assassination

Remembering Kennedy

President Kennedy’s casket lies in state in the White House. Photo: Via RNS /Abbie Rowe, court. JFK Presidential Library, Boston

On this date 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assasinated while in Dallas on a campaign tour. As the nation remembers this event, we reflect on President Kennedy's life and death.

Walter Cronkite, visibly emotional, announced the president's death on a CBS News bulletin.

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What Dallas Pastors Preached the Sunday after JFK Was Killed

Photo by Abbie Rowe, National Parks Service, courtesy of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Facing crowded pews and heavy hearts, Dallas clergy took to the pulpits on Nov. 24, 1963 to try to make sense of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy just two days before.

“The ministers saw the assassination as an unwelcome opportunity for some serious, city-wide soul-searching,” said Tom Stone, an English professor at Southern Methodist University, who has studied the sermons delivered that day.

“Though Dallas could not be reasonably blamed for the killing, it needed to face up to its tolerance of extremism and its narrow, self-centered values,” Stone said.

As they finished their messages, some, including the Rev. William H. Dickinson of Highland Park Methodist Church and the Rev. William A. Holmes of Northaven Methodist Church, were handed notes: assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had just been gunned down by Jack Ruby.

An Image Beloved, A Prophet Rejected

World Telegram & Sun photo by Dick DeMarsico. / Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1964, World Telegram & Sun photo by Dick DeMarsico. / Wikimedia Commons

This August will mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and there will rightly be much remembrance and celebration of its place in American history. But there is another anniversary that our nation, and especially its Christians, would do well to acknowledge, investigate, and ruminate.

Forty-five years ago yesterday, Dr. King arrived in Memphis, Tenn., to support a sanitation workers’ strike seeking to unionize. He was assassinated the next day — the anniversary we today remember — and in a sad irony our nation began the sanitation of his legacy. Indeed, King’s decision to join the Memphis struggle was just one of many acts that clash with what David Sirota calls the “Santa Clausified” image of King that we pass to our youth. 

Romero's Glasses

Alex Bowie/Getty Images

Archbishop Oscar Romero (1917 - 1980) at home in San Salvador, 20th November 1979. Alex Bowie/Getty Images

Editor's Note: The following is a poem written by Trevor Scott Barton following reading The Violence of Love by Archbiship Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in El Salvador in 1980.

Children
longing for a hero,
living love, peace and hope,
protecting ordinary people from extraordinary hatred and violence,
peaceful hero,
dying for the cause but not killing for it,
denying guns and bombs their power,
risking the violence of love.
Conserving tradition at first for the greatest,
seeing through your glasses at last for the least,
feeling the hunger of underpaid workers,
knowing the poverty of farmers,
hearing the warning, "Here's what happens to priests who get involved in politics,
holding tears of the disappeared.
Challenging,
calling all to view the liberating body of a slain priest,
serving the poor,
using words to build up humanity and tear down injustice,
"In the name of God, stop killing ..."
offering crucifixion,
discovering resurrection.

One Year Later: Bin Laden and the Cycle of Violence

Carolina K. Smith, M.D. / Shutterstock.com

Seattle Times and other U.S. newspapers report the death of Osama bin Laden. Carolina K. Smith, M.D. / Shutterstock.com

A year ago today, I read a Tweet that President Barack Obama was interrupting primetime TV to address the nation regarding terrorism. My heart dropped. All I could think about was that terrifying feeling 10 years earlier while watching 9-11 coverage. It only took about half an hour of speculation on 24-hour news stations, Twitter, Facebook, etc., before reports came out that Obama would be announcing the death of public enemy No. 1, Osama bin Laden. 

My first reaction was relief. The second, I confess, was one of pride—shared by the nation at the time and many still. But at some point in the aftermath, I read a friend’s post that convicted me and brought me back to reality. 

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ultimate Sacrifice

Forty-five years ago today, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his now-famous speech at Riverside Church in New York City, declaring his opposition to the war in Vietnam. One year later -- 44 years ago today -- he was murdered by an assassin.

It is fitting that these anniversaries occur this year during the week we commemorate the death and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Dr. King’s Riverside speech is frequently quoted, with his scathing political indictment of the war and the systems of exploitation and oppression that led to it. But how often do we remember that he began that speech by noting that while the Nobel Peace Prize was “a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before,” it was not the most important thing. He continued by saying that:

This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I'm speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all … Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them?

Dr. King was able to be the leader he was, take the risks he did, and ultimately make the final sacrifice, because he knew who called him and who he followed. He knew that the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus was a living presence in his life and gave him the hope to follow. 

For him, as well as us, believing in Jesus means being a follower and a disciple in bringing the kingdom he lived and taught. By raising Jesus, by vindicating his life and death, God vindicated his message – the kingdom he proclaimed has come and will come. And because God raised Jesus from death, his living presence continues among us and we are empowered to follow him and to live the kingdom. The resurrection is the event on which our faith and hope depends.   

That faith sustained Dr. King, and it can sustain us.

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