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How Martin Luther King

“One of the most original cultural products of our century is our awareness canada goose deals of the power of organized nonviolent resistance as an instrument in the struggle for justice. One characteristic of this instrument is that its operation is often informal and decentralized. By the nature of canada goose coats the case it does not create institutions of great visible power. canada goose black friday sale Therefore it is not easy for the historians to take account of, as they can tell the stories of military battles and the changing of regimes. Even of those who see happening some of the visible phenomena cheap Canada Goose of nonviolent action are often not sufficiently aware of the history behind them to recognize that this phenomenon is not an oddity or an accident, but the product of a religious and cultural historical development.”

canada goose clearance sale I begin with Yoder’s observation for two reasons. First, I hope to show that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s journey to nonviolence a journey in which King was forced by circumstances to forge a remarkable understanding of canada goose clearance nonviolence is of lasting significance. canada goose clearance sale

canada goose factory sale In particular, as Yoder goes cheapcanadagoose.com on to suggest in these lectures, King found the means to wed nonviolent resistance to the search for justice that belies the assumption by many that if you are committed to nonviolence you must abandon attempts to achieve canada goose coats on sale justice. canada goose factory sale

canadian goose jacket Yoder’s positive appreciation of King’s and Gandhi’s achievement, moreover, makes clear that Yoder’s Christological pacifism and King’s Gandhian inspired campaign of nonviolent resistance are not, as many assume, in principle incompatible. canadian goose jacket

Second, I think Yoder is right to suggest that the difficulty historians have in telling the story of nonviolence is one of the reasons that many assume that there is no alternative to violence. Which makes it all the more important how King’s story is told.

uk canada goose For as Vincent Harding has argued, the price for a national holiday to honour a black man increasingly seems to be a national amnesia designed to hide from us who that black man really was. In particular, Harding suggests the last years of King’s life, in which he Canada Goose Jackets campaigned against the war in Vietnam as well on behalf of the poor, are too often forgotten. King’s commitment to nonviolence, his controversial decision to oppose the war in Vietnam and his concern for the poor were, for him, inseparable. uk canada goose

King’s understanding as well as his commitment to nonviolence was forged in the midst of conflict. Bernard Rustin, who helped King in the early stages of the Montgomery boycott to better understand Gandhi, observes:

uk canada goose outlet “I do not believe that one honors Dr. King by assuming that somehow he had been prepared for this job. He had not been prepared for it: either tactically, strategically, or his understanding of nonviolence. The remarkable thing is that he came to a profoundly deep understanding of nonviolence through the struggle itself, and through reading and discussions which he buy canada goose jacket cheap had in the process of carrying on the protest. As he began to discuss nonviolence, as the newspapers throughout the country began to describe him as one who believed in nonviolence, he automatically took himself seriously because other people were taking him seriously.” uk canada goose outlet

Rustin rightly suggests that King’s understanding of nonviolence was, Canada Goose Outlet so to speak, always a work in progress, but that is why Yoder buy canada goose jacket rightly insists that King forged an account of nonviolence from which we have much to learn.

canada goose coats on sale Nonviolence: King’s Experiment with Truth canada goose coats on sale

King was not a philosopher, but ideas were important to him. He would make use of ideas from sources many might think incompatible, but by doing so he exemplified in his life and thought a complex understanding of nonviolence that offers an alternative to the assumption that we must Canada Goose Parka choose between the use of violence in the name of being politically responsible or being nonviolent but politically irresponsible.

In Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, King provides a wonderfully candid account of the diverse influences that shaped his understanding of nonviolence. He reports as canada goose store a college student he was moved when he read Thoreau’s Essay on Civil Disobedience. Thoreau convinced him that anyone who passively accepts evil even oppressed people who cooperate with an evil system are as implicated with evil as those who perpetrate it. Accordingly, if we are to be true to our conscience and true to God, a righteous man has no alternative but to refuse to cooperate with an evil system.

canada goose store In the early stages of the boycott of the buses in Montgomery, King drew on Thoreau to help him understand why the boycott was the necessary response to a system of evil. Thoreau was not the only resource King had to draw on. Muste speak when he was a student at Crozer, but while he was deeply moved by Muste’s account of pacifism, he continued to think that war, though never a positive good, might be necessary as an alternative to a totalitarian system. canada goose store

During his studies at Crozer he also travelled to Philadelphia to hear a sermon by Dr Mordecai Johnson, the president of Howard University, who had just returned from a trip to India. Dr Johnson spoke of the life and times of Gandhi so canada goose eloquently that King subsequently bought and read books on or by Gandhi. The influence of Gandhi, however, was qualified by his reading of Reinhold Niebuhr, and in particular Moral Man and Immoral Society. Niebuhr’s argument that there is no intrinsic moral difference between violent and nonviolent resistance left King in a state of confusion.

