Tag Archive for: MLK

Mindset Change-2

Untold stories from the Armenian Church Youth Ministries Center

Today’s Episode: Changing Mindset 2

As we wind down this series “It was 20 years ago today” before the feast of Ascension (40 days after Easter), we’re taking a look at two of the biggest miracles we experienced changing the mindset of the community, and opening the doors for what is possible in and through the Armenian Church. Yesterday we looked at forgiveness within the community, today we look at the community itself. Both of these mindset changes have to do with the acceptance of reality.

Armenians rightfully take pride in the historic reality that Armenia was the first Christian nation. The operative word for us today is was. The first Christian nation belongs to the 4th Century, while the decedents of that nations, well, ideally, belong to the 21st century, removed by over 1700 years since that nation-changing event. To take claim to that Light of Life that Illuminated Armenia in 301 A.D., the connection has to be justified. The Jews of Jesus’ time tried to justify themselves before him by claiming to be heirs of Abraham, to which Christ responds, “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”

We can hear the same voice asking Armenians, “And you not suppose that God can create the children of the Armenian nation out of these stones?” In other words, the past is gone, what are you doing to justify your position as children/heirs of the first Christian nation? The challenge we had before ourselves was to change the mindset of pride to a mindset of responsibility.

In 2005, when His Holiness Karekin II, the Catholicos of All Armenians made his pontifical visit to the United States, two of us from the Armenian Church Youth Ministry Center were asked to participate in a symposium held at the University of Southern California. Dr. Dekmejian spoke about the a plan for growth in the Armenian Church utilizing basic ideas of faith-building. My topic was “Globalization and the Armenian Church.” At the end of the conference, His Holiness took both of these plans back to Armenia as a game-plan for the Armenian Church in the 21st century. The idea was simple: we in the Armenian Church have much to offer the world in terms of the being the oldest Christian tradition on earth. At the same time, we have a lot to learn from communities that have adapted to the realities of the day.

One of those communities we looked at was the African American community in the United States. Often we Armenians are compared to the Jewish community primarily because of the connection of Genocide. But a comparison to the African American community has many more parallels. Unlike the Jews who were in Europe leading to the Holocaust, Armenians were residing in their historic homeland. The Nuremberg Trials were held in the 1940s, an international war crimes tribunal which revealed the true extent of German atrocities and held some of the most prominent Nazis accountable for their crimes. Germany accepted responsibility and reparations were made.

Through the years I had read and heard (in recordings) the great Civil Rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His words moved and inspired me. In particular his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” I found to be one of the most eloquent pieces of Christian writing, in any age, and one that reverberated in my heart. It spoke to the plight of the Armenian people and Armenian Church, as much as it did to that of the African American population and the Black church. I must say here, that King would go out of his way to emphasize that in light of all of the accolades, degrees and titles that could be used to identify him, first and foremost he was a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Beginning on the first year at the Youth Ministries Center and continuing every year thereafter, we organized Martin Luther King “Retreats” where we would take away groups, mostly young in age/young at heart, to study the works of King, side-by-side to the writings and teachings of Armenian Church leaders such as Khirimian Hayrig, St. Nersess Shnorhali, St. Gregory of Narek and St. Gregory of Datev. We studied and then challenged participants to walk the path forged by Jesus and followed by these most incredible leaders and students of Christianity.

The mindset began to change, ever so slowly, but it did. The majority of our congregation at the church and center were immigrants. They started understanding the huge responsibility they had as children of the Armenian Church. They were hurting from their experiences and were empathetic to others in pain. They would attend rallies in support of Domestic Violence, walking hand-in-hand with survivors, in marches organized on the streets of Glendale and Burbank. They produced a video “Greetings of Hope” as a message to refugees of the Genocide in Darfur. They extended themselves to the poor and the needy. The miracle happened, they saw themselves as representatives of the Resurrection, not as victims of a crucifixion.

The waves of change are not easy to land. There was opposition to these altruistic efforts from Armenian American leadership who could not see beyond their noses. But we were persistent. I used every opportunity that I could to get the message out. From the pulpit, of course, but I also spoke on college campuses, at High School Baccalaureates, at retreats and seminar, and on television and radio interviews. There is a song that the freedom fighters during the Armenian Genocide would sing, Միայն զէնքով կայ հայոց փրկութիւն = Armenian’s salvation is only through the gun. I had the audacity to quote this in interviews and then add that the greatest gun or weapon that we have is our capacity to love and to give. Interviewers didn’t know whether to censor me or pretend I didn’t say it so that it could be dismissed. But we continued. And then we rolled out our greatest weapon, the electronic forum = Epostle dot net.

