“‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also. …”
~ Jesus Christ, Matthew 5.38-39, NRSV
Today, persons across our nation and around the world will remember the life and legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His daughter Bernice has asked that we celebrate his life by not taking the lives of others. She is calling for a “no shots fired” day reports The Chicago Tribune while pointing to the increased violence on television, in schools and other public places.
A recent article from The Washington Post argued that while his nonviolent demonstrations led to violent acts, that these peaceful protests also reminded persons of the humanity of those assaulted, of the dignity due them though dismissed because of the social construct of race. King led a nonviolent movement and was so well- known for peace that he received the Nobel Peace Prize when he was only thirty- five years old.
He outlined principles of nonviolence in his book Stride Toward Freedom and they are shared on The King Center’s website. They include:
- Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is a positive force confronting the forces of injustice, and utilizes the righteous indignation and the spiritual, emotional and intellectual capabilities of people as the vital force for change and reconciliation.
- The Beloved Community is the framework for the future. The nonviolent concept is an overall effort to achieve a reconciled world by raising the level of relationships among people to a height where justice prevails and persons attain their full human potential.
- Attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil. The nonviolent approach helps one analyze the fundamental conditions, policies and practices of the conflict rather than reacting to one’s opponents or their personalities.
- Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve the goal. Self-chosen suffering is redemptive and helps the movement grow in a spiritual as well as a humanitarian dimension. The moral authority of voluntary suffering for a goal communicates the concern to one’s own friends and community as well as to the opponent.
- Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence. The nonviolent attitude permeates all aspects of the campaign. It provides mirror type reflection of the reality of the condition to one’s opponent and the community at large. Specific activities must be designed to help maintain a high level of spirit and morale during a nonviolent campaign.
- The universe is on the side of justice. Truth is universal and human society and each human being is oriented to the just sense of order of the universe. The fundamental values in all of the world’s great religious include the concept that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice. For the nonviolent practitioner, nonviolence introduces a new moral context in which nonviolence is both the means and the end.
Perhaps, on just this one day, we might be able to practice what he preached, what he lived, what he died for.
Fellowship of Reconciliation, http://forusa.org/
The King Center, http://thekingcenter.org
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967).
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, (Harper & Brothers, 1958).