A revisit to words of Martin Luther King on violence

This is a reprise of an earlier post. It still resonates, especially after the recent shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.

Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very things it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, it merely increases the hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

These aspirational words ring true even today. A historian made a comment on the news the other day, saying the only thing man has been very good at since the beginning is killing people. Too many people have died when leaders say I want what you have or you are different from us or you worship the wrong way. On this latter point, one of the keys to our founding father’s separation of church and state in the US constitution and bill of rights was a comment made by Thomas Jefferson who noted that Europe had been awash in blood due to religious zeal and he did not want religious zeal doing the same in our country. This runs counter to self-proclaimed constitutionalists who want a national or state religion and don’t realize they are advocating against the constitution.

My blogging friend and missionary George Dowdell has written a thought-provoking post about “No More Us and Them.” A link to his post is below.* When religious leaders exclude, they create this kind of divide. Yet, when religious leaders are inclusive, religion is at its finest. Just witness the actions of the people’s Pope Francis to see what one leader can do. We should follow his lead. We must do our best to be bridge builders. We must do our best to condemn intolerant thinking and action. We must do our best to not condone violence. We must do our best to control the proliferation of violent tools to people who should not have them and govern all owners of them well, as these tools are designed to kill. We must do our best to work toward civil discourse when disagreements occur. And, we must not tolerate treating women as second class citizens or even assets, which is even further demeaning.

I recognize we all cannot be like Atticus Finch (see Emily J’s post on “The Perfect Book: To Kill a Mockingbird” with the link below **) and wipe the spit away borne from someone looking for a fight, but he shows us what real courage looks like. It takes more courage not to fight back when it would have been so easy to do so. I recognize we cannot all be like Gandhi whose example was studied, admired and copied by Martin Luther King showing that civil disobedience is far more powerful than violence. I recognize we call cannot be like Mother Teresa who just went around helping people and praying with them not caring how they worshiped. And, I realize we cannot all be like Jesus who uttered the words we should all live by and can be found in other religious texts – treat others like you want to be treated.

We must treat others like we want in return. We must elevate women in a world to equal footing with men. We must challenge our historical texts which were written by imperfect men to diminish women. We must be the ones who lift others up. We must teach our children those Jesus words. If we don’t then we will continue to be our own worst enemy and do what we are good at – violence and killing.

* http://georgedowdell.org/2014/06/10/no-more-us-and-them/
** http://thebookshelfofemilyj.com/2014/06/09/the-perfect-book-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

10 thoughts on “A revisit to words of Martin Luther King on violence

  1. I couldn’t agree more, Keith. What we sow we will reap. The solution for having peace on earth, compassion, respect, acceptance, tolerance is so simple yet hard for some to go with it. Excluding people will increase intolerance, eliminating hate with murder will increase hate and violent behavior. As this proves: same creates the same. So when we want to find love in this world we only need to spread love.

  2. Note to Readers: MLK is a hero to many and rightfully won the Nobel Peace Prize. But, he should be embraced by many more. He advocated civil disobedience like Gandhi did. That speaks volumes, especially today with armed protestors.

  3. What a beautiful post, dear Keith. MLK is among my heroes and I think we need one just like him today to bring this nation together, to allow us to mend our fences, settle our differences, and learn to live together in peace and harmony.

    • Agreed Jill. Rev. William Barber of Moral Monday fame, is the only top of mind candidate. Just like King was, he is demonized by a strident white population. Keith

      • I don’t think Rev. William Barber has flown onto my radar before, as the name isn’t ringing a bell. I shall do some research.

      • Jill, when the GOP super majority in the General Assembly, people in need were being stepped on through restrictive Voter ID laws, cut backs on unemployment benefits, no expansion of Medicaid, he started these Moral Monday protests. I went to one in Raleigh and attended one in Charlotte. He has since become more national in reputation. Keith

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