Join me tomorrow as we tie up “20 Years ago today” with the miracle of apostolic evangelism for an electronic world.

Cover: At the House of Blues – Mike Geragos leads the singing at the IHS MLK Retreat, circa 2010

Below: Pictures from various MLK Retreats

Beyond Parlor Tricks

Next Step #762 – January 19, 2023 – Beyond parlor tricks, taking the water-to-wine miracle to heart. Continuing on the theme of maturity of faith as a challenge for the day. Rev. Bernice King: Time to move from quoting to living. Artsakh, Armenia and the death of children known as soldiers. A higher calling: A call for peace from a beautiful world.
Rev. Bernice King’s 2023 Words
15 Killed in Armenia
Miss Armenia: call for peace
Shpro’s Rant
David Crosby
Cover: EnvatoElements
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for Epostle.net
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Rev Martin Luther King Jr.

Armodoxy for Today: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

John the Baptist, was the forerunner to Jesus. His message was a prophetic one. He spoke to the times by pointing to the current conditions and sharing a message from God, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

In the 1950s and 1960s, in the United States, a young pastor of a Baptist congregation spoke to the times that were wrought with discrimination and prejudice. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a kindred spirit to John the Baptist, in that he understood the power of the One who could change even the heart of the hardest racist. His was a prophetic call to peace through justice. He led the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. with a keen focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, advocating for change through non-violent resistance.

He was the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at age 35. He was even younger when he led 250,000 people in the March on Washington to deliver the memorable “I have a dream” speech.

With all of his academic and personal achievements and with all of the accolades granted to him, he would insist that his first and foremost calling was that of a minister to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was a master orator, articulating the power of the Gospel to liberate with love.

A prophetic voice “calling in the wilderness” is the descriptor of St. John the Baptist. The prophet points us to Jesus Christ. Rev. King was a voice in the wilderness of hatred and intolerance during the 20th century. In one of his most important writings, from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, (imprisoned for civil disobedience) Rev. King penned a letter to the Christian leadership about the importance of the Church as the Body of Christ and the need to adhere to the Gospel message. He wrote,

“Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

“There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period that the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.” But they went on with the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven” and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment…

“Things are different now. The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s often vocal sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.”

Rev. King, called people to the higher standard – the extreme standard – of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He wrote in the same document,

“But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

A week after Theophany, with the joyous news Christ is revealed, the Armenian Church celebrates birth of John the Baptist. A week after that, in the United States we celebrate the birth of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The spirit of extremism, the voice crying out in the wilderness, the message of peace from the Christ Child, continues to be heralded. It is the message from our Creator, “Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.”

A prayer offered by Rev. King, 1953, “O God our eternal Father, we praise thee for gifts of mind with which thou hast endowed us. We are able to rise out of the half-realities of the sense world to a world of ideal beauty and eternal truth. Teach us, we pray Thee, how to use this great gift of reason and imagination so that it shall not be a curse but a blessing. Grant us visions that shall lift us from worldfulness and sin into the light of thine own hold presence. Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.”


Rev. King, his work and writings about non-violent resistance, justice and peace are one of the cornerstones of the In His Shoes ministry. Since 2004 we have held annual retreats that explore Rev. Kings teachings and the deep connections and parellels between the plight of the African American community and the Armenian American community. For more information, search the archives at Epostle.net or write us at feedback@epostle.net.

