Politics and Social Change

With Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this week, and with the presidential campaigns going on right now, I thought the following article was thought-provoking:

“MLK and LBJ: Movements and Politicians” – Jim Wallis

I found the last two paragraphs of the article particularly challenging:

It is a good lesson for this year’s presidential race. Change must go deeper than politics. In fact, unless change goes deeper, politics won’t really change. No matter which candidate finally wins this presidential election, he or she will not be able to really change the big things in the U.S. and the world that must be changed, unless and until there are social movements pushing for those changes from outside of politics. Because when politics fails to resolve or even address the most significant moral issues, what often occurs is that social movements rise up to change politics; and the best social movements always have spiritual foundations.

Even a candidate who runs on change, really wants it, and goes to Washington to make it, will confront a vast array of powerful forces which will do everything possible to prevent real change. Politics is unlikely to be changed merely from within – no matter who wins, and no matter how sincere they are, we will not see significant change unless, and until, the pressure increases from the outside. Remember, President Lyndon Johnson didn’t become a civil rights leader until Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks made him one.

After reading this article I feel challenged to ask myself two questions:

1. What social change do I desire to see in our world?

2. How can I be involved to help bring about that change?


3 Responses

  1. At this time in my life I’m not sure what social change I most desire to see. I’m no longer able to speak in generalities like “equality” or “nonviolence.”

    I think Jim Wallis is right on the money. The actual political elections won’t mean a thing until there’s a groundswell desire for change as far as social issues go.

    Things that I consider basic like “health care for every citizen” or “access to post-secondary education for everyone” simply won’t happen until a vast majority of Americans demand it. Which means it won’t happen.

    I guess it’s tough because what I see as a social issue and what should be an inalienable right, has devolved into a political issue.

  2. This post is great. But gk I have to disagree with you on the one thing. The American public doesn’t demand things like health care and better education funding, because we’ve been deluded to believe by politicians (albiet, speaking for others) that it is impossible. We are pretty lazy, and most don’t educate themselves on the possibilities. If the politicians spoke the truth, and we learned more about good working systems (not Canadian health care!) and what works about them, then we will start demanding it. It won’t happen soon, but it will happen eventually.
    In the meantime, I’m going to ask myself the question Adam is proposing.

  3. […] think this relates to my previous post. What do you think? Can this happen today? Is it already happening in certain […]

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