King’s doctoral work made him more critical of what he characterizes as Niebuhr’s overemphasis on the corruption of human nature. Indeed, King observes that Niebuhr had not balanced his pessimism concerning human nature with an optimism concerning divine nature.

canada goose clearance But King’s understanding of, as well as his commitment to, nonviolence was finally not the result of these intellectual struggles. No doubt his philosophical and theological work served to prepare him for what he was to learn in the early days of the struggle in Montgomery. But King’s understanding of nonviolence was formed in the midst of struggle for justice, which required him to draw on the resources of the African American church. canada goose clearance

cheap Canada Goose King was, moreover, well aware of how he came to be committed to nonviolence, not simply as a strategy but, in Gandhi’s words, as his experiment with truth. (“My Experiments with Truth” is, of course, the subtitle of Gandhi’s Autobiography ) For example, in an article entitled “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” for The Christian Century in 1960, King says by being called to be a spokesman for his people, he was: cheap Canada Goose

Canada Goose Coats On Sale “driven back to the Sermon on the Mount and the Gandhian method of nonviolent resistance. This principle became the guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method. The experience of Montgomery did more to clarify my thinking on the question of nonviolence than all of the books I had read. As the days unfolded I became more and more convinced of the power of nonviolence. Living through the actual experience of the protest, nonviolence became more than a method to which I gave intellectual assent; it became a commitment to a way of life. Many issues I had not cleared up intellectually concerning nonviolence were now solved in the sphere of practical action.” Canada Goose Coats On Sale

In the same article, King observes that he was also beginning to believe that the method of nonviolence may even be relevant to international relations. Yet he was still under the influence of Niebuhr, or at least at this stage in his thinking he could not escape Niebuhr’s language. Thus, even after he argues that nonviolence is the only alternative we have when faced by the destructiveness of modern weapons, he declares:

buy canada goose jacket cheap “I am no doctrinaire pacifist. I have tried to embrace a realistic pacifism. Moreover, I see the pacifist position not as sinless but as the lesser of evil in the circumstances. Therefore I do not claim to be free from the moral dilemmas that the Christian nonpacifist confronts.” buy canada goose jacket cheap

Canada Goose Online That would not, however, be his final position. In an article entitled “Showdown for Nonviolence,” that was published after his assassination, King says plainly, “I’m committed to nonviolence absolutely. I’m just not going to kill anybody, whether it’s in Vietnam or here. I plan to stand by nonviolence because I have found it to be a philosophy of life that regulates not only my dealings in the struggle for racial justice but also my dealings with people with my own self. I will still be faithful to nonviolence.” Canada Goose Online

Canada Goose sale King, the advocate of nonviolence, became nonviolent. Which means it is all the more important, therefore, to understand what King understood by nonviolence. Canada Goose sale

King’s “Philosophy” of Nonviolence

canada goose black friday sale In a 1957 article for The Christian Century entitled “Nonviolence and Racial Justice,” King developed with admirable clarity the five points that he understood to be central to Gandhi’s practice of nonviolent resistance. The next year saw the publication of Stride Toward Freedom, in which he expanded the five points to six. This is particularly apparent given King’s stress in Stride Toward Freedom that nonviolence requires the willingness to accept suffering rather than to Canada Goose online retaliate against Canada Goose sale their enemies. King approvingly quotes Gandhi’s message to his countrymen “Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood” and then asks what could possibly justify the willingness to accept but never inflict violence. He answers that such a position is justified “in the realization that unearned suffering is redemptive.” canada goose black canada goose outlet friday sale

canada goose uk black friday King identified Gandhi as the primary source of his understanding of the “method” and “philosophy of nonviolence.” But he could not help but read Gandhi through the lens of the gospel, as his use of the word “redemption” makes clear. (In Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference , David Garrow quotes King from an interview with a black interviewer in which King stressed that the nonviolent method used in Montgomery was not principally from India. “I have been a keen student of Gandhi for many years,” King says. “However, this business of passive resistance and nonviolence is the gospel of Jesus. I went to Gandhi through Jesus.”) canada goose uk black friday.