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Creative Maladjustment: a Prayer in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. in India
Martin Luther King, Jr. in India Photo: AFSC

Note: I offered the below prayer at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event in Philadelphia sponsored by the Occupy Philly Labor Working Group. The event emphasized labor rights and remembering King's focus on economic justice and on moving from a thing-oriented society to a people-oriented society that is capable of conquering "the triplets of consumerism, militarism, and racism." I publish it today on the occasion of the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King and in honor of Trayvon Martin. 

What kind of prayer is asked of us in these times? A prayer expressed with our hands, our feet, and our hearts.   - Lucy

From a speech to the American Psychological Association in 1967 by Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated seven months later.

I am sure that we will recognize that there are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted. There are some things concerning which we must always be maladjusted if we are to be people of good will. We must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation. We must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry. We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. We must never adjust ourselves to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence...

It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence: it is either nonviolence or nonexistence. As President Kennedy declared, "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind." And so the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a suspension in the development and use of nuclear weapons, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and eventually disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation. Our earthly habitat will be transformed into an inferno that even Dante could not envision.

Thus,  it may well be that our world is in dire need of a new organization: The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. Men and women should be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, could cry out in words that echo across the centuries. "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."... And through such creative maladjustment, we may be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man's inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

Let us pray.

Let us pray for the awakening of those who are trapped in the lie that they are less than or more than their fellow human beings. Let us pray that we recognize that we, you and I, are made of stardust and, though manifest in beautifully diverse bodies and minds, are born of one earth and Spirit.

Let us pray for those confined in the prison of privilege, who are entrapped by the illusion that privilege protects us from ecological destruction or the oppression of our fellow human beings.

Let us pray for those confined within the school to prison pipeline that we can join with underserved students and incarcerated people to open the school and prison doors and set both our minds and bodies free.

Let us pray for the courage to be creatively maladjusted, to act and speak against the destructive status quo, to experiment with and embody a new way of being, seeing, and acting in the world based on equality, justice and dignity. Let us speak love with power.

Let us pray for all workers, those US immigrant workers with and without papers, those exploited by global corporate capitalism in the US and around the world, those who are ensnared in the matrix of oppression. Let us recognize our power to join together and transform our circumstances.

Let us pray that we remember that all life is connected and that no species can survive without the brilliant manifestation of all species. Let this understanding lead us to discover and demand an economy that recognizes that the earth is the source from which life springs and is sustained.

Let us pray for the occupied land on which we stand and the peoples from whom it was seized. Let us pray that we dismantle colonization, both within our minds and within our communities, and recognize that the earth is not a community that belongs to us, but a community to which we all belong.

Let us pray.


I drew inspiration for this prayer from a speech by Quaker Steve Chase given to the American Psychological Association in 2007 entitled Creative Maladjustment: Activism as a Way to Heal Self, Society, and Planet and from this quote by Aldo Leopold, "We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."

About the Author

Lucy was the Director of Friends Relations from 2011-2021.