Martin Luther King Jr.: More than a dreamer
This weekend, America remembers the life and legacy of one of her most outstanding, native-born sons.
Seventy-nine years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta. Since his assassination, 40 years ago this April, much has been said about his dream and our need to keep the dream alive (referring to King’s prolific “I Have a Dream” speech delivered on Aug. 28, 1964, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington).
That speech will long be remembered as one of the most eloquent expressions of human aspiration. The speech catapulted King to iconic status and forever sealed his legacy as the “great dreamer.” But now, more than ever, we need to look beyond the dream and embrace King’s “Six Principles of Non-violence.”
One of the tenets of King’s non-violent philosophy is the building of the cherished Beloved Community, which is an extension of and claims its lineage from the first century A.D. group known as The Community of the Beloved Disciple. The group was founded by St. John the Apostle shortly after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ almost 2,000 years ago.
In the early years of the 20th century, Cambridge philosopher and theologian Dr. Josiah Royce used the term “beloved community” in the founding meetings of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Decades later, fellowship member Martin King would use the term as the foundation for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) established in 1957.
The Beloved Community is not some mystical utopia, nirvana or heaven. The Beloved Community is a real, practical place where peace abides. Not just peace in the sense of non-violence, but peace as it relates to an absence of tension.
The Beloved Community has global impact. It looks to include all nations in a share of the riches of God’s green earth. In such a new world order, poverty, homelessness and hunger will not be accepted. Racial prejudice, discrimination, bigotry, gender-bashing and homophobia will be replaced with human decency and loving kindness.
One of the most challenging tenets of the Beloved Community is its method of conflict resolution. Today we live in the midst of war and rumors of wars. In America you don’t have to look far to find individuals who use weapons and violence in an attempt to solve their personal problems and conflicts.
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the pending crisis with Iran, is a reminder of the results of aggression, imperialism and pre-emptive violence. There must be a better, more humane way to negotiate with our adversaries than to invade their borders and bomb them into submission.
In the paradigm of the Beloved Community, opposing sides talk and seek peace, as well as one another’s best interest. King believed that peace with justice would prevail over war and military intervention.
Like India’s Mahatma Gandhi, King believed that the tradition of hating one’s opponents was not only immoral, but a bad strategy in human relations which creates a permanent cycle of revenge and retaliation.
At some point, someone must have enough courage to say we can not afford to keep killing one another. We are soon to run out of sons to send to the killing fields. Who will be fearless enough to say to an opponent, “Our similarities are far greater than our differences. So come, let us reason together”? King said, “The aftermath of non-violence is the creation of the Beloved Community so that when the battle is over, a new relationship comes into being between the oppressed and the oppressor.”
The six principles of non-violence taken from King’s first book, “Stride Towards Freedom,” (Harper and Rowe Publishers, 1958):
– Principle one: Kingian nonviolence is not for cowards.
– Principle two: The Beloved Community is a world of peace with justice.
– Principle three: Attack injustice, not persons doing unjust deeds.
– Principle four: Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve a goal.
– Principle five: Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence.
– Principle six: The universe is on the side of justice.
Dr. George B. Jackson is a member of the N.C. MLK Commission and pastor of Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship Inc. in Thomasville.