About the Sermon — “Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence”

The “Beyond Vietnam” sermon was drafted by historian and activist Vincent Gordon Harding.  Vincent Harding and his first wife, Rosemarie, were friends and colleagues of Martin and Coretta King in the Southern Freedom Movement, directing an interracial voluntary service unit of the Mennonite Church (Mennonite House) in Atlanta, Georgia. After Martin King’s death, Harding gave initial leadership to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center and then founded the Institute of the Black World, also in Atlanta. In later years, Vincent Harding joined the faculty at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver and led the Veterans of Hope Project there until his death in 2014.

Dr. King and Dr. Harding shared a profound commitment to the radical, humane transformation of our country and a concern for the intersections of US foreign policy with the problems of racism, poverty and militarism in American society. In light of the political and religious sensibilities they held in common, King asked Harding to write the sermon that became King’s major public statement against the war in Vietnam.

Following the address at Riverside Church, April 4, 1967, King received strong criticism from the media and many in the liberal political establishment. Leaders of some civil rights organizations were also uncomfortable with King’s insistence on linking a critique of racial injustice within the borders of the United States to criticism of American imperialism abroad.

But “Beyond Vietnam” represents the clarity of King’s call for fundamental social change in our society. King believed there was no way to remain a military superpower (“the greatest purveyor of violence in the world”) in service to global corporate interests and simultaneously build an inclusive and reconciling American nation that nurtures the best humanity of its citizens and lives justly with its neighbors.

King and Harding are no longer with us physically, but their encouragement, their critique, their urging of us to truly become a “Beloved Community” remain as guides and inspiration.

Please join us on April 4th, 7pm at Riverside Church if you are in NYC or at the Iliff School of Theology (5pm Mountain time) in Colorado. If you can’t come to the church or school in person, you can watch the livestreamed program, including an historic conversation between longtime activist/public theologian Ruby Sales and legal scholar Michelle Alexander as they consider the meaning for our present moment of King’s radical vision of justice.




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