April 4, 2022 - A Faith Community Call for Unity and Action

"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…a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Speaking at New York’s Riverside Church exactly one year before he was murdered in Memphis, Dr. King delivered a prophetic speech that caused him to be sharply rebuked by the establishment media and many former allies. King said that America’s war machine, then waging a bloody imperial war in Viet Nam, was blocking progress towards justice at home and choking democracy both in the U.S. and abroad. King’s address was called “Beyond Viet Nam: A Time to Break Silence.” The speech remains prophetic today, as resonant and relevant as ever.

What King called the “evil triplets” of racism, materialism and militarism continue to destroy lives. Two years of pandemic suffering have taken a grievous toll on African Americans and other people of color, revealing stark systemic injustices in our economic and health care systems. Despite massive nationwide protests, police shootings continue unabated while police normalize bringing military equipment and tactics into our streets when the protesters are Black, though never when the protesters are white nationalists. Pervasive militarism dominates the culture of our country, as evidenced by the 393 million guns in private hands and a military budget of $768 billion in 2022 that exceeds the defense spending of the next 11 countries combined. Small wonder that children find it difficult to imagine any future at all when they seek to find their way in a world wracked by violence and war.

Today we see how the white patriarchy that launched our country as a brutal colonial enterprise still warps and distorts our political culture and economy while spreading moral injury and trauma at every level. Today we see how BIPOC, LGBTQ and women bear the heaviest burdens of savage inequalities in wealth and income, health care, housing, and education. Today we also see how this same power structure is poisoning earth’s atmosphere through extractive industries, factory farming, and the little-discussed environmental impact of our colossal military machine. But now, even as white male reactionaries maintain their grip on Congress and the courts, everyday people are rising up to say we can’t breathe! All of this is killing us–we are suffocating from racism, violence, and greed and not just from the poisons in our air. All of this prevents human flourishing. All of this leads towards spiritual death.

As faith leaders and as moral agents, we face our own “time to break silence” moment. Our people cry out to be delivered from a mounting climate catastrophe and from soul-destroying violence. We know we cannot keep feeding a bloated military while millions of children are going to bed hungry. We know we cannot remain silent while the voting rights that Black people fought and died for over decades of struggle are systematically rolled back in front of our eyes. If we do not recognize these rights as sacred, then we do not know what sacred means.

For all of these reasons and more, we support the annual April 4 events recalling Dr. King’s challenge to place people above profits and become a people guided by wisdom and love. We invite everyone to view the national reading and discussion of Dr. King’s speech that will be presented on the evening of April 4 by a coalition that includes the National Council of Elders, the Poor People’s Campaign, the SNCC Legacy Project, the National Civil Rights Museum, the Black Justice Coalition, Fellowship of Reconciliation, and many others. We also invite people everywhere to organize their own local activities on April 2-3, and urge our faith community colleagues to incorporate references to this speech into their own sermons during the weekend preceding April 4.

In the same spirit, we invite faith leaders to encourage participation in the local and national actions organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, including the PPC’s June 18 national mobilization in Washington, DC. Please visit for detailed information.

We invite you to visit our King and Breaking Silence website, which is a hub for information and resources, or reach out to us by email. The link to register for our event is here.

We can still make the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. We can still realize Dr. King’s dream of a beloved community. As always, the time to act is now. And as always, it’s we who must stand up and be counted.

Yours in faith and hope,

Rev. Aundreia Alexander, Esq. – Associate General Secretary, National Council of Churches

Rev. Joe Agne – Pastor, Cedaredge Community United Methodist Church (Cedaredge, CO)

Rev. Evangeline Anderson – Assistant Priest, Good Shepherd & St. Luke’s (Pawtucket, RI)

Melanie Atha – Executive Director – Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Hussam Ayloush – Executive Director, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) – California

Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake – Presiding Minister – Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples (San Francisco, CA)

Rev. Emily Brewer – Executive Director – Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

Rev. Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock – theologian and Senior VP, Volunteers of America 

Bridget Cabrera – Executive Director – Methodist Federation for Social Action

Rev. John E. Cager III – Senior Minister – Ward African Methodist Episcopal Church (Los Angeles, CA)

Rev. Dr. Leslie Dawn Callahan – Senior Pastor – St. Paul’s Baptist Church (Philadelphia, PA)

Bishop Ken Carder – retired bishop – United Methodist Church

Rev. Jason Carson Wilson – Founding Executive Director – Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative

Rev. Louis B. Chase – Minister for Community Outreach – Holman UMC (Los Angeles, CA)

