate multiples hate, violence multiples violence, and toughness multiples toughness in a descending spiral of destruction,'' he wrote in his sermon "Loving Your Enemies.''

How, then, would King feel about the military budget of the United States government? Pushing $600 billion a year, our government's military budget is the greatest spiritual and immoral vacuum in our nation today.

In 2004, our military budget of $400 billion was more than the military budgets of the following countries combined: China, Russia, Japan, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea, Israel, Australia, Brazil, Turkey and Canada (the military budgets of Iran and North Korea were too negligible to make the list).

The budget does not care for our veterans and soldiers, whose suicide rate is skyrocketing, and whose health care and post-combat treatment are often negligible, but instead the budget prostitutes itself into the hands of weapons-makers and arms dealers. War has become a business, and to understand how vastly immoral this business is, contemplate on the following:

The U.S. government spends $56 billion a year on education. Our lawmakers choose to spend more on nuclear weapons than on educating our children. Every single year since 1800, the U.S. government has used engaged its military. War has become habit, addiction, and profitable.

By contrast, the estimate cost to completely provide access to clean water for every man, woman and child on the face of the earth is roughly $15 billion. This is the same amount estimated to provide basic education for every man, woman and child in poor and developing nations.

We could trim $100 billion off the already obese budget, and with that amount, provide clean water to every human on earth (one billion people drink polluted water every day and another two billion live on $2 or less each day) as well as universal education to countries unable to afford it. Accomplishing this would cost as little as $40 billion _ less than one-tenth of our current military budget _ and still leave our nation the vast leader in global military spending.

What would King choose? What would Christ choose? What does it say about a nation that spends $600 billion a year on its weapons and only $50 billion on educating its youth?

King had an answer: a few days before he was shot in the head on a Memphis hotel balcony, he was drafting a sermon for the upcoming Sunday. The title: ''Why America May Go to Hell.''

Rep. Wamp, before you write your essay this year honoring Dr. King, remember that he stands in direct opposition to the military budget you continue to support. If you really want to honor him, I ask that you also write a bill calling for the reduction of our military budget, and a reallocation of those funds in programs that foster health, life, peace and community.

During the Vietnam war, Dr. King once condemned the United States as the "greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.'' He was following the words of his Christ, who once said to his executioners, "I forgive you,'' and to his friends, "put down your swords and love one another.''

Rep. Wamp, you have spoken about your admiration for King as well as your faith in Christ. Both men embraced forgiveness and nonviolent action instead of weapons.

I ask that you do the same, for you cannot do both.

(David Cook is a former journalist for the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. He currently teaches American history at Girls Preparatory School and can be reached at dcook7@gmail.com)

* * *

The argument of Mr. Cook is based on messages of peace and love of both Christ and Rev. King. To him this means that since they did preache this message that all violence is wrong and thus Rep. Wamp is a hypocrite for using Rev. King's name in one of his messages.

This has been an argument that Christians have debated many times. I do not find anything in the teachings of Jesus that say we should not defend ourselves as a nation. I also believe as a Christian that Jesus is not telling us that we should allow someone to kill us or hurt our kids. Mr. Cook writes as if this issue of turning the other cheek is settled by Christians since he believes, apparently, that there is no violence that is justified. He would apparently say that we should never have gone to war with the British to create this system of freedom he enjoys today.

Is there ever a war that is necessary? The example most people would use is WWII since the evil of Hitler was beyond any could believe. What about the Cold War though? Stalin is thought to have killed even more than Hitler since he lasted longer. That war led to many dubious battles, but they did show the evil of Communism and if they were not fought then the USSR would still exist. The truth is that wars have to be fought (like the Revolutionary War) to create freedom. The old truth told by many is that freedom is not free.

The quote Mr. Cook uses of Rev. King is a timeless truth, but the other side of hate and violence is that without someone in our past fighting for our freedom, with their blood, then his great truths may never have been told. Dictators usually don't care about civil rights. While I am not an expert on Rev. King's teachings, my common sense tells me he would not have succeeded in his quest without the violence which formed and sustained this country.

Mr. Cook attacks this country's money spent on defense and makes the point that we should spend more on helping people around the world. We do waste enormous amounts of money, but our military has been used to repair the world throughout our history. Our military protects the world and not just our country. The great UN that Mr. Cook loves is useless unless we send our military to help them.

The truth is that our military is what allows us to remain free and thus give to help people all over the world.

Is the military budget too much? Maybe, but when you extend the protection all over the world I don't think so. Should we retreat to our borders? We have already seen that we cannot withdraw from the world because it will follow us.

Mr. Cook also throws out the figure that we spend on everything other than the military. I could make the argument that education should be left up to the people and it is not in the Constitution. His number also does not count the money spent by every state and local government.

I also hate speaking for someone else, but I do not think Rev. King would say that Christ is telling us to allow anyone to attack us at will. If he believed this, then I would say his interpretation of Christ is incorrect just like Mr. Cook is wrong in trying to speak for all Christians today.

Rep. Wamp is using Rev. King like every politican before him and I do not believe that Rep. Wamp is an example of a hypocrite Christian. Mr. Cook is instead twisting the Christian teachings to his own use. I think this wrong, but that is just my opinion and not Christ's.

Bruce Caldwell
Signal Mountain

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