Monday, November 10, 2014

A little more about St. Peter's and Malcolm X's "Respect everyone"

St Peter and Malcolm X each said "Respect everyone" as part of broader statements. The King James Version of 1 Peter 2:17 is very clear, so long as you remember that "men" is italicized to indicate it was added by the translators: "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king." In case there are Christians who think there's wiggle room in St. Peter's "Respect everyone", here's an analysis at The Apostle Peter on Civil Obedience: An Exegesis of 1 Peter 2:13-17 |
The fourfold injunction follows immediately after qeou` douloiv (v. 16). Peter wants his readers, as servants of God, to honor all men. That is, they are to say and do things concomitant with the respect all men are to be shown.143 The verb timavw is used 21 times in the NT and is commonly associated in the Synoptics with the proper attitude a child is to demonstrate to their parents (e.g. Matt 15:4; cf. also Eph 6:2). It is also applied to God in John's gospel (John 5:23; 8:49) as well as the honoring of Paul (Acts 28:10) and widows (1 Tim 5:3). It is also used to refer to money (Matt 27:9). Though Peter does not explicate the idea here, this honor and respect for all men is most likely grounded in the fact that they are creations of God (cf.ktivsei in verse 13).144 And, the fact that pavnta" stands first in the clause emphasizes all men without exception. Peter's readers are not to go about choosing whom they will respect and honor. Such an attitude is forbidden by this verse. They are to honor all men.
Malcolm X's full statement is "Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." It's from a speech known as Message to the Grass Roots which he gave on November 10, 1963, while he was still part of the misleadingly named Nation of Islam. He later said,
I totally reject Elijah Muhammad's racist philosophy, which he has labeled 'Islam' only to fool and misuse gullible people as he fooled and misused me. But I blame only myself, and no one else for the fool that I was, and the harm that my evangelical foolishness on his behalf has done to others."
I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I'm sorry for now. I was a zombie then—like all [Black] Muslims—I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march. Well, I guess a man's entitled to make a fool of himself if he's ready to pay the cost. It cost me 12 years.

That was a bad scene, brother. The sickness and madness of those days—I'm glad to be free of them.
I've never found any evidence that Brother Malcolm changed his mind about being peaceful and courteous and obeying the law and respecting everyone, just as there's no evidence he ever changed his mind about the importance of self-defense. Shortly before he was killed, in a talk titled The oppressed masses of the world cry out for action against the common oppressor, he said:
And when you see the Blacks react, since the people who do this aren’t there, they react against their property. The property is the only thing that’s there. And they destroy it. And you get the impression over here that because they are destroying the property where they live, that they are destroying their own property. No. They can’t get to the man, so they get at what he owns. [Laughter] 
This doesn’t say it’s intelligent. But whoever heard of a sociological explosion that was done intelligently and politely? And this is what you’re trying to make the Black man do. You’re trying to drive him into a ghetto and make him the victim of every kind of unjust condition imaginable. Then when he explodes, you want him to explode politely! [Laughter]
He's talking about the explosion of oppressed people in response to an outrage like the police killing a member of their community, and he's noting that it's not an "intelligent" response, that it's a symptom, not a solution. The first step in bringing about a solution is in his original statement: respect everyone.

Possibly relevant: Googling about this, I came on Respect (part 1 of 3) - The Religion of Islam, which talks about something Malcolm almost certainly knew: You don't just treat people with respect when they're present. You treat them with respect always. I completely agree; I finally instituted a code of conduct for this blog when someone at another insisted on reviling his opponents.

If you wonder why I usually speak of Brother Malcolm, that's respect, too. From his interview with Bernice Bass:
MALCOLM X: I never accept the term "honorable. 
BASS: That's a beautiful title. 
MALCOLM X: Well, I'll tell you. Most people I've seen really end up misusing it, and I'd rather just be your Brother Malcolm.