The Three Evils of Society

Dr. King addresses the triple evils of Racism, War, and Poverty

June 13, 2019

I’ve listened and read through a lot of Dr. King’s sermons but had never heard of this one before, The Three Evils of Society (August 31st, 1967). It was alluded to in the excellent HBO documentary King in the Wilderness. In his speech, Dr. King warns of a “triple-prong sickness lurking in our body politic”; the sicknesses of Racism, Excessive Materialism, and Militarism.

“Racism can well be that corrosive evil that would bring down the curtain on Western civilization.”

I can’t help but feel that this King is different than the culturally acceptable “I have a Dream” King. This version of Dr. King (in fact, the same Dr. King) is pointing the finger and indicting American society. A prophetic vision, warning us of what’s to come.

“It is a time of double-talk, when men in high places have a high blood-pressure to deceptive rhetoric and an anemia of concrete performance.”

Dr. King’s turn of phrase and ability to eloquently describe the posture of man and the atmosphere of society is beautiful. I fear we’ve lost this ability to “make it plain” in the era of quick sound bytes and viral tweets. More importantly, I fear we’ve lost the ability to listen. A quick Google search can confirm the bias in even our most fringe of ideas.

“When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men. When we foolishly maximize the minimum and minimize the maximum, we sign the warrant for our own day of doom.”

I feel as if I have unearthed an ancient relic left by Dr. King, a roadmap for our body politic. In an era where our black communities face militarized police, our immigrants face militarized borders, our materialism and technolust are ripping the fabric of society in two, our technolust is pillaging our privacy and individual rights, our devices are making us less happy and no more productive, and our own materialism is rapidly destroying the planet, it would seem King had predicted what America faces today.

“I am convinced this new life will not emerge until our nation undergoes a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of Racism, Economic Exploitation, and Militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

There. There is where I’d like to go. To that new life. This is why we need our body politic to be concerned about the evolution of technology, fruitless as it may be, because we’ve already seen the imperfections in our algorithms or what Cathy O’Neil calls our “Weapons of Math Destruction”. We aren’t building a future, but rather reinforcing an imperfect past.

“An edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Amen, on so many levels. I could continue to quote this sermon. Over and over and over. I come back to it often and find new gems hidden and new meaning hidden within. I encourage you to take time and listen. And while I still deeply admire the “I have a Dream” King… I want to know more about this King.