Sister Clare Carter – New England Peace Pagoda

Rev. Christy Close Erskine – Board Member – Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen – American Jewish University (Los Angeles, CA)

Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson – Chaplain & Director of the Office of Religious Life – Brown University

David R. Dykes – Executive Director – D.L. Dykes Jr. Foundation (Jackson, MS)

Rev. Deborah W. Dykes – Co-Executive Director – D.L. Dykes Jr Foundation (Jackson, MS)

Rev. Paige Eaves – Pastor and Assistant District Director – United Methodist Church (Los Angeles, CA)

Marian Wright Edelman – movement veteran and founder, Children’s Defense Fund

Rt. Rev. Dan Edwards – retired bishop – The Episcopal Church

Elaine Enns – Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries

Rev. Patricia Farris – Senior Minister – First United Methodist Church (Santa Monica, CA)

Bishop Leonard Fairley – North Carolina Conference – United Methodist Church

Rev. John Fife – retired Presbyterian pastor and co-founder of No More Deaths (Tucson, AZ)

Rabbi Alan Flam – retired peace and justice activist (Providence, RI)

Rev. John Forney – Priest in Charge, St. Francis Episcopal Mission (San Bernardino, CA)

Rev. Brian Frederick-Gray – Mission Director – Disciples Peace Fellowship

Rev. Bruce Freeman – Board Member – Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Rev. Peter Gathje – VP for Academic Affairs and Dean – Memphis Theological Seminary

Rabbi Laura Geller – Rabbi Emerita, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills

Rev. Dr. Diana Gibson – Coordinator, Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice

Rev. Michael Harrington – Director – Occupy Faith

Chaplain Rabia Harris – Founder – Muslim Peace Fellowship

David Hartsough – Peace Committee – San Francisco Friends Meeting

Randall Heyn-Lamb – Board Member – Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Rev. Dr. Alvin O’Neal Jackson – ED, Mass Poor People’s Assembly & Moral March on Washington

Rev. Dr. Serene Jones – President – Union Theological Seminary

Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson – President – Auburn Seminary

Rev. Peter Laarman – April 4 Coalition and retired UCC minister (Providence, RI)

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis – Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church (New York, NY)

Bob Lotz – Secretary – Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Rev. Christie Lunsford – Minister – UU Fellowship of Gainesville (Gainesville, FL)

Rev. Jacqueline Lynn – Board Chair – Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay – Senior Minister – First Unitarian Church (Providence, RI)

Rev. Eve MacMaster – Pastor – Emmanuel Mennonite Church (Gainesville, FL)

Brian D. McLaren – author/speaker/activist

Rev. Canon Cody Manus – Board Member – Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Ched Myers – Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries

Rev. Michael Neuroth – Policy Advocate – United Church of Christ

Rev. Charles Blustein Ortman – Commissioner on Immigration – Rhode Island Council of Churches

Rev. Roger Osgood – Minister – Heights Christian Church (Shaker Heights, OH)

Rev. Felicia Parazaider – Founder/Pastor – Revolution of Love Ministry & Movement

Rev. John Parker – New Hope Collaborative

Rev. Roger Peltier – Asst. Minister for Pastoral Care, First Unitarian Church (Providence, RI)

Rev. Dr. Allie Perry – Worship Coordinator, Shalom UCC (New Haven, CT)

Paul Ricketts – Board Member – Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Rev. Donna Schaper – Board Chair – Bricks and Mortals

Bishop John Schol – United Methodist Church of Eastern PA and Greater NJ

Dr. Phillis Isabella Sheppard – Director – James Lawson Institute at Vanderbilt Divinity School

Dennis Shuman – Director – P’nai Or Jewish Renewal Congregation (Gainesville, FL)

Rev. Toni Smith – Pastor – United Church of Chester (Chester, CT)

Rev. Dr. Gina Stewart – Christ Missionary Baptist Church (Memphis, TN)

Rev. Ron Stief – Executive Director – National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Samina Sundas – Founding Director – American Muslim Voice Foundation

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis – Director – Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice

Karah Thompson – Director – Adventist Peace Fellowship

Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes – Distinguished Professor and Dean – Vanderbilt Divinity School

Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu – Activist

Ethan Vesely-Flad – Director of National Organizing – Fellowship of Reconciliation

Friar Louis Vitale, OFM – Franciscan

Rev. Lucy Waechter Webb – Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

Rev. Michael Wallens – Vicar – St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Marfa, TX)

Dr. Traci West – Professor of Ethics & African American Studies – Drew Theological School

Rev. Janet L. Wolf – retired UMC clergy and National Council of Elders (Nashville, TN)

Rev. Brandon Wrencher – Founder – Good Neighbor Movement

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