Tag Archives: Rev. Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King on being a transformed nonconformist

“Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

| Romans 12.2

“‘Do not conform’ is difficult advice in a generation when crowd pressures have unconsciously conditioned our minds and feet to move to the rhythmic drumbeat of the status quo.  Many voices and forces urge us to choose the path of least resistance and bid us never to fight for an unpopular cause and never to be found in a pathetic minority of two or three. …

In spite of the prevailing tendency to conform, we, as Christians, have a mandate to be nonconformists.  The Apostle Paul, who knew the inner realities of the Christian faith counseled, ‘Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.’  We are called to be people of conviction, not conformity; of moral nobility not social respectability.  We are commanded to live differently and according to a higher loyalty. …

This command not to conform comes, not only from Paul, but also from our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, the world’s most dedicated nonconformist, whose ethical nonconformity still challenges the conscience of mankind.

When an affluent society would coax us to believe that happiness consists in the size of our automobiles, the impressiveness of our homes, and the expensiveness of our clothes, Jesus reminds us, ‘A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth.’

When we would yield to the temptation of the world rife with sexual promiscuity and gone wild with the philosophy of self- expression, Jesus tells us that ‘whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.’

When we refuse to suffer for righteousness and choose to follow the path of comfort rather than conviction, we hear Jesus say, ‘Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’

When in our spiritual pride we boast of having reached the peak of moral excellence, Jesus warns, ‘The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.’

When we, through compassionless detachment and arrogant individualism, fail to respond to the needs of he underprivileged, the Master says, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me.’

When we allow the spark of revenge in our souls to flame up into hate toward our enemies, Jesus teaches, ‘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.’

Everywhere and at all times, the love ethic of Jesus is a radiant light revealing the ugliness of our stale conformity. …

Nowhere is the tragic tendency to conform more evident than in the church, the institution which has often served to crystallize, conserve and even bless the patterns of majority opinion.  The erstwhile sanction by the church of slavery, racial segregation, war and economic exploitation is testimony to the fact that the church has hearkened more to the authority of the world than to the authority of God.  Called to be the moral guardian of the community, the church at times has preserved that which is immoral and unethical.  Called to combat social evils, it has remained silent behind stained- glass windows.  Called to lead men on the highway of brotherhood and to summon them to rise above the narrow confines of race and class, it has enunciated and practiced racial exclusiveness.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, (New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1963), 8-10, 11.

Remembering King Nonviolently

“‘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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Additional Resources

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).

“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 a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”

~ Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Additional Resource

Rev. Martin L. King, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, April 16, 1963.

“I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life.”

~ Rev. Martin Luther, King, Jr., “The Most Durable Power”, November 6, 1956

Additional Resource

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sermon excerpt: “The Most Durable Power”, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, November 6, 1956.