Changing the Program

Next Step #745: Armenia is under attack. Einstein’s theory of insanity is tested again as the same program is followed: GIGO once again. Archimedes – his lever and fulcrum – here is the plank to use. Gandhi and MLK tapped into the Power which Armodoxy has had all along. Mutual annihilation: It’s a check and not checkmate. Listen in for a renewal of the “Leveraging Love” plan. Reconciling Khrimian’s admonition to “bring guns” and Gandhi’s demand for non-violence.
Leveraging Love
In His Shoes Promo (Famine)
Khrimyan Hayrik’s “Paper Ladle” 
Divesting from the Sudan – Burbank Leader
Ian Anderson – “Two Short Planks” www.jethrotull.com
Cover: Envato Elements
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org and Epostle.net
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When Truth Isn’t Silly

Next Step #629: Truth is being challenged, history is up for debate and the silliness is in the eye of the beholder. From Korea, to BLM, to credible news, to the schism in the Church (Armenian and Universal). Fr. Vazken moves the discussion from silliness to empathy: Accepting forced negative realities. MLK’s Letter from Birmingham now available in Armenian. And more…
“My Favorite Things” Datevik
Korean War at 70
Letter from Birmingham Jail English
Letter from Birmingham Jail Armenian (Gegham Mughnetsyan)
WD168 this week
Junipero Serra statue toppled
Cover: Silly Blowup Cautions Fr. Vazken 2013
Technical Director: Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Never Enough Wheat

Next Step #513: Fifty years after Martin Luther King’s assassination, “hokehankist” comes alive as a fallen grain of wheat produces so much more (John 12:24) but never enough. African saying and Bedros Turian, Return from Easter in Utah – Resurrection in a land of religious sensitivity. Mormon Temple and Krishna Temple: A cross-over in vegetarianism. Icons and what they represent: Love for Tull and Beethoven.
“I told Jesus” Roberta Flack
King’s Last March (American Public Media)
Memphis Remembers MLK
“Mountaintop” Speech
MLK & John the Baptist: Two Kindred Spirits (Next Step #31)
Cover Photo: Moushetzi Wheat, 2014
Engineered by Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Forty Years Here or There

Next Step #490: The Spirit in freedom: Fr. Vazken reflects 40 years after a first impression and a first life. Marxism in action/Freedom with human nature: some observations. Institutions and rebellion: Coming out of the 60’s and 70’s. Karekin Nzhdeh inspiring MLK and sounding the Nathan Hale mantra? Martin Luther and Protestantism at 500.
Sayat Nova “Amen Sazi
500 Years after Martin Luther (Daily Beast)
500 Years after the Reformation (Christianity Today)
Karekin Nzhdeh Biographical Sketch
Starkey Hearing Foundation
Cover Picture: Karekin Nzhdeh statue in Yerevan 2017
Engineered by Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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The Orthodoxy of Dr. King’s Message

Next Step #84 – January 14, 2010

You don’t need CES or 3D to be enveloped in Christianity, just dare to bring Christ off of the altar and you might dare to call Martin Luther King, orthodox! On the eve of the MLK Retreat, Fr. Vazken looks at the teachings of non-violence by Gandhi, Dr. King and Cesar Chavez and the One who inspired them all. Finding spirituality in the messages of hope. A letter from Paul to the Americans? It’s just a prophet speaking to the times and against hypocrisy – as did St. John the Forerunner. And did someone call Robertson a Christian? The Haitian Earthquake and the In His Shoes response: www.inhisshoes.org
Music: We Shall Overcome, 1963
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for www.epostle.net

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A New Era of Hope


Next Step #32 – January 22, 2009

A fitting end to the Martin Luther King tribute, this podcast commemorates one of Dr. King’s children who was “judged by the content of his character.” Barack Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States; hope is defined as believing in a dream come true. Fr. Vazken discusses the prayers at inauguration and isn’t it a “no duh” that Jesus’ name would come up? Rev. J. Lowery’s poetic benediction is highlighted here. PREMIER installment of Global Perspective with Hratch Tchilingirian looks at Gaza and innocence lost.


Spiritual Bubbles topic: Obama’s Address on Hope

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Two Kindred Spirits Separated By Millennia


Next Step #31 – January 14, 2009

John the Baptist and Martin Lurther King Jr. are two giants – one a Biblical figure, the other contemporary, yet they serve the same God and the same Lord. What is the legacy left by these ushers of the Way? Fr. Vazken brings together the work and mission that has driven these people to point the way to Christ. They stood up courageously against the power structure, urging peace, justice, and love, even unto death, and thus became martyrs for their unwavering preaching of the Kingdom of God.

Also, a look at the life and ministry of Fr. Mesrob Sarafian, an archpriest of the Armenian Church who went to his eternal rest this week. Notes from Oakland California, including an emotive reading from his funeral rite.

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