In the struggle for righteousness, man has cosmic companionship

I have been mostly absent from CADRE recently, as I have been devoting a lot of time to teaching and adjusting to life in a new community. I have some new posts in the works, including a review of Michael Licona's book on the resurrection. But as it is Martin Luther King day, I want to repost an excerpt from one of his essays that I find powerfully moving (it is from "My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence"). It is especially so in light of an astonishing fact I learned yesterday: according to the book by Arthur Raper, The Tragedy of Lynching, from 1889 to 1929 a black person was either hanged or burned alive every four days. MLK was undoubtedly aware of these facts. How could anyone in his position in their right mind want peaceful reconciliation with the white man? King gives the reason in this passage:

In recent months I have also become more and more convinced of the reality of a personal God. True, I have always believed in the personality of God. But in past years the idea of a personal God was little more than a metaphysical category which I found theologically and philosophically satisfying. Now it is a living reality that has been validated in the experiences of everyday life. Perhaps the suffering, frustration and agonizing moments which I have had to undergo occasionally as a result of my involvement in a difficult struggle have drawn me closer to God. Whatever the cause, God has been profoundly real to me in recent months. In the midst of outer dangers I have felt an inner calm and known resources of strength that only God could give. In many instances I have felt the power of God transforming the fatigue of despair into the buoyancy of hope. I am convinced that the universe is under the control of a loving purpose and that in the struggle for righteousness man has cosmic companionship. Behind the harsh appearances of the world there is a benign power. To say God is personal is not to make him an object among objects or attribute to him the finiteness and limitations of human personality; it is to take what is finest and noblest in our consciousness and affirm its perfect existence in him. It is certainly true that human personality is limited, but personality as such knows no necessary limitations. It simply means self-consciousness and self-direction. So in the truest sense of the word, God is a living God. In him there is feeling and will, responsive to the deepest yearnings of the human heart: thus God both evokes and answers prayers.
In the struggle for righteousness, man has cosmic companionship. The power of God, which paradoxically often manifests itself in weakness and humility and love, not only empowers those who believe in Him to endure injustice but can transform even the worst oppressors and bring them into loving fellowship with Him (just take the apostle Paul as an example). King practiced nonviolent resistance, not only because He was confident that God was with Him in the struggle against injustice, but because he did not want to subdue and defeat his oppressors, but be reconciled with them and they with God.


Jason Pratt said…
Great to see you back! I'm about halfway through Licona's book right now. Aside from a few technical quibbles I love it. (My biggest complaint so far, as might be expected, is his treatment of Bayesian Theory and its application to Res studies. But I know I'm in the small minority about that.)

I'm out sick with a nasty headcold, so I won't be posting the SttH series entries this week. And I need to recompose the chapter anyway; but it's the finale for Section Three, and I long ago posted up the vast majority of Section Four (which is the longest Section of the book). So I think I have a bit of leeway. {g}

Anyway, that was a fine quote from MLK; thanks for putting it up!

Anonymous said…
Thanks, Jason! My biggest concern with Licona's book is that he devotes a great deal of attention to judging historical explanations ASSUMING that there is agreement on what the relevant facts are to be explained, but does not give any attention to the question of historicity. He applies the standard historical Jesus criteria (multiple attestation, embarrassment, etc.) to arrive at his minimal facts but does not discuss their theoretical foundation. In light of trenchant critiques by the likes of Stanley Porter, Dale Allison and Gerd Thiessen, and since most unbelieving skepticism about the Gospels challenge historicity directly, Licona should have focused more on that. But there is also a lot of great material in there, and it's extremely well written to boot.
steve said…
An innocent black who's being chased by a lynch mob is entitled to use lethal force to defend himself. There's nothing morally superior, much less especially Christian, about nonviolence, per se.

Of course, there are various situations where it's preferable to avoid violence. But that's not a matter of principle. That's context-dependent.
Anonymous said…

I think actually King would agree. His advocacy of nonviolence was primarily in the context of influencing public policy, at the level of one racial group confronting another. In trying to get Jim Crow repealed, for example, instead of committing acts of vandalization or rioting, the protestors would simply assemble and refuse to back down, even though the police let dogs and water canons loose on them. I doubt King would have been against the use of force in self-defense.

It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish. King wanted reconciliation between whites and blacks, not a violent uprising that would further polarize the nation.
Jason Pratt said…
{{My biggest concern with Licona's book is that he devotes a great deal of attention to judging historical explanations ASSUMING that there is agreement on what the relevant facts are to be explained}}

????? Maybe we're reading different books??? In the one I'm reading, he's been talking for hundreds of pages about different theories of history (and assessing which one(s) he should apply); and characteristics of proposed data sets; and has recently been chewing over what should count as historical bedrock in the case, putting various proposals of consensus to the test as to their rationales.

He could certainly go into some topics in more detail (as he himself admits, though he provides refs to point to where other people have done so), but I haven't caught him merely ASSUMING much without discussion.

But we can discuss this more when you do the review, I guess. {g} This post should be about Dr. King, and I'm kind of dragging it off topic. Sorry.


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