Blog #577 MLK and Non-violence

I have a dream (do you?)

This past week,we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King day.   I want to reflect on a couple of things from his legacy.

From Matthew 5:38-40 we have:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.’”

So, according to Jesus, it isn’t to be an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  The concept of ‘You hurt me, I’m going to hurt you’ isn’t going to be valid. Over many years, the Hayfields and McCoys kept the violence going – going higher and higher.

But, the new way is to not resist an evil person!!  If that evil person hurts you, stand up and let them do it again.  (Hey – that doesn’t make sense!!!). Maybe I’m at the latter stages of my life (age 71).  Maybe I know what is ahead of me (death). So what if somebody slaps me on the right cheek, should I really turn my head so that person can slap me again on the left cheek?  

When do I stand up for myself?  When do I draw the line and fight back?  Dr. King (and Gandhi from India) stressed NON-VIOLENCE resistance.  Turn the other cheek, don’t fight back, be passive.

Wikipedia describes this as: “Nonviolent resistance (NVR or nonviolent action) is the practice of achieving goals such as social change through symbolic protests, civil disobedience, economic or political noncooperation, satyagraha, or other methods, while being nonviolent.”  (I had to look up satyagraha – as the Indian form of nonviolent resistance. )

The Washington Post (from January 15, 2018) has this: “In the autobiographical chapter of his first book, King wrote that he had ended his formal education in 1955 with all his influences converging into a “positive social philosophy,” which emphasized “the conviction that nonviolent resistance was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their quest for social justice.”

If a person or group fights back, the violence escalates.  An eye-for-an-eye easily becomes ‘one-upmanship’. Your group hurt one of our members, so we are going to hurt TWO of your members – and the hatred and bloodshed grows.

Can non-violent resistance work?  I’m not a real analyst, but in India, the British gave in and left; in Alabama, the various marches and economic sanctions won.  (The Birmingham bus company lost revenue with Blacks not riding the bus). There is the expression that the pen is mightier than the sword; and it might be that lost dollars/lost revenue might be mightier than the pen!!

I’m not sure how this might apply to me – or to you.  I hope it means that hatred can stop. That we can talk, that we can reason together.  Yes, at times (most times?), I’m a Pollyanna – that everything will work out alright. But, it might mean counting to ten (then one-hundred); turning the other cheek; or walking away from a fight.  In the Back to the Future movies, Marty McFly bristles as being called “Chicken” – but ultimately wins out.

What do you think?  Can we change our world by marches, signs and non-violent means?

I don’t know!!


Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Posted by Bruce White

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