“They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them,
making for themselves a molten calf and worshipping it…”
Speaking on April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. named the idols (Exodus 32:8) that break us apart: racism, materialism, and militarism. Interconnecting violence at home and abroad, King lamented how Vietnamese people “watch as we poison their water [and] as we kill a million acres of their crops.”
How far have we come since 1967? Today we poison the water of our own people—Flint is not alone—all in the service of unlimited capital accumulation. The way society tends to put Dr. King on a pedestal today only testifies to how we rejected him in life.
Dr. King’s witness reproaches me as I reflect on today’s Gospel: “I came in the name of my Father, but you did not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him (John 5:43).” Jesus cites the Torah (DT 19:15), that holds that no one can be convicted by only one witness. Those who testified to who Jesus is, including Moses and John the Baptist, were rejected.
Too often we reject prophets in our midst. Worse, perhaps, is when we choose leaders who are charlatans. Charlatans show us the idols we worship and thereby testify against us.
The test of belief is how we love: “I know that you do not have the love of God in you (John 5:41).” The very next story in John’s Gospel—the multiplication of loaves—reveals how Jesus’ love ethic is an ethic of creativity.
If we believe, we would live so lovingly, so creatively, that we too would multiply loaves. There are many opportunities to work with others in a creative love ethic, including worker, food, housing and/or green cooperatives or work repairing broken communities.
How do we work with others to share the gifts of God’s creation so all may thrive?
Alex Mikulich is a Catholic social ethicist and racial equity consultant. He is co-author of The Scandal of White Complicity in U.S. Hyper-Incarceration: A Nonviolent Spirituality of White Resistance (Palgrave 2013 and 2015). He co-edited and contributed to Interrupting White Privilege: Catholic Theologians Break the Silence (Orbis 2007) which won the Theological Book of the Year from the College Theology Society.