Quaker friend and co-founder of Cisco Systems Bob Burnett has commented observed some of the parallels between Martin Luther King and Pope Francis, who has called for a “revolution of tenderness” and systemic change. The Pope has further called this “not an era of change but the change of an era”.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also talked about revolution – a revolution of values. “We must rapidly begin,” said King, “the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” Sanders advocates a shift in values, where capitalism is subordinated to democracy.
53 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote forcefully about the necessity for direct action:
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.”
2016 is not the time to wait. It is a time for direct action, says Burnett. who finds that the Washington Post aptly summarized the Pope’s 192 page encyclical: 1. Climate change has grave implications. 2. Rich countries are destroying poor ones and the earth is getting warmer. “The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world.” 3. Christians have misinterpreted scripture and “must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.” 4. Access to safe drinkable water “is a basic and universal human right.” 5. Technocratic domination leads to the destruction of nature and the exploitation of people, “by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.” 6. Population control does not address the problems of the poor. 7. Gender differences matter. 8. The international community has not acted enough. 9. Individuals must act. 10. “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” Towards the end of his encyclical, Pope Francis addresses political action (as “social love”):
Care for nature is part of a lifestyle which includes the capacity for living together and communion…. Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world. Love for society and commitment to the common good are outstanding expressions of a charity which affects not only relationships between individuals but also “macro-relationships, social, economic and political ones”. Social love is the key to authentic development: “In order to make society more human, more worthy of the human person, love in social life – political, economic and cultural – must be given renewed value, becoming the constant and highest norm for all activity”. In this framework, along with the importance of little everyday gestures, social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a “culture of care” which permeates all of society.
Obviously, Pope Francis does not separate politics from Christian morality.