quotes

The origins of a fake Martin Luther King Quote

One day post the demise of OBL and the social media streams are still flooding with reactions. It’s pretty amazing to sit back and watch. My own contributions to the discussion was to question the merits of the “burial at sea” and to suggest that I would be using the responses of my friends to place them on some sort of political spectrum.

Oh. And. I posted this clip from Four Lions.

 

The “Christian” response to the death of the globe’s most infamous terrorist has been pretty startling and interesting, and probably more to do with one’s political persuasions than convictions about human life. A concern for human life, and its dignity, is what drives the fight against terrorism (or the “war against an abstract noun”) – so it is not necessarily anti-life to celebrate the demise of one committed to ending other lives.

I’ve enjoyed some of the more moderate responses too – Kevin De Young and Doug Wilson’s in particular…

I do sometimes yearn for more crazy friends with crazy conspiracy theories. I have a couple. Hey guys. Thanks. If you’re reading. But on the whole my newsfeed was leaning conservative on Facebook and lefty on Twitter. Odd. There’s not a huge overlap between who I follow on each. Anyway. One of the quotes that started springing up from my less gung-ho friends was this quote attributed to Martin Luther King.

“”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr”

That’s the abridged version. The full version is here…

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Now, the excerpt is completely bogus. It’s not anything MLK ever said. See this story from The Atlantic. The second half is legit. It’s an actual quote. So how did the first bit get tacked on? It seems it was a case of Facebook Whispers. Here is the thread that apparently started the viral ball going (according to Reddit).

Here’s the legit bit:

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” – MLK Jr, Where Do We Go from Here : Chaos or Community?

Somebody missed the quotation marks in the middle when transmitting the quote, and the rest, as they say, is fake history.

“The problem with quotes on the internet is that you never know if they’re attributed correctly.” – Abraham Lincoln

Let the social media fun continue, slightly abated…

Luther: A hippy?

Some people see eschatology as a dirty word thanks to the Left Behind mob – and I’ve always been pretty wary of people who define themselves by their views on “end times” – but here’s a second post tagged eschatology in two days. There was a comment on my post about how your eschatology shapes your actions that is worth sharing with everybody.

Joanna – who based on her email address I assume used to be a Richardson – but that’s a guess… pointed to a famous quote attributed to Luther:

“Interestingly, Martin Luther – who certainly agreed with you that preaching the gospel was an urgent task in the light of the return of Jesus – when asked what he would do today if he knew the world was ending tomorrow, answered ‘I would plant a tree.’ Was he a man with a poor eschatology, or just a strong theology of creation? Or both, do you think?”

From what I can gather – the quote, more accurately rendered is:

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

I’m not about to throw stones at Luther’s eschatology, that would be profound arrogance on my part. I am curious as to why he would answer the question that way – so I’m doing some research. At the outset I’d posit that either he really enjoyed gardening, or he thought that guessing games concerning the end of the world were pointless and that we should go on living life regardless, others speculate that Luther’s vision of the New Creation features a redeemed version of the current one, and a tree would be a part of that…

There are a few seemingly reputable sites that cast some doubt on whether or not he actually said this at all… but it turns out he did enjoy gardening.

From my initial googling, Option 2 seems to be the favoured interpretation around the online traps.

However, there are others who run with it more literally, like those planning the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 theses… who plan to plant 500 trees in the Luthergarden as a visual celebration.

Then there’s the TreeLink mob who claim Luther as a tree-planting champion

Personally, and this is probably again shaped by my “bias” – and the weight of Luther’s teachings regarding the importance of evangelism against this one quote of dubious origins – I think if he did say it he was probably emphasising the fact that “nobody knows the time and place” so we shouldn’t live as though each day should be our last – but should go on living in readiness. Which, given the weight of Luther’s teachings and the picture we have of the life he lived would involve bold proclamation of the word as a priority.

Some poor souls who run a repository of “spiritual quotes” attributed this one to Martin Luther King Jr.

Incidentally my favourite Luther quote for a long time was this:

Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ.

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